- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2008

Fliers proclaiming Maryland House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. as “wanted for aiding and abetting” illegal immigration were removed from a hearing earlier this month after he took offense.

The fliers, which depict Mr. Vallario, Prince George Democrat, wearing an ornate, Mexican-style sombrero, were denounced as racist by one legislator and legitimate free speech by others.

Delegate Victor R. Ramirez, another Prince George’s Democrat who serves on the committee, called the flier “blatant racism.”

“I’m hurt that people would resort to this type of action, rather than talk about the issues like grownups,” said Mr. Ramirez, who was born in El Salvador. “The true colors of some of the bills’ proponents came out.”

Mr. Vallario brushed off the March 11 episode a day later, but was visibly angry during Tuesday’s hearing about several immigration-related bills. After ordering the fliers removed, Mr. Vallario chided Delegates Warren E. Miller, Howard Republican, and Patrick L. McDonough, Baltimore County Republican, telling them they were fortunate he was even hearing their immigration-related legislation.

“We don’t accept literature that tries to intimidate or harass people,” said Mr. Vallario, who is of Italian heritage.

But the Republican delegates, who both sponsored bills to prohibit “sanctuary city” policies that bar local government employees and police officers from asking someone’s immigration status, said they had nothing to do with the flier.

Susan Payne, a Montgomery County resident and executive director of the Maryland Coalition for Immigration Reform, submitted the fliers along with written testimony.

Miss Payne said the poster was “tongue-in-cheek” political humor. But after a six-hour wait to testify in support of bills that would target illegal immigration, Miss Payne was cut short in the midst of a heated discussion with Mr. Vallario.

A security officer was called, but Miss Payne walked out after refusing to answer committee members’ questions because her “time was up.” “Maybe at the next election, you’ll be voted out and your time will be up,” she yelled at Mr. Vallario as she left.

The next day, Miss Payne said she was cut off after trying to repeat Mr. Vallario’s statements to pro-immigrant advocates at a Feb. 25 Annapolis rally. A YouTube link to a video of Mr. Vallario at the rally was printed on the wanted poster that Miss Payne distributed.

“Either he doesn’t comprehend the First Amendment, or he’s ashamed of his own pandering,” she said.

Mr. Miller and Mr. McDonough said the flier was free political speech protected under the First Amendment.

“This was essentially, to me, humorous with a cutting edge,” Mr. McDonough said. “You’ve got to be careful. She felt angry by the fact that she was being denied her free speech, and I think she was denied that right.”

Delegate Richard K. Impallaria, Baltimore County Republican, a co-sponsor of bills discussed in the hearing, shrugged off the flier as a joke.

“[Mr. Vallario] looks good in that picture,” he said. “Look at that smile.”

Over the limit

An Easton, Md., Town Council member has an April 4 court date for the speeding ticket she received in Queen Anne’s County.

Police in the Eastern Shore town of Millington said Moonyene Jackson-Amis was cited Dec. 23 for driving 88 mph in a 55 zone along Route 301.

The charge carries a possible fine of $290.

Miss Jackson-Amis is a lawyer.

Honor for Warner

Virginia’s senior senator was named the 2008 Hunter B. Andrews Fellow in American Politics at the College of William & Mary.

Sen. John W. Warner, a Republican, will be on campus April 4 to meet with students, faculty and staff and to speak at a meeting open to the public.

The fellowship is named for the late Virginia state senator who graduated from the Williamsburg school.

In announcing the appointment Tuesday, the school said Mr. Warner’s career of public service offers extraordinary lessons in citizenship.

Mr. Warner, 81, was a sailor during World War II and later served in Korea with the Marine Corps. He spent five years as secretary of the Navy and won five consecutive elections to the U.S. Senate. He announced last fall that he would not seek re-election.

Return to sender

Maryland’s highest court last week sent a case involving a prominent Annapolis lobbyist back to the State Ethics Commission.

The Court of Appeals, in a divided opinion, ruled that the commission misapplied a legal principle in a 2003 finding that a contingency-based fee arrangement between Bruce Bereano and a client was improper.

The case will have to be reviewed again by the commission.

The commission had moved to suspend Mr. Bereano for 10 months and fine him $5,000 for purportedly violating a state law prohibiting lobbyists from signing contracts that make payment of fees contingent on successful representation of a client’s interests.

Mr. Bereano denied the charge, and the suspension had been stayed pending his appeal.

Mr. Bereano is the first Maryland lobbyist to pull in $1 million in fees in one year. He was convicted of mail fraud in 1994 for overbilling clients and funneling the money to political campaigns. He was disbarred in 2000.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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