Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, urged fellow senators to support the bill that would allow a one-time shielding of 13 misdemeanor criminal offenses through the use of a parable about Moses.
“As a young man, when he felt like what he had was a civil rights problem, people discriminating against him, he committed what people today would call manslaughter,” Kelley said. “But later, if you continue reading our sacred texts, you find moses not only was forgiven apparently by the almighty but Moses was used to free an entire nation from bondage and slavery. He became a productive citizen with a gift to do good.”
Supporters of the bill say the legislation will help erase the “scarlet letter” arising sometimes from youthful indiscretions or singular poor choices that did not become a pattern. The blemished record can sometimes become a hindrance to employment and other opportunities, some lawmakers said.
“There are a lot of people in our state today who have done something wrong,” Kelley said. “Some have been born into terrible circumstances. Some thought their civil rights had been impacted but whatever the reason they got themselves into trouble and we decided they were pariahs.
“We’ve got tens of thousands of citizens who ought to be paying taxes, who now have skills, who can work and who can be good role models,” Kelley said. “They can be like Moses.”
The Senate later gave preliminary approval to the bill, which could receive a final vote as early as Friday. The House of Delegates would still need to approve the measure before it can be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan.
Unfortunately for Moses, this bill would not have covered him had it been law when he killed the Egyptian who was beating another Jewish man, according to Sen. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery County and sponsor of the bill.
“Manslaughter is not one of the shieldable offenses,” Raskin said.