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Influential state Senate panel gets 2 new faces

Lawmakers replace Gladden, Raskin on influential panel

Delores Kelley

Sen. Delores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore County and the new vice chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, says she will pursue legislation this year to prevent juvenile offenders from being tried as adults and to bar juveniles from being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

ANNAPOLIS – The chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee welcomed his new vice chair Thursday by alluding to the panel’s history of rejecting many of her legislative proposals.

“We’re going to have a harder time killing them this year,” Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County,  joked in introducing Sen. Sen. Delores G. Kelley to the committee.

Kelley, who succeeds Lisa A. Gladden as vice chair, later responded that her new position could bode well for her juvenile-justice bills that have died in past years before the influential Senate panel.

“I don’t know” if my bills will clear the committee this year, the Baltimore County Democrat said after the panel’s first meeting of the 2017 General Assembly term. “But at least I’ll be at the voting session.”

Gladden, D-Baltimore City, resigned from the Senate on Wednesday – the first day of the legislature’s session – as she battles multiple sclerosis.

Kelley said she has admired Gladden since the 1970s, when the now former senator was a seventh grader at Fallstaff Middle School in Baltimore and Kelley was president of the parent-teacher association.

Kelley is one of two new members of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over criminal and civil laws and procedures, judicial administration and the legal profession, in addition to juvenile justice. Sen. William C. “Will” Smith Jr. replaces Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, who resigned from the Senate after winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in November.

Kelley said she will pursue legislation this year to prevent juvenile offenders from being tried as adults and to bar juveniles from being sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. She cited medical studies that the brains of adolescents are not fully developed.

“Youth itself is a mitigating factor” when it comes to trying and sentencing young offenders, Kelley said. “Juvenile justice is a passion of mine.”

Smith, D-Montgomery, is no stranger to succeeding Raskin, having been appointed last month by Gov. Larry Hogan to complete the last two years of Raskin’s Senate term. Smith praised Raskin’s work in the Senate, noting that his Democratic predecessor successfully championed the death penalty’s repeal, same-sex marriage and enabling those convicted of minor crimes to have those records shielded so they do not prevent them from gaining employment.

“I’m not looking to be Jamie Raskin,” Smith said. “There is still a lot of work to be done in criminal justice and in economic empowerment for the least fortunate among us.”

Serving on the 11-member Judicial Proceedings Committee is “a natural fit for me,” added Smith, noting he served on the House Judiciary Committee during his past two years as a delegate.

Smith said he will work this year on legislation to reform Maryland’s bail system so that judges do not assess bail in amounts beyond which the defendants can afford, as well as a measure to prohibit the jailing of people for failure to pay civil fines.

Exorbitant bail and civil “body attachments” affect “the people who can’t afford to pay their bills,” Smith added.

He said he will also introduce a bill requiring police departments to make available to the public more information regarding their tactical operations, particularly in minority and low-income neighborhoods.


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