Two lawmakers clashed earlier this week over accusations that the vice chairwoman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee stole a bill from another senator.
The issue came to a head on Tuesday during an uncomfortable hearing in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Senate Bills 505 and 585, sponsored by Sens. Delores G. Kelley, D-Baltimore County, and Ron Young, D-Frederick. The bills, which are identical, extend the statute of limitations in which a victim of sexual abuse has to sue their abuser from the age of 25 to 38.
Kelley, the vice chair of the committee, testified first on her bill — Senate Bill 505.
During the testimony, Young can be seen sitting at the witness table beside Kelley, leaning back in his chair throwing side glances at the vice chairwoman.
But Young did not hold his tongue when it was his turn to testify on his bill — Senate Bill 585.
“Now, as to this bill, as you’re aware, I brought a bill here the last two years,” Young said. “It had problems, never received a vote.”
“So this year,” Young continued, “over the last three or four months, I met with the president of the Senate, I and my staff met with his staff and we went back and forth for several months working out the wording on this bill. And his office was satisfied with it and Senator (Thomas V. Mike) Miller signed on as a co-sponsor of my bill this year.
“I was then surprised to find that another senator asked Vicki (Gruber, Miller’s chief of staff) for a copy of my bill and dropped it word for word,” Young concluded, referring to Kelley without ever naming her. “I also found out that that senator contacted my cross-filer from last year to cross-file that bill.”
Kelley, who has not commented publicly on the kerfuffle, can be seen in the video sitting near the Frederick County senator shaking her head as Young makes his accusation.
And while this is Young’s third year introducing a version of his bill, Kelley also can lay legitimate claim to the issue, having passed earlier bills extending the statute of limitations to the law.
Members of the committee, including Chair Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, were taken aback by the public nature of the accusation and break with typical legislative decorum.
“Let me just stop you for a second,” Zirkin said. “What I’d like to do – if it’s OK with you – would be to actually just talk about the law.” “And nothing else.”
Sen. Jim Brochin, another Baltimore County Democrat, also objected to Young’s accusations.
“Mr. Chairman, I just, I feel like if we’re going to deal with a piece of legislation, deal with a piece of legislation,” Brochin said. “But to call the vice chair and her actions unethical or anything like that are totally inappropriate for this committee. I think we should deal with the piece of legislation, period. And all sidebar things that happen I think should be left in a backroom with the presidents office or a backroom here. I just want to deal with this piece of legislation and not make any comments about anybody on this committee or anything like that. I find it out of order. …I find it totally out of order.”
“Look, this is the Judicial Proceedings Committee and we are dealing with the law, so we want to deal with the words on the paper,” Zirkin said. “And I have some questions about the actual words on the paper. So any of the other things that happened – which we’re not privy to – are not material to whether or not this is a good or bad piece of legislation. So I would like for these proceedings to be confined to that and that alone.”
Young said he would speak on the bill but persisted to go after Kelley.
“OK. I’m finished, but I will talk about it here or on the floor,” Young said. “I think it was totally unethical.”
Young then went on to say that he had nothing to add to the testimony that Kelley had already given.
“I just would ask that you pass my bill because it was my bill,” Young said.