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March 19, 2004

Has Senator Mooney Finally Gotten The Message?

David 'Kip' Koontz

During the last election it was not difficult to point to Senator Alex Mooney's record to question his support of children.

He voted against increased fines for those who speed through designated school zones.

He voted against requiring daycare workers be registered with the state.

He voted against providing after-school programs aimed at helping give children something to do at a time when they are often most vulnerable.

He voted against providing children school breakfasts.

He voted against funds to help abused and neglected children, against funds for school construction, against funds to help reduce school class sizes and against funding to help get classrooms online.

These are but a few of his votes that can make one say, hmmm, when it comes to Mr. Mooney's commitment to helping children.

This week, however, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee heard two bills that will help send a message that crimes against children would be taken more seriously by our legal system by making first-degree child abuse and sexual abuse of a minor violent crimes.

Doing so would lengthen the prison time an offender would serve before being eligible for parole.

One of these bills was introduced by Senator Mooney and the other by Senator James Brochin, a Democrat from Baltimore.

Specifically Mr. Mooney's bill would reduce the number of "good behavior" credits a person who commits one of these crimes could receive from 10 monthly credits to five.

Mr. Brochin's bill would make a person convicted of one of these crimes ineligible for parole until he/she has served at least half of their sentence. The current law allows one to be paroled after having only served one-quarter of the sentence.

The senators are quoted as saying that these bills are to tighten even further the "Christopher Laws" that were signed into law by then Governor Paris Glendening in 2002.

Both these bills are worthwhile and illustrate that crimes against children are intolerable.

Additionally, one can wonder whether the introduction of these bills was coordinated or coincidental as they were introduced by a member of each party.

Could it be that Mr. Mooney actually gave us a sign that he understands - to some degree - a level of bi-partisanship, something that has not been one of his trademarks while in Annapolis.

Even if this is not a coordinated effort on the part of the two senators, Mr. Mooney has finally introduced legislation that is worthwhile and accomplishes something.

Legislation that requires a criminal to serve his time for committing heinous crimes against children will help prevent other tragedies such as what happened to Christopher Ausherman. His murderer had been released from jail only days before committing this crime after having served only 3 years of a 10-year sentence for assault on a child. He had received good behavior credits he acquired while in jail, even before the crime for which he was serving time.

One can only say "kudos" to these two senators for introducing these pieces of legislation for the protection of our children.

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