- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Legislation under which state and local lawmakers could have been prosecuted in state courts for seeking or taking bribes died in both House and Senate committees.
The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee late last month killed two bills sponsored by Chairman Brian E. Frosh, 10 other Democrats and four Republicans after the House Judiciary Committee killed a similar bill, sponsored by Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Dist. 36) of Elktown, to remove civil and criminal immunity for lawmakers.
The Senate committee decision was made because the House killed its own version, Frosh (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda said.
House Judiciary Committee members Kevin Kelly and Luiz R.S. Simmons said they rejected the House bill because it could falsely call into question why a lawmaker changed position on an issue.
Removing immunity could make lawmakers wary of stepping up to debate, particularly on heated issues, said Kelly (D-Dist. 1B) of Cumberland, adding that an interest group could try to falsely connect dots and accuse a lawmaker of bribery.
It is also important to protect lawmakers from judges or a prosecutor “with an ax to grind,” said Simmons (D-Dist. 17) of Rockville.
“I think there is a very narrow problem that should be addressed by very narrowly tailored legislation,” Simmons said.
Frosh said he and others do not believe the concerns are well-founded.
Frosh said he will re-evaluate the legislation and is not giving up on trying to fix what has been called a loophole in state law that shifts prosecution of a lawmaker accused of bribery to federal court.
Maryland court decisions upholding lawmaker immunity are one reason the trial of Sen. Ulyssess Currie (D-Dist. 25) of District Heights on bribery charges took place in federal court.
In November, a jury exonerated Currie.