OPINION: Stronger Sexual Predators Bill Being Heard In Annapolis

By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

Members of the General Assembly don’t always agree on everything. That’s what democracy is all about. However, all of us agree that child sexual predators should be given the strongest punishments possible.

That is why I am a co-sponsor on a bi-partisan bill that would make our child sexual predator law in Maryland even stronger.

Senate Bill 413 – Jessica’s Law – Sexual Offenses – Parole Eligibility and Mandatory Minimum Sentences makes a bill the legislature passed during last year’s Special Session much more effective.

This legislation mandates that child sexual predators 18 years or older who commit the most heinous first-degree sexual offense serve mandatory sentences without the possibility of parole.

There is no reason in my mind why a person who preys on children should receive any leniency from probation after they commit such monstrous crimes. I am of the strong belief that a child sexual offender can never be rehabilitated. Why in the world would we as a society want anyone who brutally commits a crime against a child want them not to serve the absolute penalty for which they are sentenced?

The sad momentum for this bill passed after a terrible incident in Florida in 2005 in which nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was abducted, molested and murdered by a previously convicted child sex offender.

I applaud the efforts of Mark Klaas who came to Annapolis to testify on behalf of Senate Bill 413. Since the 13 years after Mr. Klass’ daughter Polly was kidnapped from a slumber party then raped and murdered, Mr. Klass has been a strong supporter of legislation strengthening child sex offender legislation.

At a news conference supporting this bill, Mr. Klass said very eloquently that “as you come back and you continue to try to legislate this law year after year, what’s going to happen is that victims are going to pile up year after year.”

I agree with Mr. Klass. It is imperative that we do not leave this Session without passing this bill and I will do everything in my power to make sure this legislation becomes law.

Terrapin Prohibition Bill Passes

I recently wrote about Senate Bill 532 – which would prohibit the catching of terrapins – the mascot of the University of Maryland passed with an overwhelming vote this week, a day before the Maryland Terrapins basketball team advanced in the NCAA basketball tournament. Maybe that’s a good sign for our Terps hoops team and the terrapins which have been overharvested to the point they may are close to endangered species.

A companion bill in the House of Delegates passed with a strong majority as well and Governor O’Malley has indicated to me that he will sign this legislation.

So let the rest of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball teams opponents “Fear the Turtle” and when Senate Bill 532 passes and is signed into law, the terrapins will no longer have to fear us.

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