Tuesday, January 8, 2013

ATTORNEY GENERAL 2014: Sen. Brian Frosh & Del. Jon Cardin Speak Out on MD Death Penalty // PLUS: Speed Camera Tango

Many issues of interest to a potential Attorney General are already being hotly debated at the start of the 2013 legislative session. Most observers, for example, can sense that gun control and the death penalty will be among the more emotional issues discussed by Annapolis lawmakers this year. But with only two more legislative sessions and a scant 18 months until the June 2014 Democratic Primary for Attorney General, would-be candidates are beginning to jockey on the issues. Below Maryland Juice highlights comments from two Democrats who are actively and publicly exploring bids for the AG office: State Senator Brian Frosh and Delegate Jon Cardin

O'MALLEY CONFIRMS DEATH PENALTY REPEAL IS WITHIN TWO VOTES: Governor Martin O'Malley confirmed to the Daily Record today that death penalty opponents are within two votes of securing enough support for repeal in the State Senate (excerpt below):
DAILY RECORD: Gov. Martin O’Malley says he’s confident the state Senate is within two votes of supporting a repeal of capital punishment in Maryland.
Meanwhile, national groups, such as Color of Change (an African American grassroots action group)  are now getting involved in the issue and sending out action alerts. Given the sudden legislative movement for death penalty repeal, Maryland Juice decided to conduct quick email interviews with both Cardin and Frosh. The death penalty is an interesting topic to help voters understand candidates, since the practice is intertwined with Maryland's law enforcement officials. Accordingly, we asked both interviewees for the Attorney General job whether they would be supporting death penalty repeal, and how they saw the role of the AG's office with respect to state executions. See their responses below:


MARYLAND JUICE:  Can you please tell readers whether you are supporting death penalty repeal in 2013? What do you think the AG's role is/should be on this issue?

SEN. BRIAN FROSH: I support repeal of the death penalty, as I have for many years.  I will, again, be a cosponsor of the bill. The office of the Attorney General is a bully pulpit from which past Attorneys General, like Joe Curran, have advocated repeal.  But it is up to the General Assembly to make policy.  I hope that repeal can be accomplished before the 2014 election and that the issue will be academic after that.

DEL. JON CARDIN: I have supported abolishing the death penalty in Maryland in the past. In short, it bankrupts our judicial system, disproportionately affects African Americans, and does little to deter crime. While I acknowledge the moral argument for retribution, I believe government has a higher duty to fairness and equal protection under the law for all citizens.

Nevertheless, the Attorney General takes an oath to uphold the laws of the state of Maryland. Furthermore, the Attorney General is responsible for prosecuting all death penalty appeals, so as long as the death penalty is on the books, as the Attorney General, I would execute the office to the best of my ability and vigorously prosecute all death penalty appeals. Interestingly, in upholding the law, the Attorney General should use all its resources to keep Marylanders safe, and protected. Therefore, from policy, fiscal and pragmatic perspectives, the death penalty may detract from that goal.

The Attorney General is responsible for advising the General Assembly and the Governor on the best course of action regarding all legal matters. As the chief legal officer of the state, the Attorney General has a vested interest in a policy that is cost-effective and has the greatest chance of protecting every person in the state. Abolishing the death penalty frees up millions of taxpayer dollars to devote to better transparency, fairness and protection from threats of all kinds, including violent crime.

CARDIN & FROSH TANGO ON HOT-BUTTON ISSUES // SPEED CAMERAS ON THEIR RADAR: It appears that both Senator Frosh and Delegate Cardin agree that Maryland should repeal the death penalty this year. But that's not the only issue they agree on. Maryland Juice just noticed that both Frosh and Cardin are promoting laws to reign in abuses by speed camera manufacturers. State and local governments have been ramping up photo tickets during the recession, and numerous Marylanders have become irate at persistent news coverage indicating that camera manufacturers are reaping massive windfalls from false or erroroneous tickets. Check out the pair of dueling press reports below from WJLA and CBS News:
WJLA: A portion of each $40 speed camera ticket goes back to the vendor. It varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the distribution can be as much as 40 percent.... Driver Kim Naylor said, "I think it's a kickback. I think it's not good...and they shouldn't do it. That's how I feel about it." In fact, Maryland State Senator Brian Frosh says lawmakers never wanted the camera companies to get a per ticket bounty. But somehow cities are using a supposed loophole, and Frosh wants it to stop....
Ij response to the issue, Frosh is trying to prohibit speed camera manufacturers from receiving a commission for every ticket they issue a driver. Not to be outdone, here comes Delegate Jon Cardin on the same issue, but his proposal is to issue fines to camera manufacturers who issue erroneous tickets:
CBS NEWS: A state lawmaker proposes punishing speed camera companies for the giving out of bogus tickets after reports of camera glitches at a handful of Baltimore City cameras.

In response to complaints about speed camera accuracy, [Del. Jon Cardin] proposes each county be required to audit their speed camera system for errors, holding contractors accountable. He says each inaccurate ticket should result in a $1,000 fine.

Maryland Juice will try and keep tabs on other issue developments in the 2014 Attorney General Race. But up next, we will soon be releasing commentary from the field of candidates for 2014 Governor about the death penalty. More soon!

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