Tag Archives: Michael Smigiel

House Rejects Amendments, on Verge of Death Penalty Repeal

Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland House of Delegates rejected a number of emotionally charged amendments to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s death penalty repeal bill Wednesday, leaving it likely to pass later in the week.

If approved without additional amendments, the bill’s next stop would be the governor’s desk, where it would be signed into law.

“I think there was no real surprise, I think (proponents of the repeal) had the votes before they even came out, but I was hoping to change some of their minds,” said Delegate C.T. Wilson, D-Charles, the only Democrat to propose an amendment on the floor.

Despite the strong support for the bill in the House, opponents tried to keep the death penalty available in certain cases, including for those who kill more than 1,000 people, those who commit acts of terror and anyone who kills firefighters in the line of duty.

The amendments typically received between 50 and 60 votes, while a bloc of about 80 consistently supported repeal.

The Senate voted last week in favor of the repeal bill.

Delegate Patrick Hogan, R-Frederick, proposed an amendment that had not previously been introduced in the death penalty debates in the Senate, and one that assumed the death penalty would be repealed.

Hogan’s amendment would have stripped inmates serving sentences of life without parole of the rights to visitors, education, and Internet and TV access.

“The victims’ families no longer get to see their loved ones. Neither should their murderers,” Hogan said.

Other opponents of the repeal argued that if the bill were to pass, convicted murderers should be subject to less than desirable living conditions.

“Make them suffer, that’s justice,” said Delegate Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County.

Maryland is poised to join 17 other states that have abolished capital punishment. The law would allow the governor to commute or change a sentence of death to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the five inmates currently on death row.

“We just can’t make the system work, regardless of who the victim may be,” said Delegate Samuel Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, the House floor leader for the governor’s bill, after opponents offered amendments that would punish killers of law enforcement officers, correctional facility guards, children in schools and groups of 100 and 1,000 people.

The death penalty has not been applied in Maryland since 2005, when Wesley Eugene Baker was executed for robbing and fatally shooting Jane Tyson in a Catonsville mall parking lot in June 1991.

The General Assembly passed the state’s current law in 2009. The law restricts the death penalty to cases where DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or video evidence of the crime are available.

Watching the debate from the House chamber gallery was Kirk Bloodsworth, who was exonerated by DNA evidence after spending two years on Maryland’s death row, and even more in prison.

Bloodsworth said his mantra has always been that if Maryland does not have the death penalty, the state would never be able to execute an innocent person.

Opponents of the bill booed following the debate Wednesday night, but are determined to keep fighting when the House meets for the final vote.

“We’ll stand up and make the same arguments, put those issues out there,” said Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil. “People were upset by my frankness, but we’re voting about life and death. That is a very serious issue and the most serious issue we’re going to deal with here.”



Death Penalty Repeal Opponents Plan to Put Up Fight

Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – One week after the Maryland Senate passed a bill to repeal the state’s death penalty, the House of Delegates is poised to do the same.

But in spite of the expected success of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to abolish capital punishment, there are Republicans and Democrats in the House still arguing that Maryland should be able to sentence to death the worst of the worst, such as people who enter schools and murder children and teachers.

A number of them intend to offer amendments to that effect starting Wednesday.

Amendments to keep the death penalty for contract killings and the murder of a law enforcement officer or correctional facility guard in the line of duty — among others — failed in the House Judiciary Committee last week. Many are expected to be debated again before the entire House.

Delegate Michael McDermott, R-Wicomico, will reintroduce an emotionally charged amendment Wednesday that would allow the state to pursue the death penalty for people who commit murders on school grounds, such as the case involving the young man, Adam Lanza, who shot and killed 26 students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. in December.

Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, said Friday the General Assembly is creating gun control legislation as a result of school shootings, “and here is an amendment that will punish the person.”

“If the Sandy Hook shooter were here (in Maryland), I doubt we would be defending his right to live,” said Delegate C.T. Wilson, D-Charles, who will introduce a floor amendment to keep the death penalty in cases in which an inmate convicted of murder kills another person while serving a sentence.

Many opponents of the repeal of the death penalty, including House Democrats Wilson and Delegate Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s, often cite a case closer to home that affected this area more than a decade ago.

In 2002, John Allen Muhammad, referred to as the “D.C. sniper,” murdered 10 people in the Washington area, six of them in Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County judge presiding over the case, Judge James L. Ryan, sentenced Muhammad to six terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

In a separate trial, Virginia instead gave Muhammad the death sentence for a sniper shooting that took place in Manassas, Va. Muhammad was executed in Virginia by lethal injection in 2009.

Delegate Glen Glass, R-Harford, will reintroduce an amendment that would keep the death penalty available for people guilty of mass murders.

The House floor leader of the bill, Delegate Samuel Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, said he and other co-sponsors are confident that a majority of delegates will support the bill that would replace the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole for people who commit the most “heinous” crimes.

A strong advocate of keeping capital punishment, Delegate Susan McComas, R-Harford, asked whether people would feel safer after repealing the death penalty.

“I don’t think so,” McComas said. “That’s how I see it and I’m concerned for everybody.”

The House is slated to discuss amendments Wednesday during one of two sessions.


CNS 3-12-13

O’Malley Testifies in Support of Gun Control as NRA Protests

Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – The capital became the epicenter of the ongoing national gun control debate Wednesday as Gov. Martin O’Malley testified in front of Senate lawmakers regarding his proposed legislation that, if passed, would make Maryland’s gun laws some of the strictest in the country.

“We choose to take on gun violence because every life is precious, because every life is needed,” O’Malley said.

As O’Malley testified, and legislators debated, the National Rifle Association and conservative state legislators drew hundreds of anti-gun control protesters to a raucous rally denouncing the proposed bills as a violation of the Second Amendment.

Gun control and firearm-related violence have taken center stage in both national and state politics following December’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Lawmakers, led by Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D- Montgomery, heard testimony on four gun control bills that would make it more difficult for “straw purchasers” to buy firearms on behalf of criminals, strengthen handgun licensing requirements, increase penalties for the use of specific types of armor-piercing ammunition during the commission of a crime and reduce the maximum ammunition capacity for magazines from 20 to 10.

By far the most controversial piece of legislation was SB 281, which would ban possession of semi-automatic assault weapons.

The tougher licensing requirement also drew the ire of opponents because it would require digital fingerprinting for handgun purchases.

The legislation, heard by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, constitutes a “comprehensive approach” to gun control, O’Malley said.

Combined, the bills aim to improve the state’s firearm licensing procedures, promote gun safety and keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of criminals, O’Malley said.

“There is no human tragedy worse than the violent taking of a child’s life,” O’Malley said. “We are losing far too many citizens to gun violence.”

Along with the new firearm restrictions, O’Malley vowed to reduce gun violence by devoting resources to mental health services and creating a center for early crisis intervention.

“This is not about ideology, this is about public safety,” O’Malley said.

Delegate Patrick McDonough, R- Baltimore County, who opposes O’Malley’s measures, called the mass of anti-gun control protesters “Whacko-ville,” self-consciously poking fun at the way he believes gun supporters are perceived by some.

As the hearings got underway, the throng of protesters moved from the shadow of the State House to the entrance of the Senate building. Hundreds more concerned citizens, the vast majority of whom oppose O’Malley’s proposed bills, queued up in a line that snaked through the building to sign up to testify in the hearings.

One by one, conservative lawmakers, many of whom said they are avid shooters, stepped onto the podium in the center of the rally to oppose the governor and Democrats in the General Assembly.

“They want to define assault weapons not by performance characteristics, but by aesthetics,” said Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Upper Shore. “People that know nothing about firearms should say nothing about firearms.”

Inside the committee room, Tom Morris Jr., a senior correspondent for the television program America’s Most Wanted, also lobbied lawmakers to reject the legislation.

“Hysteria is ruling the debate,” Morris said. “So much in the bills is detached from firearm reality.”

He urged senators to stop before pushing forward with the legislation and “ask (themselves) if this bill will make our state safer.”

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown testified that the bills would provide a “balanced, common sense approach” to reducing gun violence and promoting safety, while “protect(ing) the rights of individuals who choose to, or choose not to, own firearms.”

Nothing in the bills change a citizen’s ability to defend his home from violent intruders, said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger. “However, we should be able to find a place where the Second Amendment has reasonable limitations.”

O’Malley Proposes Assault Weapons Ban, Fingerprinting

Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Martin O’Malley announced a highly-anticipated gun control and public safety package Friday that would ban the sale of assault weapons, limit the ammunition capacity of magazines and require handgun buyers to submit fingerprints as part of the licensing requirement.

If O’Malley’s proposals become law, prospective gun owners would also have to pass a training course and face more stringent background checks.

Promoting public safety by reducing gun crime and access to certain firearms is the “top legislative priority” this session, O’Malley said during a press conference attended by dozens of legislators, county executives and law enforcement personnel from around the state.

If passed, Maryland’s gun laws will be some of the strictest in the nation.

The majority of the new laws, which Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, called “courageous and common sense,” are expected to pass swiftly through Maryland’s Democratic-dominated legislature.

However, the stringent new licensing requirements and fingerprinting database are likely to face opposition from both Republicans and more conservative Democrats.

“I think that bill will have probably a difficult time on the floor of the Senate,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., said Tuesday. “Licensing begins to trample on Second Amendment rights.”

The new legislation will expand upon the Maryland State Police’s list of weapons which are considered assault rifles, said Stacy Mayer, O’Malley’s legislative secretary. While Mayer did not give specifics, she said that for a weapon to be an assault rifle the firearm would “have to be a centerfire rifle, and have to have one or more additional features.”

Additional features on firearms often include pistol grips, collapsible stocks and flash suppressors, amongst others.

The federal assault rifles ban that began in 1994 classified an assault rifle as a semi-automatic rifle with two or more additional features, according to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.

Under current Maryland law, citizens over the age of 21 can legally purchase assault rifles as long as the weapons are registered with the Maryland State Police.

The new laws would reduce the maximum ammunition capacity for magazines from 20 rounds to 10.

Also, current law says the ammunition limit does not apply to .22-caliber rifles with magazines that are built into the barrel, rather than detachable. The proposed legislation will also limit those weapons to 10-round capacity magazines, Mayer said.

O’Malley’s assault rifle ban is a “public policy placebo,” said Matthew Daley, vice president of government affairs for the Maryland State Rifle and Pistol Association.

In 2011, handguns, not assault rifles, accounted for nearly two- thirds of every gun homicide nationally, according to a recent FBI report.

“There is no data to show that (assault rifles) are a major part of the firearm violence problem in Maryland,” Daley said.

Regardless of how often assault rifles are used in crimes, “weapons of war” are not used for hunting and have no purpose on Maryland’s streets, said Baltimore County Chief of Police James W. Johnson.

One of the Baltimore County Police Department’s main goals is to “keep excessive firepower out of communities,” Johnson said. “The public is demanding action on this vital issue.”

Banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines won’t infringe upon the Second Amendment, but it will keep neighborhoods safer, Johnson said.

The proposed laws would also require that gun owners who move to Maryland register their firearm even if those weapons are already registered in the state where the weapon was purchased.

O’Malley’s proposals are not without opponents in the Maryland General Assembly.

“Nothing proposed here will stop bad guys with guns,” said Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Upper Shore. He went on to call the gun control measures “solutions in search of a problem,” and said his top priority this legislative session will be blocking proposed gun control bills.

Individual members of the state legislature have vowed to introduce their own gun control bills.

Proposals include imposing a 50 percent tax on ammunition, requiring gun owners to purchase insurance and expanding the Maryland State Police’s authority to inspect the inventory of gun sellers.

Gun store inspections are currently performed by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

O’Malley’s announcement comes just days after Gov. Anthony Cuomo signed a similar gun control package into law in New York. Cuomo and O’Malley have emerged as possible contenders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

New York is the first state to pass new gun laws in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in Newtown, Conn.

President Barack Obama announced a series of proposals and executive orders on Wednesday aimed at tightening federal gun control laws.

The president’s plan would reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons that expired in 2004, limit magazine capacity to 10 rounds and close loopholes that allow weapons to be purchased from gun shows and private dealers without a background check.

The orders also aim to increase the legal penalties for “straw purchasers,” individuals who purchase guns on behalf of criminals.

O’Malley stressed the importance of investing in Maryland’s mental health treatment facilities, as well as an increased emphasis on early detection of potential violent mental disorders.

While O’Malley doesn’t “think equipping teachers with Uzis and gun belts is the answer,” he called for increased cooperation between local law enforcement agencies and educators to develop policies and procedures to reduce violence in schools.

“There is no way to completely eliminate the threat and the risk of another tragedy like Newtown,” O’Malley said. “But there might be actions we can take to prevent that from happening.”


Death Penalty, Gas and Guns: Maryland Legislature 2013

Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS – Gun control, the death penalty, transportation and environmental legislation were expected to be top priorities for state lawmakers as the Maryland General Assembly convened for its 433rd legislative session Wednesday in Annapolis.

In the wake of the mass killings in Newtown, Conn., in December, Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to push for tighter firearm restrictions, including a ban on assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.

Sen. Brian Frosh, D-Montgomery, said there will be a reintroduction of a bill he sponsored last legislative session that prohibits the sale of guns with magazines of 10 rounds or more.

“(The proposed bill) can protect people, save lives and it certainly does not infringe on Second Amendment rights,” Frosh said.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin hopes Maryland will take a leading role in shaping national gun laws. Individual states acting to restrict access to firearms will help change federal policies, said Cardin, who was in town for the opening session of the legislature.

Any gun control bill is sure to face opposition from Republican legislators.

O’Malley alluded to this opposition in his brief statement to the House of Delegates, playfully referring to pushback from political opponents as “creative tension.”

“There is no legislator, executive or judiciary that can do anything to infringe upon the right to bear arms,” said Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Upper Shore. “The Constitution is non-negotiable.”

Smigiel said he and his Republican counterparts plan to do their best to water down “overly restrictive” gun control proposals.

O’Malley also has his sights set on repealing the death penalty.

The Catholic Church and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are among the supporters of repealing the death penalty in Maryland, a state with five prisoners on death row.

“We have the momentum,” Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, said of his confidence that the bill would receive the 71 votes needed to pass in the House.

Rosenberg, who is the House sponsor of the bill, feels the death penalty is racially discriminatory, expensive and not a deterrent.

Legislators are also expected to address environmental issues, such as hydraulic fracturing and tax incentives for wind power.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a process used to extract natural gas from rock deposits below the ground.

Tapping into these natural gas deposits in Western Maryland could bring new jobs and tax revenue to the area, but opponents argue the environmental impacts of the extraction process outweigh the financial benefits.

Members of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a nonprofit climate change organization, gathered outside the State House to advocate for a bill that would place a moratorium on fracking in Western Maryland until more research on safety and best practices has been completed.

O’Malley called for such a study in an executive order in June 2011, after a similar moratorium passed in the House but failed to pass in the Senate.

The climate change group offered a taste test of contaminated and non-contaminated water for legislators to try on their way into the session. One gallon of water was from a farm in Pennsylvania that they said had been contaminated by fracking, and another was from the State House drinking fountain.

“Transportation is the biggest challenge that is going to be faced in this legislative session,” Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said.

The legislature will deal with a multitude of transportation issues, including traffic congestion (which O’Malley called the “worst in the nation”), investment in mass transit infrastructure and gasoline taxes.

The debate over raising state taxes on gasoline is likely to be especially contentious in the upcoming session.

There are better alternatives to the proposed gas tax increase, said Sen. Allan Kittleman, R-Howard.

“I don’t think we should be preaching sales tax on gasoline,” Kittleman said. “We should be looking at broader regional (solutions).”

Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, D-Baltimore, stressed the importance of school renovation and improving infrastructure in the city during this legislative session.

“We are looking at a more creative way to spend the state and city dollars so that we can build and repair a larger number of schools,” McFadden said. “Right now, the system exists where we can only build or renovate or construct a small number of schools.”

In Baltimore, more than three-quarters of schools are not up to the desired standards, McFadden said.

Capital News Service reporters Hannah Anderson, Allen Etzler, Amber Larkins, Julia Maldonado, Ethan Rosenberg, Mary Tablante and Jessica Wilde contributed to this report.


Anti-abortion Lawmakers Propose New Regulations

Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS — Citing recent incidents in Maryland and other states, some anti-abortion lawmakers are calling for regulations that they say the state health department has failed to provide.

Three bills respond directly to the case of New Jersey doctor Steven Brigham, who began late-term abortions in New Jersey and had patients drive to his Elkton clinic to finish the procedures. One such procedure in August led to the hospitalization of an 18-year old woman.

Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, whose law office is within blocks of the Elkton clinic, said he crafted his legislation narrowly to avoid the controversy of taking on the legality of abortion.

“I’m not here to have a big fight over abortion,” Smigiel said. “I want to stick to medical issues. If a woman is going to have an abortion, she deserves to live through the process.”

Legislators, abortion opponents and abortion-rights advocates gathered Tuesday before the House Health and Government Operations Committee to testify on Smigiel’s bills, and four others, regulating abortions. The proposed bills ranged in scope from the transportation regulations to one bill that would outlaw abortion in the state.

Smigiel’s bills would require that abortion procedures that are started in the state stay in the state except in the case of an emergency, and that women who require transportation mid-procedure be moved by ambulance to a hospital. Another bill would require that doctors report abortions to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, including information like complications and injuries without identifying the patient or physician.

But abortion rights supporters say the legislation is designed to increase the cost of and limit access to abortions.

NARAL Pro-Choice Interim Director Melissa Kleder called the bills “a series of attacks on women’s freedom and privacy,” and said the health department has the objectivity, authority and expertise to regulate abortion.

The bills’ sponsors and supporters say the department has failed to craft regulations as allowed under law since a 1992 referendum, leading to unsafe conditions for women seeking abortions.

“These things we read about in the newspapers are the exceptions, they’re not the rule,” said Wendy Kronmiller, assistant secretary for regulatory affairs at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.”We have to strike the right balance between access and safety.”

Kronmiller said in the hearings that while the department does not regulate the abortion procedures themselves, the physicians who perform the procedures are regulated by the Maryland Board of Physicians.

One of the bills would require the department to craft and adopt regulations by January. Kronmiller said the department is already in the process of doing so, and will have regulations drafted by December.

Other bills heard include one sponsored by Delegate Adelaide Eckardt, R-Dorchester, and Delegate Pamela Beidle, D-Anne Arundel, that would require abortion clinics to comply with regulations for ambulatory surgical facilities, which are much more stringent than current regulations. A similar measure was recently passed in Virginia, which abortion rights advocates say will result in the closure of a majority of Virginia’s clinics.

The most sweeping bill introduced is one sponsored by Delegate Don Dwyer, R-Anne Arundel, that would define “personhood” in the Maryland Declaration of Rights to establish that the right not to be deprived of life is vested in all human beings from the beginning of their development. Dwyer’s bill, similar to bills he introduced in 2009 and 2010 that failed in committee, would send the amendment to referendum, but will likely not make it to the floor of the House.

Smigiel Tries to Get Handgum Law Clarified

Delegate Michael Smigiel, a Republican from Cecil County and a concealed-carry permit holder, is working with Delegate Tiffany Alston, a Democrat from Prince Georges, to clarify language in the state’s handgun carry law that Second Amendment advocates have long complained infringes on their rights. At issue is a requirement to show a good and substantial reason to carry a gun, a cornerstone of Maryland’s law that forces applicants to establish a compelling need for the license. When the General Assembly passed the states handgun carry law in 1972, giving state police discretion to award permits, it did not define what constitutes a good and substantial reason to carry a gun. As a result, state police have interpreted court decisions over the years to decide whether each applicant fits the criteria for a permit.

Smigiel Heads House Tea Party Delegation

Delegate Michael Smigiel, R-36-Cecil, was named chairman this week of a new Tea Party Caucus, while a Baltimore Democrat named vice chairman had to relinquish his seat after raising the ire of his colleagues. Speaking in a telephone interview, Smigiel said the newly formed House of Delegates Tea Party Caucus held an organizational meeting, at which he was named chairman. Smigiel said this is the first General Assembly session for the caucus.

Smigiel said the new House of Delegates caucus started with 20 members, including fellow delegates from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, including Stephen Hershey, R-36-Queen Anne’s, and Jay Jacobs, R-36-Kent. Smigiel said Del. Curt Anderson, D-43-Baltimore City, and a previous chairman of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, was named vice chairman of the Tea Party Caucus but almost immediately was forced to step down by fellow Baltimore Democrats. Smigiel said Anderson was given an ultimatum if Anderson stayed on the Tea Party caucus, he would lose his seat as chairman of the Baltimore City Delegation.

Smigiel To Call For Concealed Carry Permit Reciprocity

Michael Smigiel, R-36-Cecil, will argue for support on legislation that would allow residents of four neighboring states to carry a concealed weapon in Maryland if they are legally licensed in their home states. Under current law, a resident of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia or West Virginia who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon in their home state cannot bring it into Maryland while passing through or visiting. The same bill sponsored by Smigiel last year lost by an 11-10 vote in the House Judiciary Committee, ending its chance of reaching the House floor for debate.

Several gun advocate groups are expected to attend the hearing. One of them is the Associated Gun Clubs of Maryland, which has put out a call to its members to attend the hearing or submit written testimony. Maryland General Assembly committee hearings in the House can be seen and heard online this year for the first time and they can be listened to in the Senate.

Bill Would Require More Information for Domestic Violence Protective Orders

Capital News Service
ANNAPOLIS – The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony Thursday on legislation requiring judges to provide more information to people accused of domestic violence.

But advocates for domestic violence victims said the proposed changes could result in fewer protective orders arrived at through consent agreements, forcing victims to testify in court more often.

Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil County, introduced House Bill 48 on the heels of legislation passed last year requiring respondents, or those accused of abuse, to surrender their guns in final protective orders. Protective orders can have a variety of requirements, but often limit contact between the parties involved.

Smigiel’s bill would require civil court judges to verbally inform respondents of the consequences of entering into a consent agreement for a final order rather than choosing to have a hearing on whether abuse occurred. It would also allow respondents to withdraw from a consent agreement any time before a final order is issued.

“What this bill offers is what any of us would like to have,” said Smigiel. “Information about the consequences of an action you are taking in court.”

In consent agreements for protective orders, both parties arrive at and agree to the order’s terms, avoiding a hearing.

Consent agreements specify that no finding of abuse has been made, only that the parties have consented to a protective order.

But being under a protective order can violate terms of employment or immigration status. Someone under an order can also be required to leave the home they share with their partner.

Smigiel’s bill would require judges to spell out to respondents exactly what those consequences are. While judges in criminal cases must outline these facts for defendants charged with crimes, there is no such requirement in civil matters.
Current procedure outlines the terms of a consent order in writing, and judges may cite the terms in open court as a matter of their own procedure. They cannot be appealed and become permanent record that cannot be expunged.

Laure Ruth, Legal Project Manager at the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, said the bill would put judges in an inappropriate position of providing legal advice. She also expressed concern that the bill would open the door to technical appeals after an order has been agreed to, something that is prohibited now.

“There are going to be a lot of cases of buyer’s remorse, or appeals on the grounds that the judge didn’t speak the scripted magic words,” she said.

Ruth said as many as half the protective orders issued in district court are arrived at through consent agreements. Such agreements work to the benefit of victims since they are not required to testify or be cross-examined about personal issues like sexual assault.

“The intent (of this bill) is to discourage consent agreements,” she said. “And fewer consents means fewer protective orders being issued.”

Stephan Moylan, an assistant public defender in Garrett County testifying in support of the bill, said that in his district, respondents often come to court without lawyers and are not given the information they need to understand the terms they are consenting to — including surrendering their hunting rifles and other guns.

“The important consequence for someone in Garrett County is that folks can’t fill their freezers with deer meat. There are a lot of people walking out of that courthouse not knowing they can’t put on their camouflage and hang out at their father’s tree stand.”

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown will not support the bill, said Mike Raia, his spokesman.

Brown’s cousin Cathy Brown was shot and killed in Montgomery Village in 2008 by her estranged boyfriend. Brown testified in support of legislation signed into law in May requiring the surrender of guns by respondents to a final protective order.

Raia said Brown would continue to support bills in support of victims of domestic violence.

“We share the views of the Family Violence Council that this is not a bill that does that,” said Raia. “It creates added hurdles and bureaucracy to victims and their children at a time when they need support.”

Both Smigiel and victim’s advocates expressed hope that a compromise could be arrived at, possibly through making printed information available to respondents and requiring judges to ask respondents if they understand the impact of a consent order.

“This is not geared toward discouraging people from entering into consent. It’s about not encouraging people to enter into uninformed consent,” said Smigiel.