Lifer Parole to Take Effect Without O’Malley Signature

May 18, 2011

Gov. Martin O’Malley announced today that he will not sign a bill that forces him to act on parole requests for inmates serving life sentences. Maryland does not provide for a “pocket veto,” so the legislation still takes effect Oct. 1.

The lifer parole bill requires the governor to respond in writing within 180 days when the Maryland Parole Commission recommends parole for a lifer. If the governor does nothing, the inmate will be released. Under current law, no lifer may leave prison without the governor’s signature.

The issue arose, lawmakers said, because O’Malley had failed to act on any of the Parole Commission’s recommendations to parole or commute the sentences of 50 lifers during his first four-plus years in office.

As lawmakers debated a bill to remove the governor from the parole process altogether, O’Malley denied commutation requests for seven prisoners. The legislation does not affect commutations.

“Governor O’Malley understands that all involved in these cases deserve a timely decision process,” his office said in a statement. “However, given the gravity of the offenses for which these inmates are serving life sentences, it is the Governor’s contention that Maryland citizens would be better served if the default provision in the legislation was to deny the parole request rather than to grant it.”

O’Malley also announced that he has decided to veto four bills, and let two other take effect without his signature. The final bill-signing ceremony after the 2011 legislative session is scheduled for tomorrow morning.

The legislation O’Malley has vetoed are: a proposed change as to who can collect state pensions, a requirement that Frederick County grant a property tax credit to a nonprofit school, an alteration in how Allegany County liquor commissioners are appointed and changes to Circuit Court subpoena procedures.

The pension change would have prohibited some in the state pension plan from receiving a retroactive vested benefit allowance if the member files for vested benefits after normal retirement age.

O’Malley’s office said: “It is the Governor’s contention that this legislation unintentionally imposes a very harsh punishment on former teachers and State employees who do not file their application for benefits upon reaching normal retirement age. Governor O’Malley, in his veto letter, expresses concern about the potential impact of lost benefits on seniors who are struggling on fixed incomes.”

The two other proposals that will become law without O’Malley’s signature are a bill affecting entertainment licenses associated with the planned casino at Arundel Mills mall and a clarification of unemployment insurance exemptions for messenger services drivers.

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… Another dumb bill.   Another dumb law.  You cannot fix ‘stupid.” …

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