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The facts behind the claims in the Democratic debate

Laws and LegislationElectionsExecutive BranchGovernmentU.S. House Committee on the Judiciary

When the Democrats running for governor met for their second three-way television debate Monday night, charges and countercharges flew – along with allegations of distortion, deception and half-truths.

Doug Gansler was especially aggressive, pointing to votes Anthony Brown cast in the General Assembly more than a decade ago to make the case that Brown lacks sympathy for crime victims.

Heather Mizeur avoided finger-pointing, but was the target of one of Gansler's more easily debunked – and likely intentionally sarcastic – claims. Brown again accused Gansler of favoring a $1.6 billion corporate tax "giveaway," which Gansler disputes.

Here are some of the facts behind the claims:

•Late in the debate, Gansler assailed Brown as "someone who voted against letting you know if a neighbor of yours is a sex offender." Brown did not rebut the charge in the time available other than to call it "outlandish."

Gansler's campaign pointed to a vote Brown cast in 1999, his first year as a state delegate, on a bill allowing law enforcement officers to post a sex offender registry on the Internet. State records show Brown voted against the bill, which passed 83-54 and was later signed by Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

Brown was one of many Democrats against the bill, which did dealt with Internet posting and not the creation of a registry. Its opponents included almost all the members of the Legislative Black Caucus, of which Brown was a member. Civil libertarians expressed concern at the time that Internet posting could lead to vigilante actions against people named on the registry. Other cited concerns about mistakes being posted online, leading to innocent people being labeled as sex offenders.

• Gansler also cited two votes Brown cast against 2003 legislation extending the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse. In both cases, Brown was the lone nay vote in the 141-member House. Explaining the vote, Brown's campaign pointed to an amendment he had offered in the House Judiciary Committee that would have strengthened the measure by giving victims eight more years to report crimes.

"Anthony Brown really took charge and advocated for a much stronger bill," said Lisae Jordan, of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Jordan said Brown's floor vote was a protest. "He was mad," she said.

•Gansler was openly scornful when he spoke against to Mizeur's proposal to legalize and regulate the sale of marijuana. While he endorsed decriminalization of possession of small amounts of the drug, he said Maryland should observe the results of legalization in Colorado and Washington before taking that step here.

Maryland, he said, should "see if we want to have kids going into a 7-11 and getting a Diet Coke, a bag of Fritos and a bag of pot."

In fact, Mizeur's proposed legislation would not allow marijuana sales to people under 21 and would limit distribution to licensed dispensaries rather than existing retail stores.

In some cases, Gansler was the one calling foul after the debate.

• His campaign sent out a statement complaining that Brown "touted Maryland had exceeded the health care exchange's enrollment goal." The statement pointed to statistics showing that as of April 19, Maryland had reached only 45 percent of its goal of enrolling 150,000 in private plans.

The truth or falsity of what Brown said depends on which goal is used. While the state originally set a goal of enrolling 150,000 in private plans, the consultant that set the goal later said it made an error and set it far too high. The contractor, the Hilltop Institute at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said the target should have been about 70,000.

By that measure, Maryland came within a few thousand enrollments of meeting its goal for private plans. Because of an unexpected surge in the number of Medicaid enrollments, Maryland surpassed its goal of 260,000 total enrollments and signed up 340,000 people for health insurance. There is little doubt, however, Maryland could have done even better had it not been for the failure of the web site.

•Gansler disputed as dishonest Brown's claim that Gansler's proposed corporate income tax cut is a $1.6 billion "giveaway." Brown's campaign has said the figure is based on estimates by the Department of Legislative Services of the loss of revenue by cutting the tax rate. Like the budget analysts, the Brown campaign does not assume that corporate tax cuts will lead to some increased revenue – as Gansler assumes. Nor does the Brown campaign count another Gansler proposal to close a corporate tax loophole as offsetting the revenue loss. Whose estimate is valid is more a matter of opinion than fact.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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