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Removing Dwyer would set precedent, delegates say

If Del. Don Dwyer dodges removal from the House of Delegates, legislators said, it will be because many lawmakers think he has been punished enough or are afraid to set a precedent that two alcohol-related arrests equal one expulsion.

Dwyer is expected to speak to the legislature Friday when the House reconvenes. Delegates said he spoke Thursday to the House Republican Caucus, explaining his situation and accepting his punishment.

The Pasadena Republican could be expelled if one of the House's 140 other delegates submits a resolution to expel him and that resolution garners the votes of two-thirds of House members.

But such an outcome isn't likely, delegates who chose to speak on the topic said Thursday.

Even those who have already said Dwyer should resign, like House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, said they wouldn't propose a resolution and were reluctant to say if they would even vote for one.

"The consequences for Del. Dwyer are steep and he's brought them on himself. He's been punished at a standard much higher than the average Joe," Kipke said. "When you kick somebody out, it sets a precedent for bad behavior."

Dwyer was to be officially removed from the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, decided Thursday to strip Dwyer of his privileges to vote and debate on a standing committee.

Because Dwyer will spend weekends during session in jail for an incident of drunken boating and a separate incident of drunken driving, Busch said in a statement it's his job "to protect the integrity of the institution of the House."

But Busch left Dwyer his ability to debate and vote only on the House floor and in Anne Arundel County delegation meetings. Dwyer intends to keep those privileges.

Louisa Baucom, Dwyer's spokeswoman, reiterated in an email Thursday that Dwyer also plans to run for re-election.

"His position has been and will remain that it is up to the voters whether he returns to Annapolis," Baucom said.

Under the Maryland Constitution, any delegate can submit a resolution to have Dwyer expelled. In 1998, lawmakers ousted Larry Young from the Senate for conducting private business out of his district office.

But in Dwyer's case, delegates have said they're reluctant to submit a resolution. When Busch was asked if he would submit a resolution to expel Dwyer, he said somebody else could - but he wouldn't.

Democrats and Republicans who spoke off the record Thursday said they were reluctant to submit a resolution because Dwyer's offenses were unlike those that had warranted expulsion in the past. Young's expulsion, for example, came after accusations he had used his public office for private gain.

Delegates said expelling Dwyer would set a bar lower than many delegates want. They voiced worry that if a resolution to expel Dwyer were submitted, expulsion resolutions would then be expected every time a lawmaker gets a second alcohol-related conviction or a second misdemeanor charge.

That could put lawmakers' jobs at risk, they said.

One Republican noted that House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, was given a probation before judgement in 2008 after being charged for driving under the influence of alcohol in 2007.

"Should we expel him if he makes one more mistake?" he asked.

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