The Baltimore Sun

Dixon makes pitch for Md. gun legislation

Mayor Sheila Dixon and other Baltimore officials urged state lawmakers yesterday to adopt two proposals that the city police commissioner says would "take guns out of the hands of bad guys." One measure would prevent bail commissioners from releasing convicted gun offenders if they are arrested anew, and another would increase the time that a felon found in possession of a firearm spends in prison. "We need your help," Dixon told members of the House Judiciary Committee. "We have the data, we have the facts. We're asking you to help us close the loopholes." The first measure would require commissioners to hold convicted gun offenders on a no-bail status if they have a new arrest. Judges would be able to reduce bail later. Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy called the second measure a "truth in sentencing" bill. Although the sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm is a mandatory five years without parole, convicts often serve three years or less because of "good-time credits" accumulated in prison. City officials want those credits calculated as if for violent offenders, which would add 300 days of prison time. Dixon pushed for both bills last year, but they were defeated. This year, they form the centerpiece of her legislative package. A Senate committee will consider the legislation next week.

Julie Bykowicz

Senate endorses ban on felons' use of victims fund

The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval yesterday to legislation that would prohibit certain felons from tapping a state fund for crime victims who seek reimbursement for medical bills, burial expenses and lost wages. The endorsement so early in the legislative session gives backers fresh hope that they can change a practice highlighted last year in The Sun, which found that the Maryland Criminal Injuries Compensation Board had awarded about $1.8 million to more than 200 offenders, including about 150 felons, since 2003. Under the bill, convicted murderers, rapists and sex offenders would not be eligible for compensation.

Laura Smitherman

Md. held up as a leader in budget performance

Maryland was one of four states singled out as leaders in performance-driven budgeting practices in a report to be released today from the Pew Center on the States, a nonpartisan think tank researching practices worthy of emulation in times of fiscal distress. Under Gov. Martin O'Malley, Maryland has implemented StateStat, a system that monitors departments, including corrections, health and transportation, to identify where to trim to achieve savings and better results. O'Malley implemented a similar program as mayor of Baltimore.

Laura Smitherman

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