Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Abuser Expungement Bill Rises From the Grave

Yesterday, we reported that a bill sponsored by Delegate Luiz Simmons (D-17) allowing accused domestic abusers to expunge their records was defeated. But we spoke too soon: the House of Delegates acted today to revive the bill and send it back to the Judiciary Committee to be re-worked.

Simmons’ bill would allow people accused of abuse who had their civil protective orders dismissed or denied by a judge to get those records expunged. Simmons and other bill supporters claim that the existence of these records caused problems for the accused in seeking employment and housing even though they were not upheld in court. Opponents responded that nearly all other civil defendants do not have the right of expungement and questioned why that right should be given to accused abusers alone. Others, including Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-45), claimed that abused spouses are often reluctant to press charges in court, so their abusers should not be rewarded with expungement rights.

The expungement bill’s 64-69-8 defeat attracted substantial coverage from the Post and the Sun yesterday. But in a startling reversal, the House of Delegates reconsidered its vote on the bill today by a 76-63-2 margin, sending it back to the Judiciary Committee for revamping. The bill’s resurrection is due to the following group of 16 Delegates who voted against it yesterday but then voted to revive it today:

Saqib Ali (D-39)
John Bohanan (D-29B)
Rudolph Cane (D-37A)
Virginia Clagett (D-30)
Steven DeBoy (D-12A)
Adelaide Eckardt (R-37B)
Donald Elliott (R-4B)
James Gilchrist (D-17)
Guy Guzzone (D-13)
Marvin Holmes (D-23B)
Stephen Lafferty (D-42)
Murray Levy (D-28)
James Malone (D-12A)
Shane Pendergrass (D-13)
Justin Ross (D-22)
Frank Turner (D-13)

How could these legislators change their opinion on one bill that was not amended in just 24 hours?

Another fact worth noting is that support for the bill split partially along gender lines. On the first vote, female legislators voted against the bill 15-29-4 while male legislators voted for it 49-40-4. On the second vote, female legislators voted against the bill 17-30-1 while male legislators voted to reconsider it 59-33-1.

Among Montgomery Delegates, Luiz Simmons (D-17), Brian Feldman (D-15), Ben Kramer (D-19) and Henry Heller (D-19) voted for the bill both times, Kumar Barve (D-17) voted for the bill the first time but voted against reconsideration, Saqib Ali (D-39) and James Gilchrist (D-17) voted against the bill but then voted to revive it and the rest of the delegation opposed it consistently.