“People do anything to get in the paper,” Vallario said when asked about the criticism. “Look where she is now.”
Kullen lost her reelection campaign in 2010. Vallario, meanwhile, was off to another meeting of the House of Delegates, where he is one of two longest-serving members.
Fearing ‘the domino effect’
At his desk on a recent afternoon, the chairman listened as Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil) implored him to hold a vote on his proposal to ban therapists from having sex with their patients.
The bill is the kind that can trigger debates so graphic and raucous that Smigiel, a Judiciary member, compares the committee to a pirate ship, with Vallario as captain. A couple of years ago, Smigiel gave out skull-and-bones stickers with the words, “Under a Black Flag We Shall Sail.” Some of his colleagues stuck them on their laptops. Vallario doesn’t use a laptop, or a computer, for that matter. But he still appreciated the gesture.
No, the chairman told Smigiel, there will be no vote on his bill. Not yet.
Vallario often refers to “the domino effect” when considering legislation. He views himself as a filter, making sure his colleagues aren’t overcome by emotion or a yearning for headlines to “pass bad bills.” If he doesn’t like a bill, Vallario can sentence it to a purgatory otherwise known as his desk drawer.
“Sometimes you have to save them from themselves,” Vallario said. “I want to be here to protect the people.” Imagining the Judiciary without himself as chairman, Vallario said, “I worry about what would happen — that crazy things would happen.”
The chairman can be blunt, as when he dismissed the anti-shackling bill. “I can’t restrict what the guards are gonna do,” he said. But he can also change his mind. After listening to six hours of testimony on that same bill, and no objections from prison officials, he said he was more open to the proposal. “It’s got legs,” he said.
The chairman was more opaque about the death penalty and gun control. No, he’s not a fan of executions — “I don’t like seeing people get the juice,” he said. But he likes it as a potential punishment for someone who, say, “poisons 10,000 people” by getting into the water supply.
Perhaps, he suggested, he could support the repeal if there were exceptions for mass murderers. He said he needs to hear more.
As for the governor’s gun control bill, Vallario offered no opinion, at least not before sitting through all the testimony at a public hearing that lasted until 3:45 a.m. Saturday. Still, he said, nothing O’Malley proposes would have stopped the shootings in Newtown, Conn., a state that he said has “some of the toughest gun control laws in the country.”