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Legislators Submit Bill To Repeal Ballistics Law

By David Snyder
Saturday, January 22, 2005; Page B10

Maryland lawmakers yesterday submitted a measure to repeal a state law requiring state police to collect ballistics information on every handgun sold in the state.

The bill -- sponsored by Dels. Joan Cadden (D-Anne Arundel), Norman H. Conway (D-Wicomico) and Michael D. Smigiel Sr. (R-Cecil) -- would nullify a landmark measure passed in 2000 that requires handgun manufacturers to test-fire all handguns sold in Maryland and send the spent shell casings to the state police. The police file the shell's ballistics markings in a database, which officers can use to match shell casings found at crime scenes.

Maryland and New York are the only states with ballistics "fingerprinting" laws, which gun-control advocates and some law enforcement officials have hailed as a potentially effective crime-fighting tool.

A recent Maryland State Police report, however, said the program is expensive and ineffective and recommended that the law be repealed. Gun-control advocates have disagreed, saying the system needs more time to work.

"The state police have indicated it's not working," said Smigiel, who filed a similar bill last year that died in committee. "We're wasting a couple million dollars which we could be putting to better use."

Child-Care Aid Increased

Maryland plans to provide child-care vouchers for an additional 2,400 children -- from more than 18,000 on its waiting list -- by combining newly appropriated state money with transfers from federally funded child programs, state Human Resources Secretary Christopher J. McCabe said yesterday. About 20,000 children are aided now.

Speaking at a Frederick YMCA preschool class, McCabe said the department will open its current waiting list, which has been closed for two years. Those on the list must reapply by filling out a form that will be mailed June 1.

The program helps pay for child care for low-income families.

McCabe also noted that the 2006 fiscal year budget allocates $498 million for child welfare services, an increase of $61 million over the previous year. The money will cover items such as foster-care programs, additional child welfare workers and staff training.

Lobbyist on Probation

A federal judge in California sentenced a longtime lobbyist at the Maryland General Assembly to five years probation and 1,000 hours of community service for his role in defrauding a mental health care clinic.

The sentence for Ira C. Cooke was handed down Wednesday in Bakersfield, Calif. He was convicted last month on charges of theft, commercial bribery and conspiracy.

Cooke and a co-defendant, Bobbie Cumberworth, were also ordered to pay $57,000 between them by next January. If they fail to do so, they could face up to a year in jail, said Gregg Bernstein, a Baltimore lawyer who represented Cooke in the California case. The sentencing was reported in the Baltimore Sun yesterday.

The $57,000 represents kickbacks Cooke paid Cumberworth from 2000 to 2002. During that time, Cooke was a lobbyist and business development consultant for Cumberworth and her husband, Terry, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Desert Counseling Clinic in Bakersfield.

Cooke had dropped out of the top rank of Maryland lobbyists in recent years, but listed earnings of $258,312 from 11 clients in a report he filed after the legislative session last year.

Staff writer Elizabeth Williamson and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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