Despite a last-minute appeal from a former U.S. prosecutor, the state senate voted today to allow the state to bar convicted bribers from competing for lucrative state contracts even though they may have cooperated fully with prosecutors.
The bill under consideration provides that the Board of Public Works - a body consisting of the governor, the state comptroller, and the treasurer, with the power to approve all state contracts - may at its discretion bar bribers who cooperate from state contracts.
Those who bribe state officials and do not cooperate with the prosecutors would automatically be barred from future state work.
The bill passed a preliminary vote in the Senate last week, then was challenged by several senators who complained that former Maryland U.S. Attorney George Beall, whose office abtained an indictment of former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew and convictions of two county executives with substantial help from witnesses who would be covered by the bill had not been called to testify before the committee that approved it.
Beall appeared before the Constitution and Public Law Committee on Friday to ask that the Board of Public Works' option to bar those who cooperate be taken out of the bill, thus exempting them from its provisions. The move would encourage cooperation with government investigations of bribery allegations, he said.
Beall's testimony apparently was not convincing to the committee. "Although (Beall) was very well intentioned, the committee's impression was frankly that he was opposed to any bill at all on this subject matter." said Sen. Edward T. Conroy (D-Prince George's), the committee chairman.
In other action, the Senate passed and sent to the House of Delegates a measure that adds social workers to the list of medical professionals whose services must be paid for by insurance companies operating in Maryland.
The bill passed with 24 "yes" votes, the smallest number of votes a bill can receive and still pass. It failed in an earlier vote that was overturned in today's vote.%TThe social worker bill's principal oponent was Sen. Frederick C. Malkus Jr. (D-Eastern Shore). "I know this bill is heavily lobbied" by social workers, he said. "I don't like this kind of lobbying, when everybody is looking out for themselves . . ."
"We need all the (insurance) money we have for good medical services. I sincerely do not believe we should start another ripoff as far as medical expenses are concerned," he said.
Supporters of the bill argued that persons who need insurance to pay their medical bills now reject the option of seeing social workers because their services are not covered by insurance, and go instead to psychiatrists or psychologists, who charge far more than do social workers.
The result, they said, is that insurance program costs are higher than they need be because only the more expensive kinds of mental health care are included under the programs.
"It is not always necessary to go lie down on a psychiatrist's couch to have your problems solved," said Sen. Rosalie S. Adams (d-baltimore), a nurse.
Meanwhile, the Senate approved and sent to the House a bill abolishing the right of a person convicted in a District Court. Maryland's lowest court level to automatically appeal his or her conviction to the Circuit Court, the next highest judicial level.
The bill would not take effect until July, 1978. After that date, appeals from District Court convictions could be made only if the District Court judge had made an error, just as convictions in the Circuit Court can be made now only if there is an error or change in the law.
The Senate also killed a bill that would have removed a defendant's right to a jury trial in Circuit Court cases in which the possible sentence was less than three months in jail.
It was common practice in Maryland to deny jury trials in small-penalty cases until a court ruling last year that alldefendants have rights to jury trials. The bill was advanced as an effort to cut down the backlog in state courts.