nce the speeches and the confetti marked the end of the 1982 General Assembly--a session dominated by such major election-year issues as crime and drunken driving--Maryland residents were left with a proposed new prison and some stricter penalties for repeat criminals and drunks, but no new penalties for illegal handguns and none of the harsh, mandatory sentences this body has traditionally rejected.
In the end, moderation prevailed over the election-year calls for swift punishment for criminals and drunken drivers. The legislature chose to tighten parole policies and build more prisons, but decided that bills to confiscate the cars of drunken drivers and to impose long, mandatory sentences for burglary were going too far. The House and Senate committees became an unsympathetic filter for the 100-plus crime bills introduced--most of them duplicate and triplicate efforts on the same theme.
Even the relatively modest crime bills enacted left some legislators dismayed. "This was a bad year for civil liberties," said Sen. Victor L. Crawford (D-Montgomery). "This was the law-and-order legislature. If somebody introduced the Nuremburg papers, they would have passed through the legislature."
But staunch supporters of tougher laws against crime and drunken driving found this year's legislature too soft. "We identified the drunk drivers last year," said Sen. Francis X. Kelly (D-Baltimore County). "This year we did nothing to penalize them."
While several of the harshest drunken driving measures went down to defeat in a conservative House committee, several other bills slipped quietly through the General Assembly, mostly aimed at increasing penalties and easing the detection of drunken drivers.
One bill now allows the state to confiscate the license plates for 120 days of a repeat drunken driver who is driving under a suspended license. That bill was passed as a more moderate alternative to a measure that would have allowed the state to confiscate the cars of repeat drunken drivers.
Another bill increased to five years from three the maximum penalty for manslaughter by motor vehicle while the driver is intoxicated. A separate bill requires courts to keep drunken driving convictions on record for 10 years, instead of the current three years. That bill is aimed at helping courts detect repeat offenders.
But Jean Heald, organizer for the politically active Mothers Against Drunk Drivers group, said that the single, biggest accomplishment was not in legislation, but was in the stern warning to potential drunken drivers. "Public awareness is the most important of all," she said. "It makes everybody look more closely at the crime of drunk driving."
In the legislature's closing hours Monday night, senators scrambled to save a bill that would have relaxed the court-ordered requirement that criminal defendants be brought to trial within 180 days. In a year that was supposed to be tough on crime, the bill was stymied by a House and Senate stalemate over whether juveniles should be included.
While that bill and a widely publicized handgun penalty bill became the victims of House and Senate bickering, the General Assembly did approve several lesser known anticrime measures, all parts of Gov. Harry Hughes' package of tough crime proposals.
The legislature approved a bill allowing local state's attorneys to decide whether to try as juveniles or adults those 16 and 17-year-olds charged with violent felonies.
Another bill that passed requires the state's parole department to prepare a victim-impact statement to be used by judges when deciding how to sentence convicted felons. The bill requires judges to consider the suffering, psychological problems and economic loss caused by the crime on the victim when sentencing the accused.
The General Assembly also approved Hughes' request for money to build a new 720-bed prison at Hagerstown, plus money to study the possibility of yet another facility. Legislators specified that it could not be built near the existing prisons.
The Assembly also approved a Hughes proposal requiring a 10-year prison term for drug dealers convicted of their second offense. Another bill that passed now requires the governor to approve all releases of prisoners serving life terms from the Patuxent Institute in Jessup.