Candidates for the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates were asked the following questions by The Washington Post:
Sentences: In what cases, if any, would you support legislation requiring judges to impose mandatory sentences? Do you feel Maryland should build a maximum security facility for juvenile offenders? Please explain.
Spending: In which areas of government should the state spend more money or less? Please be specific.
Legislation: Give three examples of legislation you intend to propose.
Helen L. Koss (D), incumbent, 60, 3415 Highview Ct., Silver Spring, a delegate since 1971, chairs the Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee and has served on commissions on reapportionment, crime, ethics and utility regulation. She has been president of the state League of Women Voters and a delegate to the state Constitutional Convention.
Sentences: I do not generally support mandatory sentences since they remove the ability of our judicial system to balance all the factors and circumstances in each case and therefore administer justice. I would support permitting longer sentences for particular crimes. There is no question that certain juvenile offenders require sentencing to a maximum security facility. I need more information about the capacity and nature of our present facilities and the number of juvenile offenders who might appropriately be assigned to maximum security before taking a position on a separate facility. Juvenile offenders should be housed separately from adults and provided with programs designed particularly for them.
Spending: Economies should, if possible, be achieved in administrative costs. Useless and duplicative governmental operations should be eliminated. Direct aid programs where federal funds are cut back might require additional state funds for programs serving vulnerable population groups such as the elderly, the handicapped and households headed by women. State-funded programs should be examined to evaluate appropriateness of establishing steps to promote appropriate self-support, provided that provision of essential human services to those being served is not jeopardized.
Legislation: I do not think that the sponsorship of bills is the only way in which a legislator performs his duty as a problem solver. As a committee chairman, I have refrained from sponsoring bills, since I find we always have before us more than enough alternative proposals for each issue. I see my role as attempting to perfect legislative proposals to deal with the issue intended to be addressed. In the past I have sponsored bills dealing with discrimination of all kinds, ethics, election reform, consumer protection, utility regulations and tax relief, among many others.
Donald B. Robertson (D), incumbent, 50, of 7003 Delaware St., Chevy Chase, a delegate since 1971, is currently House majority leader. Head of the Montgomery County delegation for seven years, he has served on utility regulation, tax structure and ethics commissions. A lawyer, he was vice chairman of the governing body of Chevy Chase Section III.
Sentences: (a) The legislature should encourage the judicial branch to sentence more uniformly and with greater certainty, but I am generally opposed to mandatory minimum sentences. The legislature cannot foresee all circumstances that may pertain to a particular crime, and ordinarily it is best to leave some flexibility to judges. But mandatory minimums are appropriate and I support them in certain limited circumstances, e.g., repeat convictions of certain serious crimes as presently provided by Maryland law. (b) Some juvenile offenders require maximum security treatment, and they should be separated from other juvenile offenders and, to the extent possible, from all adult offenders. But I am not sure that a separate facility would be the most efficient use of limited state funds, and I would need to review present facilities and resources therein before making decision.
Spending: The immediate need likely will be to provide state resources to fill gaps, left by federal budget and tax actions, in social and other essential programs designed to meet human needs. In addition, emphasis should be placed on reducing unemployment, increasing aid to families in need, enhancing economic development, improving the environment, providing a quality educational system, strengthening our law enforcement and corrections systems and improving our transportation system. However, state resources are limited, there are many competing demands and priorities will have to be established. Savings -- to increase the resources available -- should be effected by eliminating unnecessary administrative costs, by avoiding useless or wasteful government infrastructure and, perhaps, by making appropriate programs wholly or partially self-supporting where to do so would not deprive those in need of public services or assistance or otherwise undermine the program.
Legislation: In the past, I have sponsored legislation relating to ethics in government, utility regulation, election laws and other areas as problems have arisen. But there is no shortage of legislative proposals, and introduction of legislation is by no means the most important attribute of a legislator or a principal aspect of my service as a legislator. More important is the development, refinement and support of proposals to assure their passage, and much of my time is devoted to these functions. As majority leader, I attempt to influence House action on a myriad of legislative issues toward objectives that I favor.
Patricia R. Sher (D), incumbent, 51, of 1916 Rockwood Rd., Silver Spring, a member of the House since 1978, serves on committees and task forces for economic matters, insurance, corrections, hospital regulations and drug abuse. She was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1980 and has worked in a number of political campaigns.
Sentences: For repeat offenders and for crimes of violence. We probably should upgrade existing juvenile facilities to provide for maximum security. In addition, we should provide much better juvenile services to help reduce juvenile crime.
Spending: We should spend more for adequate prison facilities and make the initial investments necessary for deinstitutionalization of the retarded and mentally ill. Both would be good investments, as we would be paying less in the future.
Legislation: 1) Comprehensive computer fraud legislation. 2) Curbing arson for profit -- increased penalties, etc. 3) Further protection of consumers when banks do not return cancelled checks. There is no statute of limitations on bad checks.