Any person who knowingly lies to a legislative panel could get a maximum fine of $5,000 and up to five years in prison under a bill approved yesterday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
The bill, introduced by Sen. Leo Green (D-Prince George's), comes in the wake of the state's thrift crisis and is aimed at ensuring that those who come before the legislature give accurate information.
Special counsel Wilbur Preston, who investigated the causes of the eight-month thrift crisis, has pointed to several thrift industry officials and state regulators who knowingly withheld information or provided false information to lawmakers reviewing legislation affecting the industry.
The Senate panel approved the legislation by an 8-to-2 vote, but not without complaints by Sen. Walter Baker (D-Cecil), who called the measure "overkill."
"I just think it's overreaction," he said. "You're going to get into a bag of worms with this. We are reacting because certain people came before that savings and loan committee and led us to believe everything was all right when it wasn't."
But Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), the committee chairman, praised the bill. "Right now people can lie with immunity and we base our decisions on the information that they give us, which could cost millions of dollars," he said.
Miller and other committee members oppose a similar bill on lying to the executive branch.