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Child buying bill killed

February 19, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Lawmakers in the Maryland House of Delegates have turned down a bill proposed by Del. Andrew A. Serafini that would have made it illegal for someone to buy a child.

The bill still could be approved by the Senate and sent back to the committee that killed it.

The bill was proposed in response to an incident at City Park in Hagerstown in which a woman was approached by a stranger who offered to buy one of her five children. Serafini's bill also would have made it illegal to offer to buy a child.

A committee in the House has killed the bill, said Serafini, R-Washington. However, Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, has cross-filed the same bill in the Senate. That bill was heard Thursday. No action was taken.

It currently is a crime to sell a child, and Munson has said the bills proposed by both lawmakers would correct an "oversight" in the law.

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Smithsburg resident Cheryl Rudden is the grandmother of the child that the man offered to purchase in City Park. Rudden testified Thursday before the Senate committee.

The child's mother was with her five children at City Park, and was holding a 4-month-old, when she was approached by a man who offered to buy the infant for $10,000, Rudden testified.

When the mother declined the offer, the man offered her $20,000.

Serafini said he asked committee members why they voted against the bill and was told the committee had concerns the bill was unnecessary, and buying or offering to buy a child already was prohibited under current law.

However, Munson sought and received an opinion from the state's attorney general, which said that reasoning was incorrect.

A letter from Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe said "the buying of a minor is covered by the current law only to the extent that the payments are made in connection with an adoption. Otherwise, the purchase of a minor is not expressly prohibited."

Serafini and Munson said it is their hope with the opinion from Rowe that the Senate committee will approve the bill and lawmakers in the House will reconsider their decision to kill the bill.

Munson called the issue "significant," and said if the bill does not pass during this legislative session, he and Serafini would rewrite it for next year, taking committee concerns into consideration.

"Hopefully, that will boost its chance of passage next year," Munson said.

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