Should homeless people be added to the growing list of groups protected under "hate crimes" laws?
"A half dozen representatives from organizations including the Homeless Person Representation Project and Health Care for the Homeless asked committee members to endorse a bill to add the homeless to the classes of people protected by Maryland hate crime laws.
Frederick's Sen. Alex Mooney, a Republican, is sponsoring the measure.
"Unfortunately hate crimes against homeless people are on the rise and it has become an epidemic in this country" said Tulian Ozdeger, a civil rights staff attorney with the National Law Center.
Hate crime laws in Maryland protect people on the basis of race, color, religious beliefs and national origin. Hate crimes are punishable by 10 years in prison and as much as a $10,000 fine. If the victim dies, the penalty is increased to 20 years and $20,000."