February 11, 2011

State Roundup, February 11, 2011

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EXECUTIONS STILL HALTED: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration is withdrawing proposed regulations needed for executions to start again, effectively renewing the state’s four-year ban on the death penalty, reports The Post’s John Wagner. Administration officials said the move is because a U.S. company recently decided to stop making one of the drugs used for the state’s lethal injections.

Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard wrote that he will review the regulations – but gave no timeline as to how long his review will take, according to an Associated Press story in The Daily Record.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, who chaired the legislative committee overseeing the proposed regulations, called this “another bump in the road,” reports The Examiner’s Alex Pappas.

WBAL’s David Collins has video.

DEATH PENALTY LEGISLATION: Opponents if the death penalty – who submitted a bill sponsored by Del. Sandy Rosenberg to get rid of it on Thursday – say they have more co-sponsors than ever, blogs The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz. Steve Schuster writes about the Baltimore area legislators who support the legislation—and the Baltimore County state’s attorney who doesn’t – in the Towson Times. Andrew Schotz of the Herald-Mail reports that for the first time, some Republicans are co-sponsoring the legislation.

NEW TAXES? In order to hold off deep budget cuts, a group of Senate Democrats are discussing a package of tax hikes, according to an AP story that appeared in the Carroll County Times. Gov. Martin O’Malley did not propose any tax increases in his budget, but his spokesman said he is keeping an open mind about what the General Assembly approves.

CENSUS: The rise in Maryland’s minority population found in the new census figures could be a boon to Democrats and hurt the Republican Party, Erin Cunningham writes in the Gazette.

INFRASTRUCTURE PROBLEMS: Andrew Ujifusa in the Gazette gives the Washington suburban angle to the state’s infrastructure problems reported earlier this week. It’s a $2 billion problem just for water and sewer.

NEW GUN LAWS: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and top law enforcement officials – including an officer who was wounded by a gun – testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday for the seventh time, hoping that the General Assembly will finally pass stricter gun laws, reports The Sun’s Peter Hermann.

NO MORE ARSENIC: Attorney General Doug Gansler threw his support behind Del. Tom Hucker and Sen. Paul Pinsky, who have bills pending that would ban arsenic from chicken feed, reports The Sun’s Annie Linskey.

CREDIT CHECKS: The Senate Finance Committee heard testimony on a bill that would prohibit most employers from doing credit checks on employees or job applicants, reports MarylandReporter.com’s Megan Poinski. Proponents of the bill said that practice is invasive, embarrassing, and unfair.

Many business groups still support the credit checks, telling committee members that they uncover patterns that show people may not be good hires, reports The Daily Record’s Nick Sohr.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOMMA: The “grand dame” of the House of Delegates, Hattie Harrison, turns 83 today. MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick looks back at her years in Annapolis.

TEA PARTY CYNICISM: The Sun’s opinionators write that Del. Curt Anderson’s brief foray into the Tea Party Caucus, and the reactions that followed, show that partisanship runs deeper than policy in Annapolis – but also that leaders are also more deeply concerned with their own self-images.
BROCHIN SUPPORTS SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Sen. James Brochin announced that he will now support same-sex marriage legislation if his bid to transform the bill into one allowing civil unions fails, blogs The Sun’s Annie Linskey. Brochin said that his opposition to using the word “marriage” is his stumbling block,  reports The Post’s John Wagner. Patch.com’s Bryan Sears writes that Brochin found the opposition to the proposal appalling.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: Alan Brody in the Gazette reports that Sen. Barry Glassman is proposing that school construction dollars be awarded through block grants determined by an enrollment-based formula, not the Interagency Committee and the Board of Public Works, as now occurs.

SEPTIC BAN: Southern Maryland lawmakers are alarmed at the prospect of a ban on septic tanks in future subdivisions, Jeff Newman writes in the Gazette.

COST OF HEALTH REFORM: A health policy analyst said that new federal health policy mandates will cost the state $18 million more in fiscal year 2012, driven mostly by the requirement that adult children under 26 can be covered under their parents’ plan, writes The Examiner’s Hayley Petersen.

HOSPITAL ASSESSMENT: Hospital executives are worried that they might have to cut some jobs to cover a $315 million assessment that the state expects them to return to meet Medicaid costs, Margie Hylsop writes in the Gazette.

UTILITIES: Del. C. William Frick is proposing a bill that would require state regulators to determine whether utilities have performed poorly enough that they should have their franchises revoked as electric companies operating in the state, Alan Brody reports in the Gazette.

COLLEGE PARK OUT OF USM? A proposal by Senate President Mike Miller that would remove the University of Maryland’s flagship campus from the University System of Maryland at first sounds shocking, but may actually help the university move forward without being tied down by the state’s other schools, writes The Diamondback’s editorial board.

911 PROBLEMS: Residents in at least three Maryland counties have been unable to connect with 911 operators in the past several months due to a glitch with Verizon, report Erin Cunningham and Andrew Ujifusa in the Gazette.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on hydro-fracking and Hollywood; Jeannie’s whip; a top 10 list for Curt Anderson; Ben Cardin; Rich Madaleno; and Doug Gansler.

ROCKY GAP: Del. Ben Kramer joins his Western Maryland colleagues in trying to give the Rocky Gap location a tax break so someone will put slots there, Alan Brody reports in what appears to be an attempt to set a record for the number of bylines in a single edition of the Gazette.

PAROLE CHANGES SUPPORTED: A proposal that would take authority to parole inmates serving life sentences out of the hands of the governor is supported by family and friends of inmates, reports WBFF’s John Rydell.

CASINO NIGHT AT VFW: Members of the General Assembly tell proponents of a bill to allow “casino nights” as fundraisers for VFW and volunteer firefighter groups that they need more information about why the option is restricted to those two groups, reports Lindsey McPherson of the Howard County Times.

CORRECTIONAL IMPROVEMENTS: Del. Michael Hough is behind two bills to reform the correctional system, according to a story in the Frederick News-Post. He is the primary sponsor of one giving options to people who violate probation, and a co-sponsor of one to create individualized plans for repeat offenders.

FREDERICK NOTEBOOK: Meg Tully’s weekly notebook in the Frederick News-Post looks at the county’s senators’ viewpoints on same-sex marriage, and Del. Kathy Afzali’s voter ID bill.

SPREADING THE WEALTH: Starting in July, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County will start getting a cut of the revenue from slot machines, reports The Daily Record’s Rachel Bernstein.

GAS TAX HIKE: A Montgomery County business advocate and a petroleum advocate debated Sen. Rob Garagiola’s proposal imposing a 10-cent increase in the gas tax to fund road improvements at a forum in Hagerstown, reported the Herald-Mail’s Heather Keels.

BALTIMORE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: Baltimore County’s Senate delegation is considering bills that would revamp the way the county’s school board is selected, either by making the school board part elected and part appointed, or by creating a task force to study the issue and return to Annapolis with a recommendation, reports Patuxent Publishing’s Steve Schuster.

WORCESTER LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD: Legislation that would abolish the Worcester County Liquor Control Board, recently found in violation of discrimination law by the Comptroller’s office and fined $16,000, would actually bring more government control to alcohol sales, opines the Salisbury Daily Times.

O’MALLEY SPEECH: Barry Rascovar in his Gazette column pans Gov. O’Malley State of the State speech and his attire for it as well. (Blair Lee’s column is a week old.)