State Roundup, August 18, 2011

August 18, 2011 at 7:58 am

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: A Maryland commission took its first step yesterday toward developing a plan to legalize medical marijuana in the state, writes David Hill of the Washington Times. The 18-member, state-appointed group is scheduled to work through May 2012 on the feasibility of legalizing the drug for medical use. Medical marijuana is now legal in 17 states and D.C.

The state is considering an approach that would put academic centers such as Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland at the helm as a way of closely monitoring the drug — and studying whether it is effective or safe for wide use, the Sun’s Nicole Fuller reports.

UNION SUPPORTS SAME SEX MARRIAGE: In a letter to all members of the Maryland General Assembly, the local union for Municipal and County Government Employees has come out supporting same-sex marriage, according to David Lublin of Maryland Politics Watch.

SLOTS RESTRICTIONS EASED: A state panel yesterday eased restrictions for successful bidders for the slots licenses in Baltimore and Rocky Gap, reports the Sun’s Andrea Siegel.

The winning bidder for the Baltimore slots parlor will get as much $6 million to help pay for infrastructure and the Rocky Gap winner would see $1.8 million cut from the $4 million it would have to pay for treating wastewater at a casino there, Gary Haber reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

PIPKIN BLASTS SEPTIC PLAN: Speaking at the Symposium of Septic Systems and Future Growth in Maryland, Sen. E.J. Pipkin said many of the state’s recent actions represent a war on rural Maryland, then pleaded with attendees to work with state legislators to reject the the governor’s proposed bill to restrict septic tank installation in any form, Chris Knauss reports for the Easton Star Democrat.

TWO NAMED TO PSC: As the state’s Public Service Commission prepares to tackle several important cases later this year, including the proposed sale of Constellation Energy Group to Chicago-based Exelon Corp. in a $7.9 billion deal, Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday filled two vacancies this energy regulatory body, Hanah Cho reports for the Sun.

Kevin Hughes, one of O’Malley’s deputy legislative officers, and Kelly Speakes-Bachman, clean energy director at the Maryland Energy Administration, join the utility regulator, the BBJ’s Scott Dance reports.

PROSECUTOR REDUNDANCY: In an interview with Bruce DePuyt at TBD-News Channel 8, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler says the Office of Maryland State Prosecutor should be eliminated. Scroll down to view the interview.

CRIME RATE DROPS: The Sun’s Justin Fenton is reporting that Maryland’s crime rate decreased 6.3% last year, reaching a new low in the state’s per-capita incidence of violent and property offenses and mirroring a national trend.

DPP STAFFING DEBATE CONTINUES: The debate over parole and probation officer staffing levels, first reported in MarylandReporter.com by Megan Poinski, continues as the union chief — who first made the complaint — and the Division of Parole and Probation — which is refuting it — trade arguments, writes Len Lazarick.

PRIMARY INVITATION: Equality Maryland is holding a bash on Sept. 7, and who should be among the honorees besides Gov. O’Malley, but Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. Maryland Juice writes that that looks more like the Democrat primary ballot for governor.

GOP DELEGATES JUMP ON FREDERICK REDISTRICTING: Legislative district lines will look starkly different by the next election thanks to major population growth in Frederick, and Frederick County Republicans delegates are getting an early start on suggesting the fairest way to draw new boundaries, reports Megan Eckstein for the Frederick News Post.

REDISTRICTING BALTIMORE: While population loss translates to fewer representatives during any redistricting process, the editorial board of the Sun asks, why should Baltimore city face jurisdictional restrictions not seen elsewhere in Maryland?

LEAD PAINT JUDGMENTS: State Sen. James Brochin suggested yesterday that a surcharge could be used to help the Housing Authority of Baltimore City pay nearly $12 million in court-ordered judgments that it owes former public housing tenants who suffered lead-paint poisoning as children, reports Scott Calvert for the Sun. Brochin made the comments on the day he wrote a scathing letter to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake decrying the authority’s refusal to pay the judgments because of a lack of funds.

OOPS, WRONG PRIMARY DATE: The city mailed sample ballots out this week to remind registered voters of the primary election coming up on Sept. 13. Trouble is, writes Steve Kilar for the Sun, the forms are telling them to go to the polls Sept. 3.

COUNCIL SEEKS ED BOARD SAY: The editorial board of the Sun writes that a resolution passed by the Baltimore City Council this week calling on state legislators to give the council more say in choosing school board members might be justified if there were any evidence the current process isn’t working.

AA COUNCIL SAYS NO TO ED FUND SHUFFLE: The Anne Arundel County Council has rejected the board of education’s efforts to reshuffle funds within its budget to maintain current teacher salary levels for the upcoming year, writes the Sun’s Joe Burris, leaving the school board to figure out new ways to honor agreements it struck with the teachers’ union.

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