March 8, 2012

State Roundup, March 8, 2012

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END DEATH PENALTY: Greg Masters of the Post reports that, continuing a perennial debate in Annapolis, advocates of ending capital punishment told Maryland lawmakers yesterday that the death penalty is morally wrong, racist in its application and provides no comfort to grieving families.

A passionate group of advocates — including NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and an innocent man who was on Maryland’s death row for two years — came to Annapolis to argue against the state’s death penalty, writes the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

IN CELLS WITHOUT CELL PHONES: Keeping cell phones and other electronic devices out of the hands of inmates and punishing those prisoners found with such contraband is the aim of two bills that have recently been the subject of committee hearings in the General Assembly, writes Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News.

COMMUTING SENTENCE: The governor of Maryland, a former prosecutor and Baltimore mayor who built his political career on zero-tolerance crime policies, might finally give birth to a conscience in the matter of Mark Farley Grant — an inmate who went to prison 28 years ago for a crime he most likely didn’t commit, columnist Dan Rodricks writes in the Sun. It’s one thing to be tough on crime, another to be just and fair.

REVENUE PROJECTIONS LOWERED: Because of lower-than-expected income tax revenues, the Board of Revenue Estimates lowered Maryland’s projected revenues for the coming year by $80 million, and Comptroller Peter Franchot warned against any policies that would impact individual taxpayers, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

TOBACCO TAX: A new tax proposed on some tobacco products could give Maryland the steepest tobacco tax rates in the United States, writes Daniel Menefee of MarylandReporter.com.

GREEN UP MARYLAND: Gov. Martin O’Malley aims to put Maryland on the map as one of the greenest states in the country, but given the $1 billion budget shortfall this year, some of his more ambitious energy plans might have to wait, Katherine Heerbrandt writes in the Gazette.

JUDICIAL PAY HIKE: The Senate passed a pay hike of up to $14,500 annually for Maryland’s 284 judges yesterday, citing an imperative to hire and keep talented legal minds on the bench, MarylandReporter’s Daniel Menefee writes.

REMOVE GUILTY OFFICIALS: Bills in the Maryland House and Senate would require elected officials at the state or county level to leave their post immediately after pleading guilty to felonies relating to their duties, Ben Giles reports in the Washington Examiner.

SERVICE TAX: Legislation that would add sales tax to everything from dating and escort services to car repairs and pest control has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly, writes Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News. The tax could increase state revenues by almost $300 million in the first year.

RX POT & THE FDA: Psychiatrists Dinah Miller and Annette Hanson writes for the Sun op-ed page that, while inhaled marijuana may have some medical benefits, to legislate medical treatments evades the standard protocols that the Food and Drug Administration has put in place for the regulation of all other medications.

REFERENDUM PROCESS: With the state’s referendum laws in the spotlight for the first time in two decades, some legislators hope to close weaknesses in the referendum process that can open the door to fraud, Justin Snow writes for MarylandReporter.com.

MURDER PROFIT: Legislation proposed by Del. Kelly Schulz aims to prevent the estates of slaying victims from enriching the people charged with killing them, Bethany Rodgers reports in the Frederick News-Post.

BUSCH HONORED: Senate President Mike Miller presented House Speaker Michael Busch with a First Citizen Award, an honor bestowed annually by the Senate on those who “have been dedicated and effective participants in the process of making government work for the benefit of all,” blogs John Wagner of the Post.

CUMMINGS’ FLUKE: He has maintained a relatively low profile on the Sandra Fluke story, but U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings played a big role in putting the Georgetown law student in the spotlight and sparking a nationwide conversation over contraceptives, blogs John Fritze in the Sun.

TOO EARLY TO LEARN: A group of five Anne Arundel mothers is trying to launch a national movement to push back the start time of high schools, saying it is inhumane to ask teens to go to school at a time when researchers say their biological clocks tell them they should still be in bed, Liz Bowie writes for the Sun.

ACLU STEPS IN ON LEOPOLD CASE: The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has pressed Anne Arundel County officials to help determine whether County Executive John Leopold violated a state anti-spying law by allegedly directing his security detail to investigate political opponents, Nicole Fuller and Andrea Fuller report in the Sun.

BA CO UNION CONSIDERS COMPLAINT: A union that represents hundreds of public workers in Baltimore County is threatening to file an unfair labor practices complaint against the county, saying a pension bill introduced by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz attempts to sidestep ongoing contract negotiations, Alison Knezevich writes for the Sun.