July 31, 2012

State Roundup, July 31, 2012

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SUPREMES MAY UPHOLD MD LAW: Bryan Sears of Patch.com reports that U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts continued a stay of the Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that had stopped police departments in Maryland from collecting DNA samples from some arrestees. Roberts wrote that there is a reasonable chance that Maryland could win its appeal, overturn the Court of Appeals ruling and continue to collect samples.

State officials and local law enforcement authorities lauded the development, saying that DNA collection saves lives and clears the streets of dangerous criminals by matching arrestees with prior crimes, write Tricia Bishop and Kevin Rector for the Sun. But defense attorneys and others questioned what it could mean for civil rights.

ADD TRANSPORTATION TO SESSION LIST: First there was a new casino and table games, then came “inherently dangerous” dogs, and now Maryland’s transportation system has joined the growing list of legislative issues state lawmakers are hoping get onto the special-session agenda next week, Meredith Somers reports in the Washington Times.

QUEEN ANNE’S LIFTS PIT BULL BAN: Speaking of “inherently dangerous dogs,” the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners voted unanimously last week to lift the moratorium on pit bull and pit bull mix adoptions that had been in place following a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling deeming all pit bulls and pit bull mixes “inherently dangerous.” Greg Reinbold writes the story for the Easton Star-Democrat.

PEPCO DEFENDS RESPONSE: Pepco vigorously defended itself yesterday in its first self-assessments since last month’s derecho storm, saying it responded aggressively and effectively to restore power to nearly half a million customers left sweltering in the dark, report Aaron Davis and Mary Pat Flaherty for the Post. The electric company accepted limited responsibility for software glitches that affected tens of thousands of calls for service and for its inability to give customers a better sense of when their power would be restored.

PENSION TENSION PART 2: Following up a MarylandReporter.com story from yesterday, Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette reports that while Maryland’s state pension portfolio grew by just 0.36% in fiscal 2012, well-short of its target average return, Keith Brainard, of the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, says disappointing investment returns in any one year aren’t necessarily cause for alarm.

Pension investment earnings have averaged a 7.8% rate of return over the last 25 years and a 5.9% rate of return over the last decade, according to the retirement agency, writes Hayley Peterson for the Washington Examiner.

OK FOR CAESARS EXPECTED: After months of planning, a group led by gambling giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. is expected to get the green light today to build a 3,750 slot-machine casino ringed with restaurants a few blocks from M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore City, reports the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

SCANNED LICENSE PLATE DATA: The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland wants to know what police are doing with information collected by automated scanners that routinely read the license plates of drivers throughout the state, reports the Sun’s Kevin Rector. Since at least 2005, “automatic license plate readers” have been recording license plates from alongside state roads and highways and from inside police patrol cars.

There are more than 320 such devices in use in Maryland, reports Bryan Sears for Patch.com. More than 43% of those are connected to the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center, which used to just track terrorist activities but now has an expanded role in all crimes, according to the ACLU.

CARE ACT REPORT CRITICIZED: Policy analysts are criticizing UMBC’s Hilltop Institute for a health care reform study released earlier this month that showed economic growth from the Affordable Care Act because they said it was too narrowly focused on spending and job creation, writes Dana Amihere for MarylandReporter.com.

CORRECTION: MarylandReporter.com corrects two errors that were in an article last Friday concerning an audit of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

STATE PLAN BASED ON UNRELIABLE SCIENCE: Mark Newgent of Red Maryland writes that Maryland’s plan to address global warming is based on a flawed process, which produced unreliable science.

WIND TURBINES & BATS: Maryland’s first industrial-scale wind energy project would be required under a federal plan issued yesterday to slow down its turbines at certain times of the year to reduce the number of endangered bats that might be killed by the long, spinning blades, reports the Sun’s Timothy Wheeler.

SEPTIC BRIEFING: Somerset County Commissioners are scheduled to be briefed during a meeting today on how the state’s new septic systems law will affect the county. That law will limit the installation of septic systems to minor subdivisions in agricultural-residential zones, writes Liz Holland for the Salisbury Daily Times.