December 20, 2012

State Roundup, December 20, 2012

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MORE PUSH FOR GUN CONTROL: Gov. Martin O’Malley spoke out more forcefully yesterday about the need for more gun control, arguing on a national talk show that assault weapons “play no purpose in a civil society,” reports John Wagner in the Post.

Several religious leaders joined Baltimore’s mayor and state lawmakers in urging new state gun control laws, calling for a wide-ranging package of bills designed to prevent tragedies like the shooting in Connecticut, Erin Cox and Annie Linskey reports for the Sun.

Among the bills expected to be introduced is one that would give the Maryland State Police authority to monitor inventories of gun stores, according to WBFF-TV.

MIXED REACTION: Washington County’s state legislators reacted cautiously to Gov. O’Malley’s proposal to introduce legislation to try to prevent mass shootings but signaled an openness to having conversations about the issue, Kaustuv Basu writes in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports that Del. Patrick Hogan believes the first need is for an extended and thorough conversation on violence, while Del. Kathy Afzali is preparing a pre-session meeting between firearm experts and state lawmakers before they start considering gun bans.

46,719 ASSAULT WEAPONS: Maryland State Police told George Lettis of WBAL-TV that there are more than 46,719 assault weapons legally registered in Maryland, about 6% of the more than 771,000 registered firearms in Maryland.

JOINT RETURNS: Comptroller Peter Franchot said he is committed to making sure that gay married couples will be allowed to file joint tax returns before income taxes are due for 2013, John Wagner writes in the Post.

David Hill of the Washington Times reports that Maryland is the only income-tax-collecting state that allows same-sex marriage but does not have a law in place requiring that gay couples file a joint state tax return or declare themselves as married while filing separately.

CASINO LICENSE FEE TOO LOW: Two Maryland think tanks are proposing that the state charge a license fee as high as $500 million for new National Harbor Casino, saying anything less, such as the current $18 million license fee, “would be a giveaway, corporate welfare, or taxpayer rip-off,” reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

Matt Connolly of the Washington Examiner quotes Christopher Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute as saying, “Maryland’s current licensing structure really is nothing but a massive giveaway. The state would have been better off putting the license up on eBay.”

DBED’S NEW CHIEF: Maryland’s second-in-command on economic development matters will step into the top job in January when the current secretary leaves for the private sector, Jamie Smith Hopkins reports in the Sun.

While some say state officials should have taken more time to choose a replacement for Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development Secretary Christian Johansson, the outgoing secretary said that Deputy Secretary Dominick Murray is the best person for the job, writes Kevin James Shay in the Gazette.

SANDY AID: A $60 billion emergency spending bill that would provide federal aid to states still recovering from Hurricane Sandy would guarantee additional money for Maryland and subtly change the way administration officials determine eligibility for disaster relief in the future, reports the Sun’s John Fritze.

MIKULSKI TO CHAIR APPROPRIATIONS: The Sun is reporting that, in an unexpected move that could have significant implications for Maryland, Sen. Barbara Mikulski will be named the first female chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee today. As of yesterday afternoon, Mikulski was considered most likely to take over the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The death of Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) Monday left a vacancy atop the powerful spending panel, one that many expected Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to fill, reports the Post’s Ben Pershing. But Leahy said he was choosing to remain as chairman of the Judiciary Committee rather than move to Appropriations.

SNOWDEN TROUBLES: The Sun’s Andrea Siegel blogs that Carl Snowden, civil rights chief for the Maryland attorney general’s office, was accused this week of violating probation in a drunken-driving case.

His arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 7, writes Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette. If he’s found guilty, he could face 60 days in jail.