January 3, 2013

State Roundup, January 3, 2013

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MENTAL ILLNESS & GUNS: A state task force studying gun access laws for people with mental illnesses has proposed authorizing police to seize firearms from individuals deemed a credible threat to themselves or others, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. Such seizures would take place after law enforcement “substantiated” reports from mental health providers, social workers and other professionals.

The task force also said that if the person making the threat does not own a gun, that person should be blocked from buying one, writes Michael Laris and John Wagner in the Post.

TWO APPROACHES TO CT SHOOTINGS: Maryland and Virginia have vowed to tackle the issue of guns when their state legislatures convene, writes Steve Contorno for the Washington Examiner. In Maryland, Democrats running the General Assembly have called for a crackdown on the kinds of powerful firearms and high-capacity magazines used to kill 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school. Republicans who control Virginia’s General Assembly expressed interest in arming teachers.

“The political calculus has changed dramatically,” Maryland Sen. Jamie Raskin said at a news conference to announce a legislative package that would, among other developments, ban assault weapons. “Politicians used to be afraid of what would happen if they did act, whereas now politicians are afraid of what’s going to happen if they don’t act.” Holly Nunn reports the story for SoMDNews.com.

SYNTHETIC POT: A prefiled bill sponsored by Del. Kevin Kelly will add cannabimimetic agents — chemicals that produce an effect similar to marijuana — to Maryland’s roster of controlled dangerous substances that “may not be legally used, possessed or distributed,” reports Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

DEATH PENALTY REPEAL: Despite his personal support of the death penalty, Senate President Mike Miller said he will make sure that legislation to repeal it gets a vote in his chamber if the governor lines up enough support for approval, Erin Cox and Michael Dresser report in the Sun.

“Martin Watcher” of the Dagger writes about Gov. O’Malley’s history with the death penalty in Maryland.

ORGAN DONORS: State Sen. Jamie Raskin wants to change the organ-donating process in Maryland so that individuals will automatically be organ donors unless they specify otherwise when getting a driver’s license. Del. Jeff Waldstreicher wants to create a safety net for victims of traumatic brain injury who do not have medical insurance or who lost their insurance. These are two of the proposals that Montgomery County lawmakers hope to push when the legislative session starts on Jan. 9, writes Kara Rose for the Gazette.

CHARITY POKER IN PG: Prince George’s County residents looking for a poker game may be able to find one long before the county’s new casino opens in 2016, writes Matt Connolly for the Washington Examiner. A bill being considered by the Prince George’s delegation to the Maryland House of Delegates would allow charity poker games to be held by local organizations that obtain a permit from the county.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE PROTEST: A handful of Westboro Baptist Church protesters picketing same-sex marriage in front of courthouses in Annapolis and Towson yesterday were met with large groups of counter-protesters holding signs preaching tolerance, Erin Cox and Alison Knezevich report for the Sun.

BAY HEALTH: The Chesapeake Bay’s health continues to suffer from pollution from sewage plants, septic systems, farm and urban runoff and air emissions, earning it a subpar grade of 32 or a D+, a according to the latest “State of the Bay” report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, reports Pamela Wood in the Capital-Gazette.

The foundation announced that the bay’s environment has gotten better based on measurements of 13 indicators, but that the bay is far short of the 2025 federal and state goals, Patti Borda of the Frederick News Post reports. Five indicators improved, seven stayed the same and one declined.

MILLER TO SEEK 11th TERM: Senate President Mike Miller isn’t planning to go anytime soon, reports the Sun’s Michael Dresser. Miller, the nation’s longest-serving Senate president, said yesterday that he will seek re-election in 2014 to what would be his 11th term in that chamber. He said his wife has given him the green light to run again.

SUPER BOWL PREDICTION: Alexander Pyles of the Daily Record blogs that Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has made his opening statements at bimonthly Board of Public Works meetings can’t-miss political theater for at least the last year, returned to a favorite topic yesterday morning: handicapping Maryland professional sports.

HARRIS ON FISCAL CLIFF: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris voted against a Senate-approved measure dealing with the “fiscal cliff,” according to a story in the Easton Star Democrat. He said that the plan raised taxes, increased the debt and contained few spending cuts.

DELANEY TAKES OFFICE: John Delaney, Maryland’s newest congressman is taking office as lawmakers continue to grapple with tough choices about federal deficit reduction, according to an AP story in the Post.

LIFE AFTER CONGRESS: As Roscoe Bartlett leaves office today after 20 years, the Sun’s Matthew Hay Brown searches out former members of Congress from Maryland, some who lost their bids for re-election and others who retired, to discover that there is indeed life after politics.

JUVIE JAIL: The Board of Public Works delayed approval of the Silver Oaks juvenile facility, according to an AP brief in the Daily Record.

A plan by the Department of Juvenile Services to double capacity at a privately run residential facility for young offenders was put off Wednesday after state officials expressed concern about the system “backsliding” toward larger, harder-to-manage facilities, writes Justin Fenton in the Sun.