January 9, 2013

State Roundup, January 9, 2013

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DEATH PENALTY VOTE: If Gov. Martin O’Malley can show that he has the 24 votes on the floor of the Senate needed to pass a bill repealing the death penalty, Senate President Mike Miller has promised to spring it from the committee. The Washington Post has identified 23 likely Senate votes. But an additional four members have said they would consider supporting the legislation, reports John Wagner in the Post.

An AP story in the Frederick News-Post is reporting that Gov. O’Malley, speaking of his legislative agenda, said yesterday the state Senate is within two votes of approving a ban on capital punishment, and the governor underscored that job creation and transportation funding concerns will be top priorities in the legislative session.

SPEED CAMERA RULES: Scott Calvert and Luke Broadwater of the Sun report that legislators who learned this week that Baltimore City will replace its troubled network of 83 speed cameras say the planned upgrade will do nothing to slow momentum in Annapolis toward tightening rules that govern the automated cameras across Maryland.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: School construction projects, including the new Allegany High School, will continue in earnest in light of a proposal by Gov. O’Malley for an $86 million increase for school construction projects statewide, reports Greg Larry for the Cumberland Times-News.

QUEEN ANNE’S BILLS: Del. Steve Hershey has been working with the Queen Anne’s County commissioners on legislation designed to promote economic development and job creation, and Sen. E.J. Pipkin pre-filed several Queen Anne’s County bills dealing with financial assistance to a local non-profit private school, and also several beer, wine, and liquor issues, reports Jack Schaum for the Easton Star-Democrat.

KAMENETZ’S ISSUES: School construction, gun control initiatives and transportation projects will be the focus of Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s 2013 General Assembly priorities, writes Bryan Sears of Patch.com.

In a new video feature, Center Maryland’s Lisa Harris Jones and Damian O’Doherty discuss Maryland’s growth, investment and infrastructure policies with various political insiders and elected officials. First up, it’s Kevin Kamenetz’s turn.

PREP TIME: Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail interviews Washington County legislators on how they prepare for the legislative session, which includes finding housing and unpacking.

ROOKIES NO MORE: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that, as the newest members of the Lower Shore delegation, Mike McDermott and Charles Otto spent the past two years learning Robert’s Rules of Order and how to successfully move legislation though the statehouse. They can no longer be considered rookies to the process, especially since they have moved from proposing Lower Shore specific legislation to those with statewide impact.

IMPACT ON COUNTIES: Ken Ulman of Howard County, David Craig of Harford County and Kevin Kamenetz of Baltimore County join Dan Rodricks of WYPR-FM to discuss the 2013 General Assembly session and possible financial impacts on counties.

NEW OLD GOP HOUSE LEADERS: Despite rumors of an impending palace revolt, Republicans in the House of Delegates re-elected their top leaders without opposition as they prepared for the start of the 2013 session, blogs the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

DWYER & DRINK: Del. Don Dwyer turned to alcohol as a way to cope with personal and professional challenges and his drinking culminated in an August boat wreck, the Pasadena resident said in an online message to supporters, reports Tim Prudente in the Capital-Gazette. Here’s his Facebook page, where the message was posted.

TOO CLOSE, COMFORTABLE: Speaking to a group of nonprofit leaders, Sen. James Rosapepe called the state “blessed” to be so close to Washington, D.C., blogs Alexander Pyles of the Daily Record. “One of the criticisms is we’re too dependent on the federal government,” Rosapepe said. “I would argue that it’s a little bit like saying Texas is too dependent on oil.”

90 DAYS TO O’MALLEY’S FUTURE: Michael Dresser and Erin Cox write about the importance of the 2013 General Assembly session, which kicks off today, that many people believe he will use as a springboard for a future presidential run for Gov. O’Malley.

GAMBLING LAWSUIT: A lawsuit designed to upend the expansion of casino gambling that Maryland voters approved in November got its day in court yesterday as opponents of the successful ballot measure – expected to give rise to a Las Vegas-style casino at National Harbor, and to allow table games there and at a handful of other casinos statewide – say the wording of the measure was unconstitutional, reports Aaron Davis for the Post.

SMART METER OPT-OUT: In a divided vote, Maryland’s Public Service Commission ruled Monday that utility users will have a choice when it comes to the type of meter they want. But more hearings have to be scheduled to determine how to implement the plan, Sarah Blumberg writes in the Capital-Gazette.

The PSC ruling requiring opt-out plans for smart meter doubters has turned what some might have considered a lost cause into an issue with momentum, with former Del. Mary Rosso saying that opponents of the devices will start work on legislation addressing their safety and privacy concerns, Blumberg also reports.

REFERENDUM PROCESS: After petitions sent three Maryland laws to voters this fall — the first such referendums in 20 years — state leaders said the process designed in the era before electronic signatures needs a fresh look, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. “Our forefathers never imagined everything that we did in Annapolis would be subject to referendum,” says Senate President Mike Miller.

AG CANDIDATE ISSUES: David Moon at Maryland Juice highlights comments from possible 2014 Attorney General candidates state Sen. Brian Frosh and Del. Jon Cardin on their stands on repeal of the death penalty and the use of speed cameras.

REILLY WON’T RUN FOR AA EXEC: Earl Kelly of the Capital Gazette is reporting that state Sen. Ed Reilly will not run for Anne Arundel County executive. He instead plans to run for reelection for his Senate seat. If the executive’s seat becomes vacant because of a possible criminal conviction of County Executive John Leopold, Reilly said he would accept an appointment, but only to complete Leopold’s term.

RICHARD BEN CRAMER DIES: Fred Rasmussen of the Sun writes the obituary of Richard Ben Cramer, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who covered the Maryland General Assembly. Cramer became a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for The Philadelphia Inquirer and an acclaimed author chronicling the lives of politicians and legendary sports figures. He died Monday of lung cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital.