January 11, 2013

State Roundup, January 11, 2013

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NO REPEAL ALLY YET: Sen. John Astle, considered one of the swing votes on a possible repeal of the death penalty, said some opponents of capital punishment are jumping the gun in counting him as an ally, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. Astle said he has an open mind on the issue but wants to hear the arguments on both sides.

CHANCE OF REPEAL: By the grace of state Senate President Mike Miller, Gov. Martin O’Malley has been handed a second chance — probably his last — to abolish the state’s death penalty, opines the editorial board for the Post. He should seize it, they say.

Senate President Mike Miller said this week that he expects voters to have the final say on whether the state’s death penalty is repealed, but observers say success or failure at the ballot box will depend heavily on how the question is worded, especially if it includes the option of life without parole, Daniel Leaderman reports in the Gazette.

O’MALLEY’S BUDGET: Gov. Martin O’Malley is putting the final touches on his proposed fiscal 2014 budget, which will be unveiled next week. But O’Malley and members of the General Assembly are voicing concern about the potential impact on that budget from the lingering stalemate in Congress over raising the nation’s debt ceiling, according to a story at WBFF-TV.

UNION FEES: Maryland teachers statewide could be required to pay union fees even if they are not members, according to legislation expected to be introduced this session in Annapolis on behalf of Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), Meg Tully reports for MarylandReporter.com. The “fair share” fee is a top priority of the teachers union that represents about 70,000 people – or 80% of school employees.

‘SPICE’ BAN: Calling it an epidemic, two of Anne Arundel County’s state legislators have set their sights on curtailing use of synthetic marijuana, or “spice,” reports Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

HOT BUTTON ISSUES: Earl Kelly and Pamela Wood of the Capital-Gazette write that the first day of the 433rd General Assembly was dedicated mostly to pomp and ceremony, but key lawmakers handicapped some of the looming fights on hot-button issues including a ban on the death penalty, an increase in gasoline taxes and more gun regulations.

GUN CONTROL: Daniel Menefee of the Chestertown Spy reports on the gun-control debate in the state and Del. Mike Smigiel proposal that would require anyone wanting to obtain a gun permit to meet 10 competency and safety requirements.

RAISING TRANSPORTATION FUNDS: Del. Sheila Hixson, chairwoman of the House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee, told members yesterday to be ready to deal with legislation that could raise money for transportation, but cautioned she did not know what such a bill might look like.

YOUNG PREFILES: A nuisance abatement bill on blighted properties; a bill that requires contractors and subcontractors working for the government to use or supply American manufactured goods; and one on organ donation and drivers licenses. These are just three among nearly a dozen bills that were filed by Sen. Ron Young before the 2013 Maryland General Assembly session began, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

ANNAPOLIS SUMMIT: Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM holds his 10th annual Annapolis Summit, in the first hour speaking with Senate President Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch about issues from juvenile justice to transportation. In the second hour, Steiner speak with Gov. O’Malley about the proposed youth jail in Baltimore and statewide gun control, among other issues.

CLAGETT MOVES: Del. Galen Clagett, who will not be running for re-election, is vacating his post on the powerful committee that handles state spending and shifting to one that deals with economic policies, reports Bethany Rodgers in the Frederick News-Post.

TURNER OFF GAMBLING: Del. Frank Turner, who has headed the House subcommittee that deals with gambling the past five years, will leave that post to become vice chairman of the full Ways & Means Committee, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

DWYER BUMPED FROM JUDICIARY: Del. Don Dwyer, charged with operating a boat under the influence of alcohol in an accident that injured seven people, told reporters yesterday that House Speaker Michael Busch had removed him from the chamber’s Judiciary Committee, writes John Wagner of the Post.

MINORITY POSTS: Sen. E.J. Pipkin was re-elected as Senate Minority Leader, making this his second year in the position, and Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio was re-elected by the House Republican Caucus as Minority Whip by unanimous decision, according to a story in the Easton Star-Democrat.

BONGINO WINS: In an informal, non-scientific poll, 361 respondents to a Red Maryland query gave Dan Bongino overwhelming support for a run for governor. The poll also ranks issues of importance.

MORE JOBS AT ROCKY GAP: Officials with the owners of Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort say that when the casino opens, they’ll be employing nearly double the current full-time staff, with about 300 employees, Matthew Bieniek reports in the Cumberland Times-News.

CARDIN PLEDGES MORE: After helping get federal disaster aid for Somerset County following Hurricane Sandy, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin told local officials that his role won’t end there, Liz Holland reports in the Salisbury Daily Times.

LEOPOLD TRIAL: Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold’s future is on the line, as scandalous accusations about his professional and personal life are set to air Wednesday in an Annapolis courtroom as Leopold goes on trial on charges of misconduct in office. Margie Hyslop previews the trial for the Gazette.

The Sun is reporting that prosecutors in the coming criminal trial of Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold are asking that a judge throw out two defense subpoenas, saying one is for confidential information and the other for “inadmissible, irrelevant evidence.”

REPUBLICAN PLANS: Republican legislators have similar priorities for this legislative session such as transportation funding, but have very different approaches to the issues than the Democrats, including their strong aversion to tax increases, writes Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook includes several scenes from opening day; the state sandwich; and Richard Ben Cramer.

MILLER TIME: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar examines the career and staying power of Senate President Mike Miller.

POLITICAL LANDSCAPE: Gazette columnist Laslo Boyd paints the political landscape for 2013, as the lead up to 2014.