January 14, 2013

State Roundup, January 14, 2013

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STRICTER GUN LAWS: Gov. Martin O’Malley will seek to institute some of the nation’s strictest gun-licensing requirements, ban assault weapons and restrict visitor access to schools in one of the most expansive government responses sought to last month’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Perhaps most controversially, O’Malley will seek a law to force prospective gun owners to provide fingerprints to state police, complete a hands-on weapon-familiarization and gun-safety course and undergo a background check to be licensed.

MARYLANDERS BACK GUN CONTROL: A new poll shows Marylanders strongly support two gun control measures that Gov. O’Malley has suggested he might ask the General Assembly to pass in the wake of last month’s elementary school massacre in Connecticut, Michael Dresser of the Sun is reporting. On another measure the governor supports — repeal of the death penalty — the state’s voters are divided.

GARAGIOLA FOR DEATH PENALTY: Sen. Rob Garagiola, a Democrat whose vote death penalty opponents had hoped to sway this year, said Friday that he is firmly committed to keeping capital punishment on the books, a position that he said has not changed since 2009, when he supported a compromise that narrowed the circumstances in which the death penalty could be applied but fell short of full repeal, according to the Sun.

END DEATH PENALTY IMPASSE: The editorial board of the Capital Gazette opines that with no executions since December 2005, and none likely under Gov. Martin O’Malley or any probable successor, the state has neither clarity nor a deterrent. It’s time to end the impasse over the death penalty.

O’MALLEY’S BUDGET: WBAL-AM’s Robert Lang reports that the 2013 Session of the Maryland General Assembly starts its second week tonight. But all eyes will be on O’Malley on Wednesday when he unveils his fiscal 2014 budget, but it’s not certain if the governor will include a plan to increase transportation funding.

WIND MEASURE: After being thwarted the past two years by skittish lawmakers, Gov. O’Malley is preparing once again to introduce a bill aimed at planting mammoth wind turbines off Ocean City — and the measure may finally pass, thanks to a shake-up in a committee that stifled it last year, Timothy Wheeler reports in the Sun.

MORE ENVIRONMENTAL BILLS: Environmental advocates, who had a banner year in 2012 by winning victories on limiting new housing developments with septic systems and paying for fixing stormwater pollution, are hoping to get even more environmentally friendly bills passed in 2013, including a high-profile bill on windpower, writes Pamela Wood in the Capital-Gazette.

CONFIDENTIAL SIGNERS: Del. Neil Parrott, who stirred up the state last year by creating a website to collect petition signatures, forcing laws such as the ones on same-sex marriage and in-state tuition for illegal immigrants onto the ballot in the November election, now wants to make the names of people who sign petitions confidential, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

LEOPOLD’S ANNAPOLIS AGENA: Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold wants some proceeds from Maryland Live! and other casinos used to boost security at schools in the wake of last month’s mass shooting in Connecticut. This is among his proposals for the 2013 session of the General Assembly.

PENALIZE OPEN MEETING VIOLATORS: The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post is backing Baltimore County Del. Dan Morhaim’s push to penalize government bodies that violate the Open Meetings Act. Oregon or Connecticut already level penalties, so this is not an unusual practice. The fines in Morhaim’s bill are more reasonable. The first violation’s $1,000 penalty will sting enough to ensure socks are pulled up with regard to the law, but won’t create a lasting financial burden.

LOW-COST HOUSING PLAN: Gov. O’Malley proposed Friday spending $25 million to expand a program that gives developers low-cost, long-term loans to build or renovate affordable rental housing for working families, senior citizens and people with disabilities, reports the Sun’s Erin Cox.

VA’S GAS TAX PLAN: Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell’s much-talked-about transportation plan got a less-than-rave review Friday from Warren Deschenaux, Maryland’s chief budget adviser to the legislature, writes the Post’s John Wagner.

Deschenaux said that the plan, which would raise transportation revenue while scrapping the gas tax, is largely based on “wishful thinking,” reports Michael Dresser of the Sun.

DEMS’ LOVEFEST: The Post’s Aaron Davis outlines the Democrats return for a lovefest and four other things learned during the first week of the new General Assembly session.

CECIL NIGHT: Cheryl Mattix of the Cecil Whig reports that Cecil County business leaders engaged in face-to-face conversations with state lawmakers Thursday night, including chairmen of several standing committees. “Cecil Night in Annapolis,” now in its fifth year, is the event that made it possible.

DWYER SPEAKS: Del. Don Dwyer, charged in a boating accident that injured seven people, cautiously opens up to Tim Prudente of the Capital-Gazette about his drinking and the situations that may have led to it.

REDISTRICTING CHALLENGE: After failing to get it overturned in the state, Woodbine resident Christopher Eric Bouchat may have the opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s legislative redistricting plan in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, reports Christian Alexandersen for the Carroll County Times. Bouchat has filed a petition to argue his position that Gov. O’Malley’s legislative redistricting plan is unconstitutional because it does not give equal representation to all counties.

WATERKEEPERS DEFEND CASE: Members of Waterkeeper Alliance defended their case against Perdue and family farm even after a judge ruled against them and the two parties have announced a suit to get back attorneys fees, writes Elaine Bean of the Salisbury Daily Times.

O’MALLEY’S 50th: Gov. O’Malley, who turns 50 on Friday, was treated to an early birthday celebration this past Friday night at the governor’s mansion in Annapolis, blogs John Wagner in the Post.

LEOPOLD TRIAL STARTS: When County Executive John Leopold appears in court this week to face allegations he misused police officers assigned to protect him, he’ll be the first sitting Anne Arundel executive to stand trial on criminal charges, reports Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette.

The charges already have taken a toll on Anne Arundel, leading to the abrupt retirement last year of the police chief, inspiring a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and casting a shadow over the county’s reputation as a place where Naval leaders are groomed and the state conducts its business, Andrea Siegel and Matthew Hay Brown write in the Sun.