January 16, 2013

State Roundup, January 16, 2013

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DEATH PENALTY REPEAL: Expressing confidence that “the will is there” in the General Assembly to do away with capital punishment, Gov. Martin O’Malley predicted, at a news conference yesterday with the national president of the NAACP and dozens of legislative co-sponsors, that Maryland voters would uphold a decision to repeal the death penalty, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. There’s a short video of the NAACP’s Ben Jealous, O’Malley and former death row inmate Kirk Bloodsworth speaking.

John Wagner of the Post quotes O’Malley saying that capital punishment is “expensive and does not work,” and it is inconsistent with “the sort of people we want to be.”

O’Malley said that advances in law enforcement technology and smart policing initiatives have done more than the death penalty to reduce the state’s crime rate, and money spent on appeals filed in capital-punishment cases could instead be used to provide more funding for those initiatives, writes Andrea Noble of the Washington Times.

O’Malley wants to replace the death penalty with life without parole. He said modern prisons and improved protocols – and not the death penalty – make prison guards safer even without the threat of execution for someone serving a life sentence, the Capital-Gazette’s Earl Kelly reports.

Holly Nunn of the Gazette writes that death penalty repeal has been an ongoing effort for more than a decade, and the state hasn’t executed anyone since 2006, because the regulations governing capital punishment were ruled unconstitutional by the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times recounts the story of Kirk Bloodsworth, who was set free after DNA testing proved that he did not rape and murder a 9-year-old Baltimore County girl. But Del. Mike McDermott, who sits on the judiciary committee where the bill will be heard in the House, is staunchly opposed to the repeal initiative, saying the death penalty is an important bargaining chip prosecutors should have.

The editorial board for the Sun calls for an end to the death penalty.

MILLER ON GUN LAWS: Senate President Mike Miller expressed skepticism about the governor’s proposal to require licenses for handgun purchases, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. But Miller still thinks a ban on assault weapon sales and limits on the bullet capacity of gun magazines can pass.

GUNS AS HEALTH ISSUE: Physicians and public health experts – meeting in a Gun Policy Summit yesterday and today at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – framed gun violence as an urgent public health issue, grounded in rigorous research, writes John Bloch for the Baltimore Brew.

A THIRD BAY BRIDGE? For a fourth straight year, Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin has sponsored a bill to study the need for a third bridge over the Chesapeake Bay. The measure would cost $35 million to have the Maryland Transportation Authority complete the study by 2018, reports Daniel Menefee for the Talbot Spy.

ZANDI SAYS ‘NO’ TO GAS TAX: Testifying before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, said state policymakers should focus on educational structure and infrastructure, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. They should make the “the right kind of investments” to level opportunities for the middle and lower income Marylanders.

Zandi, when questioned about some state lawmakers’ push for a gas tax hike, said lower-to-middle income families are dealing with enough in 2013, Alex Jackson reports in the Capital-Gazette. He recommends waiting another year to roll out a gas tax hike.

LOW TAXES MEANS GROWTH: The editorial board of the Washington Examiner writes that low taxes are good for the economy. It writes, why have employers and taxpayers been flocking to Worcester County? It’s no coincidence. The Eastern Shore county also has the lowest property tax and lowest local income tax of any of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.

JOB CREATION: As a surprise guest speaker at a Maryland Chamber of Commerce event yesterday, Gov. O’Malley told 400 business leaders that his 2014 budget will create 43,000 jobs, reports Shantee Woodwards in the Capital-Gazette. O’Malley also criticized the current funding level for transportation projects.

SHA DEFENDS SPEED CAMERAS: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that State Highway Administrator Melinda Peters, in defending the controversial speed cameras, said serious accidents in work zones have reached a 10-year low and only 2% of drivers are ticketed by the cameras. She also defended to lawmakers the practice of having the cameras operating in construction zones even when workers are not present because the jersey barriers and irregular traffic patterns are a hazard.

DEPOSIT COST: More details trickled out about a proposal to add a 5-cent, statewide deposit to beverage containers, but county and city recycling managers in Maryland say they remain concerned that the plan could complicate –– and cost –– the recycling programs they operate, writes Margie Hyslop for the Gazette.

ARORA’S EXPLANATION: David Moon of Maryland Juice tries (unsuccessfully) to pin down an explanation by Del. Sam Arora of his reversal over supporting same-sex marriage legislation to not supporting it. There’s video of Arora’s appearance on News Channel 8’s NewsTalk with Bruce Depuyt.

YOU TOO CAN LOBBY: Pamela Wood of the Capital-Gazette gets advice from the experts to offer up a primer on how private citizens can lobby for a bill with state legislators.

2014 GOVERNOR’S RACE: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is gearing up to run for governor next year, will report having $5.2 million in the bank, far more than any previous Democratic candidate at this point in the cycle, reports the Post’s John Wagner.

Blaine Young, president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners and one of the leading potential Republican contenders for governor in 2014, has reported that he met and surpassed his funding goal of $300,000, blogs the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

During the reporting period, which stretched from May 4 through Jan. 9, Young’s campaign spending totaled $97,674.77, and he ended up with more than $349,000 cash on hand, Bethany Rodgers reports in the Frederick News-Post.

LEOPOLD ON TRIAL: The defense team for Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold is fighting prosecutors’ move to block it from obtaining documents it claims would show the “same conduct” as that in criminal charges against Leopold has not been prosecuted before, showing inconsistencies in when charges are filed, Erin Cox blogs for the Sun.

VETERANS TAG: Del. Mike Smigiel is reintroducing legislation to create a state license plate emblazoned with the words “Maryland Supports Veterans” after a year of campaigning for its passage, Ilana Kowarski writes in MarylandReporter.com.