January 18, 2013

State Roundup, January 18, 2013

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NRA BEGINS LOBBYING: The National Rifle Association and a trade organization representing the $13.6 billion gun industry began work in Annapolis this week as the General Assembly prepared to debate some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

PIT BULL LEGISLATION: Identical bills have been introduced in both chambers of the General Assembly to deal with the issue of who is liable when a dog bites a person, writes the Sun’s Michael Dresser. Sen. Brian Frosh, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said the legislation would apply to all dogs, not just pit bulls, overruling the Court of Appeal’s breed-specific decision, and would eliminate what is known to some as the “one bite” doctrine under which a dog owner can be excused from liability if the pet has not bitten somebody else previously.

The court ruling, which also held pit bull owners responsible for any attacks caused by their dogs, dismayed many dog owners because those with pit bulls were now liable for any attacks while landlords, too, were held liable for an attack caused by a renter’s dog, writes Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

FRACKING STUDY FUNDS: Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times-News reports that Gov. O’Malley’s fiscal 2014 proposed budget includes more than $1 million in funding for Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction studies. Lack of funding for the studies has slowed the work of the governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

The de facto moratorium on fracking in Maryland seems likely to continue into 2014, reports Kate Havard in the Post, with the inclusion of $1.5 million in the state budget proposal for the next fiscal year for a study of hydraulic fracturing.

BUDGET ANALYSIS: Mark Newgent of Red Maryland calls Gov. O’Malley’s budget proposal within a power point presentation “not a policy document, but rather a crass litany of his ‘accomplishments’ over the years of his two terms, peppered with petulant pot shots at his predecessor, and what he dubbed ‘hara kiri’ Congress. Very presidential.”

Greater Baltimore Committee’s Donald Fry, writing in Center Maryland, says that O’Malley’s budget proposal offers encouraging news for business advocates, by increasing by more than $27 million the amount of important business development tax credit incentives available in the next budget year.

CITY JUVIE JAIL: Earlier this week, the state dropped plans for a youth detention center in Baltimore City. Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM discussed the situation yesterday with Baltimore City Dels. Jill Carter and Mary Washington among others.

EARLY VOTING EXPANSION: Gov. O’Malley plans to propose expanding early voting days in Maryland and, for the first time, allowing residents to register on the same day that they cast ballots — moves certain to rankle Republicans, writes John Wagner of the Post.

MEDICAID FRAUD COLLECTIONS: Ilana Kowarski of MarylandReporter.com reports that the Maryland Attorney General’s Office has collected $12 million from perpetrators of Medicaid fraud so far this fiscal year, more than six times the amount recovered in all of fiscal 2012.

STATE CENTER RULING: Mark Newgent of Red Maryland posts a press release from the coalition of downtown Baltimore businesses that sued the O’Malley administration over the State Center development. Circuit Court Judge Althea Handy issued summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs on the material counts, according to the press release.

RUN FOR THE MONEY: The Dagger’s “Martin Watcher” highlights campaign fundraising in his most recent column on state politics.

CRAIG’S MONEY: Harford County Executive David Craig, one of the leading Republican prospects in the 2014 gubernatorial race, reported yesterday – more than nine hours after Wednesday night’s deadline — that he raised about half as much money as his chief rival for the nomination, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

His performance was bested by Blaine Young, president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, but both Republican hopefuls lag far behind the leading Democrats, reports John Wagner in the Post.

FROSH TOPS CARDIN: The Sun is reporting that state Sen. Brian Frosh took a more than 2-to-1 lead in the money race over another Democratic lawmaker known to be considering a race for attorney general in 2014. Frosh, of Montgomery County, raised $241,021 last year and now has $390,655 on hand. Del. Jon Cardin, of Baltimore County, reported raising $108,839, bringing his total in the bank to $170,224.

SAQIB ALI TO RUN: David Moon of Maryland Juice blogs that a source has tipped him off to a notable post on former Del. Saqib Ali’s Facebook page. Through a message sent via mobile phone, Ali announced, “I’ll be running for a seat in Maryland’s State Legislature from Maryland’s 39th District in 2014.”

SLUGGISH ECONOMY: Ed Waters of the Frederick News-Post writes that State Comptroller Peter Franchot told 50 guests at the kickoff of Frederick County’s Financial Literacy Coalition yesterday that Maryland and the nation are a long way from turning the corner on the sluggish economy.

LEOPOLD TRIAL BY JUDGE: Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold has waived his right to a jury in his criminal misconduct trial, clearing the way for attorneys to make opening statements today in a case that now will be heard by a single judge, write Andrea Siegel and Matthew Hay Brown for the Sun.

Leopold, who faces four counts of misconduct and one count of misappropriation for allegedly misusing his security detail, told retired Circuit Court Judge Dennis Sweeney he wanted him to hear the case, the Capital-Gazette’s Allison Bourg reports.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on Raven’s mania in the House; Del. Maggie McIntosh’s marriage; Don Dwyer’s drinking; GOP headquarters; and Senate attire.

ASSEMBLY ISSUES: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar says the General Assembly will have a hard time resolving the four big issues of this session — wind farms, gun control, death penalty and transportation funding.

Much of the action will be in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, writes Laslo Boyd in his Gazette column.