January 22, 2013

State Roundup, January 22, 2013

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DEATH PENALTY REPEAL: The Maryland Senate moved a little closer to a majority willing to vote for full repeal of the death penalty as 21 senators — four more than last year — agreed to co-sponsor the legislation in that chamber, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. This year the bill also has the full-fledged support of Gov. O’Malley, improving its chances of prevailing and moving over to the House of Delegates.

PRAISE FOR O’MALLEY BUDGET: Legislative analysts told lawmakers that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed budget contains a number of fiscally responsible moves they had recommended in previous years and an unexpected $200 million drop in the cost of Medicaid health care, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. But it also extends for another five years $411 million in borrowing to replace cash from special funds used to finance other programs.

WHERE’S TRANSPORTATION ISSUE? Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland opines that yes, let’s have those debates on the death penalty and gun control. They’re worth having. But Gov. O’Malley also needs to address other more important if not mundane and less toxic issues, such as transportation and infrastructure funding.

DRIVING WITH CELL PHONE: The chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees traffic laws will announce today that he will introduce legislation that would allow police to pull over a driver using a hand-held cell phone even if the motorist is not committing another offense, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

JOE TAKES ON MARTIN: O’Malley appeared on Morning Joe on MSNBC and was thoroughly chastised by Scarborough for a perceived lack of basic math skills in a discussion on entitlement funding. Mark Newgent of Red Maryland joins in the O’Malley bash with a few barbs of his own.

PARTISAN DIVIDE: Alexander Pyles of the Daily Record blogs about the partisan divide in Annapolis, illustrated by a good-natured exchange between O’Malley and Del. Tony O’Donnell during a Maryland Chamber of Commerce event.

MEDICAID LAWSUIT: Citing a severe and chronic backlog, advocacy groups have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the state of failing low-income and disabled Marylanders by regularly taking nearly a year to approve medical assistance applications, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports. The lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of nearly 10,000 disabled adults, and seeks to force the Department of Human Resources to approve the Medicaid applications within 60 days, as required by state law.

STATE DEFENDS AGAINST ACC EXIT FEE: Maryland vigorously defended its right to move to the Big Ten without paying a $52 million exit fee to the Atlantic Coast Conference in two legal actions filed Friday, reports Chris Korman for the Sun. Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler filed a complaint in Prince George’s County Circuit Court alleging the ACC violated state antitrust laws, breached contractual obligations and interfered with the the economic growth of the school.

HEARING ROOM WIRED: The new improved Joint Hearing Room, wired for video webcasting and a new sound system, made its debut yesterday for the annual Fiscal Briefing, the first legislative swipe at Gov. O’Malley’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget, blogs Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

MD LEADERS PRAISE OBAMA ADDRESS: Maryland leaders hailed President Barack Obama’s second inaugural address as a call to action on important issues from equality to climate change, C. Benjamin Ford writes in the Gazette.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE TAKES DNC ROLE: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will become the secretary of the Democratic National Committee today, giving her a prominent role in national politics, the Sun’s John Fritze reports.

GUN REGISTRY SHORTER: Andrea Noble of the Washington Times reports that nearly six months since Prince George’s County began requiring people convicted of gun-related offenses to register with the Police Department, 55 people were being monitored as of Jan. 13. Initial estimates, which police officials said were based on the level of gun violence in the county, projected as many as 1,400 could be added to the registry over a three-year period — a number that equates to a rate of about 39 being added to the registry each month.

NO TO SECURITY FUND METHOD: Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Maxwell is saying “no” to a proposal to reach into a fund fed by slot machine money to spend more on school security, Tim Pratt reports for the Capital-Gazette. At the request of Arundel County Executive John Leopold, Del. Nic Kipke last week introduced a bill to make money in the state’s Education Trust Fund available for additional school security personnel and equipment, along with mental health services for students and parents.