January 29, 2013

State Roundup, January 29, 2013

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DEL. HARRISON DIES: Del. Hattie Harrison, who was the longest-serving member of the House of Delegates, died last night, reports Michael Dresser and Erin Cox in the Sun. She was the first African-American woman to chair a legislative committee in Maryland, holding that position 33 years until being named chairman emeritus this year. She was 84.

TORN OVER DEATH PENALTY: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that when lobbied by the ACLU and the NAACP to repeal Maryland’s death penalty, state Sen. Allan Kittleman asks how he can ensure the most heinous murderers will never kill again. When approached by fellow senators or state’s attorneys who want to keep capital punishment, Kittleman questions whether there can be a foolproof way to ensure the state doesn’t kill an innocent person.

DOG BAITING: Two Anne Arundel County lawmakers introduced a bill last week to extend the penalty for dogfighting — up to three years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000 — to the practice of dog-baiting, in which one animal is used as bait so a fighting dog can train or be tested, Daniel Leaderman writes in the Gazette.

SYNTHETIC POT: Products with names like Scooby Snax, Spice and K2 that are marketed as potpourri but give off a marijuana-like high when smoked would be illegal under four bills before Maryland’s General Assembly, the Washington Examiner’s Andy Brownfield reports.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Holly Nunn of the Gazette reports that efforts to legalize the distribution and use of medical marijuana in Maryland have failed during the past few years, but Del. Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore City is continuing the fight and has introduced legislation again.

SUICIDE & GUN VIOLENCE: Nearly a month after the state-created task force issued a report outlining its findings on psychiatric patients’ access to firearms, several members were questioning a key recommendation — that mental health professionals should be required to report to law enforcement all patients who threaten suicide, writes Kevin Rector of the Sun.

GUN LAWS: The editorial board of the Sun opines that although stricter state laws governing gun sales won’t necessarily stop gun violence in Baltimore City, it’s still worth the effort to adopt the bills.

LEGISLATIVE SCHOLARSHIPS: Jim Bach of the Diamondback reports that students may no longer be able to receive scholarships from their legislators if a proposal makes its way through the General Assembly this year. The program grants lawmakers money to provide scholarships to their constituents with limited criteria and many have feared it is susceptible to abuses by legislators. Sen. Jim Brochin proposed a bill that would shift scholarship responsibilities to the state’s Higher Education Commission to prevent politics from influencing who receives award money.

ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION: Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM hosts a roundtable discussion on a number of issues, including the death penalty debate, the trial of Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold for criminal misconduct and a proposed minimum wage increase.

INTERNET PRIVACY UNIT: The Maryland attorney general’s office yesterday launched a new Internet Privacy Unit designed to address the problem of privacy in the Internet age and to update “gaps” in companies’ online privacy policies, writes Kate Havard in the Post. The unit will also handle issues related to cyberbullying and cybersecurity.

FORMER DEL. JONES DIES: Lawmakers who knew and served with former Prince George’s County Del. Christine Jones remember her as a selfless public servant who became a mentor to incoming delegates. Jones, 83, died Saturday after being injured in a fire at her Temple Hills home Thursday, writes Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

NUMBERS UP, DOWN: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland looks past gubernatorial candidate fund-raising numbers to peer more closely into those of state senators and delegates to find out where they stand for re-election or for races for other offices.

RAVENS BOWL TICKETS: Some state and local politicians have access to Super Bowl tickets thanks to their access to Ravens tickets. Gov. Martin O’Malley will be paying for his personal tickets as will Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

VETERANS AFFAIRS: Calling the failures at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Baltimore “inexcusable,” Maryland’s congressional leadership yesterday demanded the beleaguered agency develop an immediate plan to fix the local problems in processing disability claims, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports.

LEOPOLD DEFENSE RESTS: Attorneys for Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold made one last attempt yesterday to convince a judge to throw out the remaining four charges against Leopold, as his misconduct trial draws to a close, writes Annys Shin for the Post.

Matthew Hay Brown reports in the Sun that Circuit Judge Dennis Sweeney denied Leopold’s request for acquittal on all charges in his misconduct trial, clearing the way for closing arguments today.