February 1, 2013

State Roundup, February 1, 2013

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TRANSGENDER FAIRNESS BILL: The Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2013 that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations was introduced by state Sens. Rich Madaleno and Jamie Raskin with more than 20 co-sponsors, including Allan Kittleman, Michael Lavers writes in the Washington Blade.

SOFT SPOT FOR SOFT SHELLS: Lest you think designating an official state sandwich is too frivolous a notion to be worth the time and effort of the Maryland Senate, the first witness to sing the praises of a fried soft-shell crab between two slices of bread laid that notion to rest, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

Senate President Mike Miller is backing the proposal, calling the sandwich “very unique” adding, “On taste, it’s simply divine. Divine,” Erin Cox writes in the Sun.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports that not everyone thinks crab sandwiches are appropriate legislative fare.

70 MPH: Some lawmakers want to raise the speed limit on Maryland highways to 70 mph, reports WBFF-TV.

A bipartisan group of legislators said Thursday that raising the maximum allowable speed limit in Maryland, where drivers already exceed it, would make highways safer, Holly Nunn writes in the Gazette.

RACE TO PRACTICE: Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail is reporting that the Washington County delegation is backing a proposed bill that would allow a county board of education in Maryland to begin its fall practice for high school sports teams up to two weeks earlier than currently allowed. They believe that high schools in neighboring Pennsylvania and West Virginia have an advantage because fall season sports practice starts earlier in those states.

DELAYED TO THE TOP: Maryland is among three states flagged by the U.S. Department of Education for significant delays in implementing federal Race to the Top programs in the last two years, namely in overhauling its evaluation system to tie educator effectiveness to student achievement, the Sun’s Erica Green blogs.

BUILDING SCHOOLS:In an op-ed in the Sun, two members of the Maryland Education Coalition are urging the state to establish a base level of funding for public school construction.

MD VS. US IN COLLEGE FUNDING: While legislators in Annapolis hope to boost state higher education funding this year, lawmakers in Washington working to rein in spending could stymie those efforts, Jim Bach reports in the Diamondback.

Sarah Gantz of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget for fiscal 2014 includes a 2.9% increase in spending for the University System of Maryland, or $4.954 billion up from $4.813 billion in fiscal 2013

HARRISON REPLACEMENT: Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports that the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee is searching for a replacement for Del. Hattie Harrison, who was the longest-serving member of the House of Delegates. She died Monday at age 84.

GAMBLING BIDS: Maryland plans to invite bids next week from companies interested in operating a Prince George’s County casino, the next step in a contentious process to bring Las Vegas-style gambling to the doorstep of the nation’s capital, John Wagner is reporting in the Post.

ROCKY GAP CONSTRUCTION: The Cumberland Times-News is reporting that he owner of the Rocky Gap Lodge & Golf Resort hopes to have a casino open in late May with 558 slot machines and 10 table games.

O’MALLEY’S PAC: Talk of Gov. O’Malley’s presidential ambitions for 2016 is plentiful. But, at this early stage, donors are not, reports John Fritze for the Sun. With three years to go before the first primaries and uncertainty about whether outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will seek the Democratic presidential nomination, it’s not surprising that O’Malley’s relatively new federal PAC has reported raising only $47,390 over the past month – ending the year with just over $28,000 in the bank.

YOUNG’S FUNDS: Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young continues to gather funds for a gubernatorial bid even though there is some speculation that he would run for the new post of county executive. Even if he does change his mind, Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports, his donors won’t ask for their money back.

Check out the sidebar in which Young apologizes to the commissioners for the tussle he got into with a 17-year-old referee that went public.

DUNCAN STILL RUNNING: Bill Turque of the Post is reporting that former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan made a big splash in late November when he announced to supporters at a Gaithersburg breakfast that he would run again for the office he held for three terms. Yet in the weeks that followed, the political chatter was that he’d been scarcely seen, and it led to speculation that he might have reconsidered. Duncan says he is alive, well and still running in 2014.

LEOPOLD SENTENCING SET: Matthew Hay Brown and Andrea Siegel of the Sun report that a judge has set a March date for the sentencing of Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, as more Republicans said they were considering applying for his job. Del. Steve Schuh added his name to the list of candidates looking to complete Leopold’s term, and Anne Arundel County Council Chairman Jerry Walker said he would think about it after the council removes Leopold from office.

Chief administrative officer John Hammond, now the acting county executive, said he has no interest in permanently filling the chair Leopold is likely to vacate after being found guilty of misconduct, reports Allison Bourg in the Capital-Gazette.

POLITICAL SEX: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar says the kind political sex-capades Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold was accused of are nothing new in Maryland.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has several items on purple passion at the State House; Luiz Simmons’ birthday; and E.J. Pipkin’s cycling.

GUN CONTROL: A proposed handgun-licensing requirement proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley would be constitutional under the Second Amendment and under current Supreme Court case law, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said this week, the Gazette reports.

PROPERTY TAX: While officials say the state is facing a much sunnier budget picture for fiscal 2014 than in years past, the rising annual cost of Maryland’s public debt has some concerned that the state may need to raise property taxes within the next few years.

BAY POLLUTION: Rural county officials are pointing to pollutant-laden sediment behind the Conowingo Dam as the place efforts should be focused to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, reports the Gazette’s Margie Hyslop.