February 11, 2013

State Roundup, February 11, 2013

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DON’T SAIL DRUNK: The Maryland Senate gave its answer to the old question of “what do you with a drunken sailor” by voting to bring people who operate sailboats while intoxicated under the same law as power boat operators, the Sun’s Michael Dresser reports.

Under the bill, someone convicted of operating a sailboat while impaired by alcohol or drugs could face a fine of up to $500 and two months in prison for a first offense, reports John Wagner in the Sun. The penalty for doing so while under the influence of alcohol is stiffer: up to $1,000 fine and a year in prison for a first offense.

The measure would close a loophole created in 2010, when the General Assembly inadvertently exempted nonmotorized sailboats from the law against drunken boating, Alex Jackson of the Capital-Gazette reports.

DEATH PENALTY: Some prosecutors and other death penalty supporters say a repeal would only make official what is already true — capital punishment doesn’t really exist in Maryland, Julia Maldonado of CNS writes in the Salisbury Daily Times. The state has one of the most restrictive death penalty laws in the country.

WIND FARMS, DEATH PENALTY: Robert Lang of WBAL-AM reports that Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to testify for two more bills on his legislative agenda this week. On Wednesday, he will appear before the Senate Finance Committee on his bill to establish off shore wind energy turbines off the coast of Ocean City and on Thursday he will testify for repeal of Maryland’s death penalty.

GUN CONTROL: WYPR’s Fraser Smith talks to Andy Green of the Sun about the potential effectiveness of Gov. O’Malley’s gun control proposals and the ongoing debate over the bill. Green says that no matter what the polls say, the passion is all on the pro-gun side of the issue.

SMOKING WITH MINORS: Amber Larkins of CNS writes in the Cumberland Times-News that several state senators are hoping to ban smoking in cars occupied by minor children.

INCOME TAX EQUALITY: One same-sex marriage advocate is now siding with a former opponent to put same-sex married couples on the same tax footing as their heterosexual counterparts, Alex Jackson reports for the Capital-Gazette.

SPEED CAMERA PLACEMENT: Legislation introduced by state Sen. James Brochin would turn voluntary state guidelines governing the placement of speed cameras into law, Scott Dance reports in the Sun. Those guidelines urge local governments to limit the cameras to 500 feet of a school’s property.

SHARK FIN BAN: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that several bills would ban the importation of shark fins and the sale of shark fin soup in the state.

BOTTLE DEPOSIT: Maryland consumers would be charged a 5-cent refundable deposit on bottles and cans under a bill introduced in the House of Delegates in an effort to spur recycling and discourage people from discarding cans and bottles along the state’s waterways and roadsides, reports the Baltimore Business Journal.

GOP VOTER ID PROPOSAL: Republican legislators are back again, pushing controversial voter identification laws after failed attempts in prior years, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com. Sponsored by Republican Dels. Nic Kipke, Kathy Afzali and 32 other Republicans, but no Democrats, the contentious bill sparked heated debate last week in the House Ways & Means Committee.

FAUX POT: Rachel Roubein of the Carroll County Times writes that the state legislature addresses the issue of synthetic marijuana with the intent of making it illegal.

POOR PREDICTION: In the Capital-Gazette’s Reporter’s Notebook, House Speaker Michael Busch, now grinning widely from the Ravens’ Super Bowl win, recalls an editorial that predicted that Busch’s political career would be over if he supporter two new stadiums. He did, and it’s not.

STATE CENTER CONTROVERSY: Mark Newgent of Red Maryland takes a closer look at the political connections and emails obtained by WBFF-TV that show that Gov. O’Malley approved the controversial State Center development team before his administration presented it to the Board of Public Works. The State Center project is on hold.

MO CO GOP PUSH: With the help of state party leaders and a lot of data, the Montgomery County Republican Party – which boasts the largest number of registered Republicans in the state – launched an all out ground game Saturday at their annual convention in Rockville, writes Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com.

MOONEY RESIGNS: Three months after a disappointing election showing for Maryland’s Republican Party, Alex X. Mooney is stepping down as chairman, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. The former Frederick County state senator announced his plans Saturday in a letter to the state party’s central committee.

John Wagner of the Post reports that Mooney also said in his letter that the party is now in a “strong financial position,” with an experienced staff, and that “grassroots activism is at an all-time high.”

Greg Kline of Red Maryland issues a big “told you so,” after running several pieces following the election calling for Mooney to resign, saying he had his eyes on other ventures and was going to issue his resignation in February. Kline adds “It was wrong for Chairman Mooney to deprive his successor, whoever that is, five months of momentum as we all move toward the 2014 elections.”

OBAMA AIDE NOW O’MALLEY CONSULTANT: The Post’s John Wagner reports that Elisabeth Smith, who served last year as President Obama’s director of rapid response during this campaign, has been re-enlisted by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s political team as a consultant to O’Malley’s political action committee, known as O’ Say Can You See.

KENDEL EHRLICH CONSIDERS LEOPOLD SEAT: Former Maryland first lady Kendel Ehrlich is considering running to fill the Anne Arundel County executive seat that was recently vacated by John Leopold, saying Saturday that she feels “uniquely qualified for a unique situation,” writes Kevin Rector in the Sun.

Cheryl Conner of WMAR-TV interviews Ehrlich about why she wants to take over Leopold’s seat. She says, “I just think it’s significant that I’m a woman after many things that we’ve read about the prior administration.”

CLEAN HOUSE: Sarah Blumberg of the Capital-Gazette reports that the next Arundel County executive will have the power to replace 33 key positions in county government.

ARUNDEL BUDGET: Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette writes that Arundel County Council chairman Jerry Walker isn’t expecting a radical difference in the county budget, no matter who sits in the county executive’s seat. That’s because for many years, Acting County Executive John Hammond has long been instrumental in producing Anne Arundel’s budget.

HARFORD V. STATE MANDATES: In this video edition of Inside Out, Lisa Harris Jones joins Damian O’Doherty of Center Maryland to discuss with Harford County Executive David Craig about how that county has handled the increasing economic pressure from state mandates.