February 18, 2013

State Roundup, February 18, 2013

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BUSINESS CLIMATE: A bill that would create a task force to improve the business climate in Maryland has gained the support of the Legislative Committee of the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce, writes Nicole Winfield of the Cumberland Times-News. House Bill 1326 is co-sponsored by a number of Republicans and Democrats including Dels. Heather Mizeur and Michael Smigiel, who are rarely on the same side of an issue.

LACROSSE HELMETS FOR ALL: Gigi Barnett of WJZ reports that lawmakers are meeting some opposition for a new push to require headgear for certain sports. The question is: Why are some lacrosse players required to wear it and others are not? The difference comes down to males and females.

OFFSHORE WIND: Legislation to subsidize an offshore wind energy project off Ocean City moved ahead Friday, as the House Economic Matters Committee approved the measure, a priority of Gov. Martin O’Malley and many environmental activists, writes Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

2nd AMENDMENT RIGHTS: Eastern Shore residents were given the chance to publicly voice their opinion on the Second Amendment and gun safety on Saturday at a town hall hosted by U.S. Rep. Andy Harris in Ocean City, Vanessa Junkin reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

Rachel Pacella of the Capital-Gazette writes that one resident said that she can carry a concealed weapon in 34 states, but not in her home state of Maryland.

UM SHOOTING & GUN CONTROL: The murder-suicide involving a University of Maryland, College Park, student who was on medication for mental illness will likely affect the debate over Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control bill and its safeguards against gun purchases by the mentally ill, writes David Hill for the Washington Times.

Before the shooting, Gov. O’Malley proposed changes to the state’s gun laws that could prevent more mentally ill people from obtaining firearms. But it’s not clear that those changes would have stopped the shooter from purchasing the 9mm handgun and Uzi rifle, write CNS’s Rashee Raj Kumar, Allen Etzler and Kelyn Soong in the Cecil Whig.

JACOBS ON GUNS: Kate Havard of the Post “unspins” state Sen. Nancy Jacobs after she distinguishes herself in her vocal opposition to Gov. O’Malley’s gun control proposals. She is the only woman Republican in the Senate.

NOT SO OPEN GOVERNMENT: It was not a great week for openness and transparency at the State House. Perhaps it is more accurate to say it was business as usual, with a few events reminding us that while much of the public’s business has become remarkably accessible over the Internet, much of it still happens behind closed doors, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

FIRST STEPS TO LEGAL POT: The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post opines that state Sen. Bobby Zirkin’s bill to decriminalize marijuana possession is a thought-provoking first step in the onward march to legal marijuana use in Maryland.

STATE’S ATTY PAY: The Capital Gazette’s Alex Jackson, writing in Reporter’s Notebook, highlights a controversy surrounding SB 655, which would end automatic pay raises for the Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney and instead make it dependent upon county council approval, plus O’Malley’s Green Bag appointments.

LOOSENING VOTING RESTRICTIONS: Steve Contorno and Andy Brownfield of the Washington Examiner report that while Virginia is heading toward tough new restrictions on voting following last November’s election, across the Potomac, Maryland is doing just the opposite.

DEATH PENALTY: Here’s KAL’s editorial cartoon on the death penalty, drawn for the Sun.

NEIGHBORLY CASINO VISITS: A gambling analyst says that the typical visitor to nondestination casinos such as Maryland Live! lives within about a 30-minute drive, reports Clara Vaughn for the Capital-Gazette.

MR. CHAIRMAN CONWAY: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times profiles “Mr. Chairman” Del. Norman Conway. As a delegate for 26 years and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for 10, Conway has built a reputation as a politician who gets to work early, leaves late and doesn’t engage in unnecessary partisanship, Shutt writes.

HARRISON REPLACEMENT: Baltimore City Democratic Party leaders have nominated activist Nina Harper to replace the late Hattie Harrison in the House of Delegates, according to an AP report at WBFF-TV. Harrison died in January at age 84. She was the longest-serving delegate in the House.

DRUG FORFEITURE: Ian Duncan of the Sun writes about drug asset forfeiture and how innocent people can get caught up in the net meant for a loved one.

BEN CARSON FOR PRESIDENT? Scott Dance of the Sun reports that Dr. Ben Carson, the trailblazing black neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins, says he didn’t anticipate the reaction to what he considered his common-sense remarks as keynote speaker this month at the National Prayer Breakfast. But after he took jabs at Barack Obama’s health care overhaul a few feet from the president himself, some want the famed doctor to parlay the attention into a new career: politics.

JOHNSON LEGACY: The costs in time and money of the years Jack Johnson was Prince George’s County executive continue to add up, writes Miranda Spivack for the Post. Now, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has given Prince George’s County an April 5 deadline to devise a plan to return at least $1 million that investigators say was mismanaged in the federal HOME affordable housing program. Johnson was convicted of bribery in spring of 2011.

MO CO COUNCILMAN OPPOSES PAY HIKE: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s proposed two-year, 13.5% pay increase for most county employees is “excessive, unsustainable and irresponsible,” Council member Phil Andrews charged Friday.

Since fiscal 2010, county employees have not received cost-of-living increases. Since fiscal 2011, step increases have been frozen and in that year, employees were required to take between three and eight unpaid furlough days, reports Kate Alexander for the Gazette.

LEOPOLD REPLACEMENT: Sixteen people applied to be appointed the interim Anne Arundel County executive, replacing John Leopold. The Capital has a full run down. 

A FINE IDEA: The Capital-Gazette’s Editor’s Notebook says that the portion of the Anne Arundel Charter that won’t allow a county councilman to be appointed to county executive seems like a very reasonable and good idea.

Kevin Maxwell, the superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, writes in an op-ed for the Capital-Gazette, that with a new county executive, the school system and the county have a chance to forge a more solid partnership to better education.