February 22, 2013

State Roundup, February 22, 2013

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ARUNDEL COUNTY EXEC TAPPED: The Anne Arundel County Council last night appointed as its new county executive Howard County Economic Development Authority chief Laura Neuman, whose drive and business savvy got her a master’s degree in business when she hadn’t completed high school or college, writes Andrea Siegel in the Sun.

Calling her victory a surprise move after three rounds of votes by the council, Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette reports that Neuman beat out 15 other candidates, including the acting county executive, a state delegate, a former county executive and Maryland’s former first lady.

Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland isn’t exactly celebrating Neuman’s victory.

DEATH PENALTY REPEAL CLEARS PANEL: The Post’s John Wagner and Aaron Davis reports that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to abolish Maryland’s death penalty cleared a tall hurdle last evening as a key Senate committee approved the measure for the first time and sent it to the full chamber for a vote next week.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings committee voted 6-5 to send Gov. O’Malley’s death penalty bill to the Senate floor, with Sen. Bobby. Zirkin dropping his long-held opposition to repeal of capital punishment and providing the decisive vote, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

The committee eliminated part of the bill that would have set aside money for programs that aid crime victims and their families, reports Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

GUN CONTROL BILL MOVES FORWARD: After nearly five hours of debate, the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved a mostly intact version of O’Malley’s gun control bill, including prohibiting gun ownership from people who have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, writes Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette has more details on the gun bill.

Gun control and O’Malley are a good fit, opines Barry Rascovar in his Gazette column.

SHACKLING PREGNANT INMATES: Marc Steiner and guests discuss a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would ban physical restraint of incarcerated Maryland women when they are in their second and third trimester of pregnancy and when they are in labor.

VOTER EXPANSION CRITICIZED: Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com writes that O’Malley’s bill to expand voting debuted in Annapolis, calling for more early voting days, same day voter registration and an opportunity for all Marylanders to obtain absentee ballots online. But critics sounded off about the potential for voter fraud, some even suggesting that certain parts of the bill be delayed until security could be improved.

VOTER FRAUD AS FELONY: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post is reporting that Del. Kathy Afzali is pushing to make voter fraud a felony in Maryland, a change that would lay transgressors open to penalties of up to five years of imprisonment and a $100,000 fine.

SPICE BILLS: Del. Cathy Vitale tried but failed to strengthen two bills aimed at cracking down on synthetic marijuana, or “spice,” Pamela Wood reports in the Capital-Gazette.

DOG BITE BILL: The House of Delegates has unanimously approved a bill that would make it easier to hold dog owners— not just pit bull owners — accountable for injuries caused by their pets, Kate Havard reports in the Post.

The measure would establish a legal presumption that all dogs – regardless of breed – may have a tendency to bite, writes Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette. That presumption, however, would be “rebuttable” by the dog owner, who could make a case in court that his or her dog was unlikely to bite. The bill would also further insulate landlords from lawsuits.

CHANGE MARYLAND?: Can Change Maryland really change Maryland’s business climate? Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com reports on Thursday’s breakfast meeting of almost 400 business executives.

Jamie Smith Hopkins of the Sun also reports on the event.

SPEED CAMERAS: Maryland lawmakers are considering a bill to require that speed cameras provide clear photographic evidence of infractions, after numerous occasions where camera systems have ticketed drivers who appeared in photos to be traveling within the speed limit, David Hill reports for the Washington Times.

LOWER SHORE BILLS: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times writes, at the halfway point of the Maryland General Assembly’s 2013 session, that dozens of bills have been introduced by Lower Shore legislators, some to clean up technicalities in state law and others that would have a significant impact on Marylanders everyday lives. She then gives a roundup of where some of those bills stand.

OPEN MEETINGS: Two bills trying to increase compliance with Open Meetings Act were approved by the Government Operations Subcommittee yesterday. One would increase enforcement powers of the Open Meetings Compliance Board, an unpaid panel that reviews complaints about closed meetings and determines whether there has been a violation of the Open Meetings Act. The other would mandate that some government employees take online training courses on the Open Meetings Act, writes Ilana Kowarski for MarylandReporter.com.

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: In a news analysis, Craig O’Donnell of the Kent County News takes a look at the closed door dealings that sent the Maryland Terrapins over to the Big Ten. The regents are claiming they didn’t have to inform the public because Internet rumors had already informed it, he writes while humorously calling that claim the “Twitter defense.”

EMAIL DISTRIBUTION LISTS: In other transparency news, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners directed the county attorney yesterday to ask the Carroll County Times to hold off its Maryland Public Information Act request of email distribution lists collected by the commissioners until legislation covering that topic is voted on in Annapolis, Christian Alexandersen writes in the Carroll County Times.

MCFADDEN ILL: State Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, the dean of Baltimore’s Senate delegation, fell ill at the State House yesterday morning and was taken from the Senate lounge on a gurney, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. (McFadden was released from the hospital, a press release said.)

IS HE RUNNING YET? Paul Schwartzman and John Wagner of the Post look back at O’Malley’s public actions out of state – attending a steak fry in Iowa, pressing the flesh in New Hampshire, appearing on national television – as they attempt to figure out if the governor is running for president.

ENVIRONMENTAL SCORES: David Moon at Maryland Juice blogs that the environmental advocates at the League of Conservation Voters have released their annual scorecard for members of Congress on the environment, and U.S. Reps. Donna Edwards and John Sarbanes lead the pack.

BUS SURVEILLANCE: The Maryland Transit Administration recently began audio surveillance on some of its buses, but two state senators have introduced a bill to make the practice illegal, reports Dan Leaderman in the Gazette.

STARBUCKS SUIT: A 65-year-old former employee is suing Starbucks for age discrimination, but experts say that will be difficult to prove, Benjamin Ford writes in the Gazette.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on George Washington and transportation funding; Neanderthals; House of Cards; puppies; and name-a-likes.