February 25, 2013

State Roundup, February 25, 2013

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SEQUESTRATION CUTS LOOM: John Fritze of the Sun reports that an Obama administration report says that Maryland would lose $14.4 million in federal education funding, roughly 46,000 Department of Defense employees would be furloughed and 2,050 fewer children would receive vaccines if looming across-the-board spending cuts are allowed to take effect this week.

Courtney Mabeus of the Frederick News-Post reports on how the federal cuts will affect that county, including cuts to Fort Detrick.

For Col. Edward Rothstein, sequestration has gone from drill to reality, writes Sara Blumberg in the Capital-Gazette. This spring, nearly 27,820 civilian Department of Defense workers at Fort George G. Meade, where Rothstein is garrison commander, will shift to a four-day work week and a 20% cut in pay.

Kelcie Pegher of the Carroll County Times writes that Carroll lawmakers are hoping to change the outcome of the potential sequester that is set to take effect in four days, while local businesses are preparing to diversify beyond the federal government.

Josh Bollinger of Easton Star-Democrat reports that U.S. Rep. Andy Harris told members of the Eastern Shore delegation to Annapolis that the sequestration will affect the Eastern Shore because cuts will be made in the support structures of defense, including weapons acquisitions and development systems, which are on the Shore.

The editorial board for the Capital-Gazette writes that the ritual of Washington Democrats and Republicans making faces at each other as some new fiscal doomsday deadline approaches is so ludicrous it would provoke belly laughs — if there were not real federal salaries and programs, and a real economy, at stake.

GOVERNORS SEEK HELP:A bipartisan group of governors, including Martin O’Malley, were in Washington on Saturday attending a meeting of the National Governors Association, where they expressed concern over the impact looming federal budget cuts will have on their states, writes John Fritze of the Sun. But they had few ideas for how to break the latest fiscal impasse gripping Congress.

Gov. O’Malley, appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation with Virginia Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell warned Sunday morning that Maryland faces “job-killing cuts” if Congress allows a wave of automatic spending reductions to take place this Friday as scheduled, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

John Wagner of the Post reports that McDonnell, this time on the same side as O’Malley, said, “Our major concern, that Governor O’Malley and I have, because we’re such defense states. . . is you have to cut, because we’re in bad shape. . .but don’t put 50% of the cuts on defense, our men and women in uniform, while we’re still fighting a war in Afghanistan. Find another way to do it, and get it done now.”

VOTER EXPANSION & FRAUD: Aaron Davis of the Post reporters that a controversial change in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s otherwise popular bill to expand early voting could lead to voter fraud and expose the state’s elections to cybersecurity threats, according to a voting group and election technology experts.

BERETTA PONDERS MOVE: Under an assault-weapons ban that advanced late last week in the Maryland General Assembly, experts say a civilian version of a machine gun designed for special operations forces would be illegal in the state where it is produced, writes Aaron Davis in the Post. Now Beretta is weighing whether the rifle line, and perhaps the company itself, should stay in a place increasingly hostile toward its products.

GUN DEBATE: The already heated debate over new gun control measures heats up as Gov. O’Malley’s proposed new restrictions move to the Senate floor tomorrow. In a 12-minute video, Len Lazarick moderates as MarylandReporter.com pits Del. Mike McDermott, a police officer who opposes new gun licensing rules, against Vinny DeMarco, a long-time advocate for more gun control who heads Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.

Key provisions of O’Malley’s sweeping gun-control plan face renewed battles in the Maryland Senate this week, while the House of Delegates launches hearings expected to be just as contentious as those that brought thousands of people to Annapolis this month, Erin Cox of the Sun writes.

Andy Brownfield of the Washington Examiner writes that, although Maryland has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, it’s relatively easy for the mentally ill to obtain firearms. That would change under O’Malley’s proposal to toughen restrictions on gun ownership.

DNR LETTER CONTROVERSY: Josh Bollinger of the Easton Star Democrat reports that a letter signed by Gov. O’Malley and sent out to the Department of Natural Resources’ email list raised controversy Friday at an Eastern Shore delegation meeting. The letter was sent to inform about the Youth Waterfowl Hunting Days, Secretary of DNR John Griffin said. But the letter goes on to talk about the “common sense proposals” of SB281, O’Malley’s Firearm Safety Act of 2013.

JUVIE OFFENDER RELEASE:Many juvenile offenders under age 14 locked up in Maryland facilities would be released to their parents or sent to shelters under bills before the General Assembly, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner. The measures would have children under 14 released from detention while awaiting a court decision, unless they’ve committed a crime that would be punishable by death or life imprisonment as an adult.

LEGAL POT: State Senate President Mike Miller is saying that he doesn’t think there’s support in the Senate to pass a bill to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Maryland, reports Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette.

MEDICAID CUTS: Ilana Kowarski of MarylandReporter.com writes that the legislature’s budget analysts have proposed to phase out Medicaid coverage for pregnant women with incomes between 185% and 250% of the federal poverty line on the basis that these women will qualify for the state health exchange implemented under Obamacare. But officials from Maryland’s $7 billion Medicaid program argue that this shift would jeopardize access to prenatal screenings and other health services that pregnant women and their babies need.

LATER SCHOOL START: The pre-Labor Day start to the school year has attracted the attention of politicians for years, but a trio of Maryland state senators are hoping to formally study its impacts, Jennifer Shutt reports in the Salisbury Daily Times.

DRIVING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS: A year after giving many of Maryland’s illegal immigrants the right to in-state college tuition, some state lawmakers want to give them improved access to driver’s licenses in a move that supporters say could have fiscal benefits and would bring residents in the state illegally out of the shadows, reports David Hill for the Washington Times.

FRANCHOT DEFENDS TRAVEL: John Wagner writes that Comptroller Peter Franchot fired back at two state senators who are strongly questioning his travel around the state. The senators wrote, “We see no reason why any of your state duties or responsibilities justifies the taxpayer expense of paying for a driver, security, gas, car mileage, or the manufacture and purchase of questionably invented awards.”

AND THE WINNER IS: Drawing for the Sun editorial pages, KAL offers his own set of Oscars to Maryland’s political actors.

CHAMBER COALITION: The Maryland Chamber of Commerce is organizing business groups, trade organizations and employers across the state in a “competitiveness coalition” that aims to agree on a handful of priorities and talk about them with everyone — elected officials, candidates and the public, Jamie Smith Hopkins reports in the Sun.

DNA SUPREME COURT CASE: In a Maryland case that’s garnered the attention of the other 49 states, the federal Department of Justice and the national science community, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow over whether to restrict police in collecting DNA to solve crimes, the Sun’s Yvonne Wenger reports.

VISIT WITH BLACK BEARS: The gov and his wife, Catherine Curran O’Malley, recently joined the Department of Natural Resources as biologists relocated a problematic black bear and her cubs in Garrett County, and fatigue among the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee, Alex Jackson and Pamela Wood blog in the Capital-Gazette.

THE NEXT HOUSE SPEAKER? Robert Draper of The New Republic is speculating that U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who beat out Del. Mark Shriver for his seat in 2002 despite’s Shriver’s power uncle, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, and who won re-election to a sixth term in Maryland’s 8th District last year, could be the next Democratic Speaker of the House.

FILLING VACANCIES IN ARUNDEL: Some Anne Arundel County lawmakers want any future vacancies in the county executive’s office or the County Council filled by the voters, not councilmen. At the request of the council, Del. Pam Beidle had proposed legislation allowing a mail-in election to fill council vacancies, like the one that opened in January 2012 after the council removed Councilman Daryl Jones, who was about to start a prison term for failing to file a tax return, writes Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette.

LAURA NEUMAN, AA COUNTY EXEC: Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette profiles Anne Arundel County’s new county executive, Laura Neuman, and her rise to prominence.

As head of Howard County economic development, Neuman helped to keep business from moving out of state as well as turn others around, write Andrea Siegel and Jonathan Pitts of the Sun.

ARUNDEL ENVIRONMENT: Environmental matters also got the attention of the Anne Arundel County Council this week, as members voted to add restrictions on development in the county’s so-called “critical area” near tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay and hosted a spirited public debate on the question of imposing countywide storm-water management fees, Jonathan Pitts reports in the Sun.

DUI CHARGE FOR BA CO COUNCILMAN: Bryan Sears of Patch.com is reporting that Baltimore County Councilman Todd Huff was charged early Saturday with driving under the influence of alcohol. Here’s a link to the police report.

Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports that Huff, 44, was charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol, a headlight violation and negligent driving. He was driving a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee that is owned by the county.

COUNCIL SIDES WITH TICKETMASTER: Concerned that Ticketmaster and other ticket vendors might refuse to handle events in Baltimore, the Baltimore City Council is poised to carve out an exception to its long-standing anti-scalping law, which bars companies from charging fees in excess of 50 cents on top of a ticket’s stated price. The council’s concern stems from a Maryland high court ruling striking struck down Ticketmaster’s unpopular user fees in Baltimore, writes Luke Broadwater and Wesley Case for the Sun.

POST REVENUES, CIRCULATION:In a story about Washington Post earnings, Steven Mufson reports: “Advertising and circulation trends at the company’s news division remained on a downward course. … Print advertising at The Washington Post slid 12% in the fourth quarter, to $67.5 million. A 5% increase in ad revenue, to $33.1 million, from the company’s online operations — primarily washingtonpost.com and Slate — made up about half the print ad decline in the fourth quarter. Daily circulation at The Washington Post declined 8.6%, to an average of 471,800 for all of 2012, and Sunday circulation dropped 6.2%, to an average of 687,200.”