February 27, 2013

State Roundup, February 27, 2013

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BRACING FOR SEQUESTER CUTS: Midshipmen at the Naval Academy could spend less time training at sea, some gates into Fort Meade could be shut down and routine maintenance at military installations across the state could be delayed under federal budget cuts set to begin Friday, writes John Fritze in the Sun.

The Capital-Gazette is reporting that if $85 million in automatic spending cuts take effect on Friday, the result could be furloughs and possible job loss for many of Maryland’s 260,000 federal employees as well as cuts to programs from Head Start to college work study to military facilities. The article runs two lists: one of cuts specific to Anne Arundel County; the other statewide.

The Salisbury-Ocean City: Wicomico County Regional Airport is not closing because of a possible sequester, writes Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. Its air traffic control tower, however, is a different story.

As the sequester looms, dozens of employees at a Fells Point meat plant are fearful their jobs are at risk. If the spending cuts take place on March 1, 6,000 food inspectors would be furloughed. In the Baltimore region alone, more than two dozen meat processing plants would be affected, according to a report at WBFF-TV.

EMBRACING THE SEQUESTER CUTS: Some conservatives are saying across-the-board cutbacks would not only force Maryland and Anne Arundel County to end their reliance on federal spending, but would also pave the way to better deficit reduction in the long-term, writes Sara Blumberg of the Capital-Gazette.

FAVORING DEATH PENALTY: A new Washington Post poll finds that a majority of Marylanders want to keep the death penalty on the books despite widespread skepticism across the state about whether capital punishment is a deterrent to murder or is applied fairly, John Wagner and Peyton Craighill report.

GUN CONTROL: Republican senators spent two hours on the Senate floor Tuesday digging into provisions of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun control plan. During the animated debate, which began at 10:30 a.m., lawmakers questioned the need for tightened licensing requirements, including mandatory fingerprinting, Alex Jackson reports in the Capital-Gazette.

According to the Sun, while proponents say requiring fingerprints and training for a license makes it less likely someone would buy a gun only to pass it off to a criminal, Sen. E.J. Pipkin called licensing “a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist in Maryland.”

After the debate, Senate President Mike Miller, who has previously criticized the fingerprinting suggestion, hinted that he may be starting to accept the idea, the Gazette’s Daniel Leaderman reports.

The new Post poll also finds that Maryland residents overwhelmingly support Gov. O’Malley’s plan to force gun buyers to submit to fingerprinting, safety training and more background checks, Aaron Davis and and Scott Clement report.

BERETTA GOODBYE? Major weapons manufacturer Beretta USA is vowing to close shop and leave Maryland if the state passes new gun-control measures, Cheryl Chumley reports in the Washington Times. The multimillion dollar, centuries-old manufacturer was considering an expansion to its Prince George County plant — until Maryland lawmakers introduced a bill to ban so-called assault weapons.

OFFSHORE WIND: O’Malley’s bill to promote offshore wind power cleared a key hurdle in the General Assembly on Tuesday night, when the Senate’s Finance Committee approved a revised version of the bill on a 7-4 vote, sending it to the full chamber, reports Pamela Wood in the Capital-Gazette. The bill already had been approved by a wide margin in the House of Delegates.

The Post poll also finds that a majority of Maryland residents support Gov. O’Malley’s plan to subsidize development of giant windmills in the Atlantic Ocean, Aaron Davis reports.

EXPENSE OF AFFORDABLE CARE: Meg Tully of MarylandReporter.com writes that state budget officials do not know how many state employees will qualify for medical coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act, or how much it will cost to comply with provisions beginning Jan. 1. It is unlikely, but the number could be as high as $88 million or as low as $20 million, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

POLLUTION FINES: Anne Arundel lawmakers continued their push to require water pollution fines to pay for environmental projects, even as the Maryland Department of the Environment remains opposed, writes Pamela Wood of the Capital-Gazette. On Tuesday state Sen. Bryan Simonaire pitched his bill to modify the Maryland Clean Water Fund so revenue generated from fines is used for water cleanup.

HAGERSTOWN BOND PROPOSALS: Del. John Donoghue has introduced two bond bills in the House seeking $300,000 to demolish the former Municipal Electric Light Plant and $85,000 to renovate and repair the Antietam Fire Company’s fire house, both in Hagerstown, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

CHILD CARE INSPECTIONS: A state audit found that the Maryland State Department of Education did not conduct routine but critical inspections of child care facilities and failed to follow up on red flags raised by background checks of staff working for the programs, writes Erica Green in the Sun.

Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner reports that more than a third of the child care facilities checked were missing at least one of their required inspections between July 2008 and June 2011, according to a review of inspection reports of 60 facilities throughout the state.

COPPER CHOPPERS: Tyler Waldmann of Patch.com writes that Maryland State Police began accepting delivery of 10 new helicopters yesterday to replace its aging fleet of 11.

SUPPORT FOR PAID SICK LEAVE: Becca Heller of MarylandReporter.com writes that, according to a poll done for the Jobs Opportunities Task Force, an overwhelming 82% of Maryland voters support a proposal to allow workers to earn paid sick days based upon the number of hours worked.

SUPREME COURT ON DNA: Ian Duncan of the Sun writes about the Supreme Court hearing on Maryland’s practice of collecting genetic information from people arrested — but not convicted — on serious charges. The practice took the national stage Tuesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on what Justice Sam Alito called “perhaps the most important criminal procedure case” in decades.

Vanessa Junkin of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that the justices will decide whether taking a person’s DNA at the time of arrest violates the Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. No exact timetable has been set when a decision could be made.

‘SPINNY VINNY’ UNSPUN: Kate Havard of the Post interviews long time health advocate Vinny DeMarco, who does not take himself too seriously in this surprisingly humorous Unspun column.

NEUMAN NOW: While Laura Neuman comes to the job of Anne Arundel County executive as an almost complete outsider to state and local politics, having spent a career in the private sector and less than two years working for a Democratic administration in another county, she may be the kind of leader that county needs right now, opines the editorial board for the Sun.

COUNCIL PRAYS: When the Town Council convenes in the tiny town of Brentwood in Prince George’s County, it is customary to open the session with the Lord’s Prayer. But two residents say that the prayer favors Christianity over other religions and thus violates the U.S. Constitution, reports Miranda Spivack for the Post.

MARY COREY: Jean Marbella of the Sun writes a moving tribute to Mary Corey, a longtime Sun staffer who became the first woman to head the Sun’s newsroom, steadying it as the industry was contracting and adjusting to a new media landscape. She died Tuesday at age 49.