SEQUESTER CUTS: Federal education officials warned yesterday of deep cuts to school systems such as Baltimore’s if lawmakers fail to avert across-the-board spending reductions — leaving local schools uncertain how many teachers and programs they can retain next year, John Fritze reports for the Sun.
The Sun also has an interactive map highlighting the White House numbers on how the sequester will affect every state in the country.
Gov. Martin O’Malley went on the road yesterday to urge lawmakers in Washington to avoid across-the-board budget cuts he said would hurt the state’s most vulnerable, writes Andy Brownfield of the Washington Examiner. O’Malley visited manufacturer FLIR Systems in Elkridge, a company whose expansion is threatened by the looming cuts set to begin taking effect tomorrow.
The federal sequester will have real effects on the lives of Delmarva residents, writes Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times. From how many meals senior citizens will receive to the loss of the Blue Angels airshow in Ocean City every summer to millions of dollars in cuts to education, the list of changes that the sequester would bring isn’t short.
Daniel Menefee of the Chestertown Spy writes that the O’Malley administration has said that Kent County won’t be immune to absorbing its share of the $85 billion in cuts that will play out nationwide over the next seven months, but the trickle down affect to Maryland counties has yet to be quantified.
WMAR-TV interviews private citizens on how the cuts would affect them.
DEATH PENALTY: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports that while Senate President Mike Miller has predicted that if state lawmakers abolish the death penalty, a petition drive will ensue, giving Maryland voters the final say, Del. Neil Parrott says he doesn’t intend to try to overturn the law. That, says Del. Michael Hough, gives Miller’s forecast has a slim chance of coming to pass.
MENTAL HEALTH & GUN CONTROL: The Post’s Aaron Davis and Matt Zapotosky write that a spokesman for the Prince George’s County state’s attorney says that the UM student who shot two of his roommates, one fatally, before taking his own life had committed himself voluntarily for mental health treatment in 2011. The spokesman had earlier said the shooter was involuntarily committed. What this means is that was up for debate last night on the Senate floor would not have prevented the shooter from legally purchasing the firearm that police say he used in the shooting.
GUN PROVISIONS: The centerpiece of Gov. O’Malley’s gun control bill – a new licensing provision – survived the Maryland Senate intact although opponents vowed to keep fighting the proposal to give the state some of the nation’s strictest gun laws, writes Erin Cox for the Sun. The provision would require handgun buyers to give their fingerprints to the state police and to complete a training course.
The Maryland Senate is expected to vote on Gov. O’Malley’s gun control legislation today after the bill was given preliminary approval last night. Senators heard nearly 70 amendments in all, but the bill’s major features remained, Alex Jackson reports for the Capital-Gazette.
The Senate made a number of changes, including expanding who is exempt from provisions banning assault weapons and reducing the application fee for a controversial provision requiring a license to purchase a handgun, writes Andy Brownfield of the Washington Examiner.
But Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that the Maryland Senate — where Democrats outnumber Republicans 35 to 12 — could be caving to the “gun enthusiasts” on the proposal to require a license to buy a handgun in a state where, according to a Washington Post poll, more than 85% of Marylanders support it — 73% strongly so.
ONLINE ON GUNS: An Easton man has started a website that allows people to add their opinions on various gun legislation introduced during the 2013 Maryland General Assembly, writes Josh Bollinger for the Easton Star Democrat. The man will then print out 70 copies of the testimony and submit them in person to Del. Don Dwyer, who will give them to all 70 members of the joint hearing session for O’Malley’s firearm bill tomorrow.
PETITION CONFIDENTIALITY KILLED: A Senate committee has killed a Republican-sponsored bill to shield from public scrutiny the names and personal information of people who sign petitions to bring General Assembly-passed bills to referendum, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.
Columnist Marta Mossburg writes in the Sun that many Maryland politicians spritz on Eau de Hypocrisy at least occasionally. But Gov. O’Malley and fellow Democrats bathed in it with their support for the inaccurately labeled Referendum Integrity Act. House Bill 493 (SB 673) should be called the “Voter Suppression Act,” as that is its clear intent.
OPEN MEETINGS: The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval to two measures intended to beef up enforcement of the Open Meeting Act, though a provision on penalties was watered down in committee, writes Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com.
ELECTRONIC GAMBLING: The Senate quietly passed legislation this week that would prevent what some have called an enormous electronic expansion of gambling, but the bill seems unlikely to move much further along the the legislative process, writes Alexander Pyles of the Daily Record.
FILING AS LOBBYISTS: The staff of the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League, which represent local governments at the State House, would have to file as registered lobbyists and follow lobbying laws under a bill being considered in the House of Delegates, writes Meg Tully for MarylandReporter.com. MACo and MML oppose the bill.
SICK LEAVE: Armed with statistics and touching personal stories, dozens of witnesses stepped forward yesterday to endorse and oppose the Maryland Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act, which would mandate all Maryland employers give full-time employees up to seven days of paid sick leave, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com. On one side, individuals and labor coalitions demanded fair business standards and rights for workers. On the other, small business owners and business groups projected dire economic consequences.
EATERY CLEANLINESS GRADES: Tina Reed of the Capital-Gazette writes that residents statewide may eventually be able to tell how their favorite restaurants stack up when it comes to cleanliness. A bill would require restaurants — including food trucks — to prominently display letter grades based on their health inspections.
CYBERBULLYING BILL: WBFF-TV reports that Del. Jon Cardin joined Del. Kathy Afzali outside the statehouse yesterday to introduce cyberbullying legislation. “My goal is not to put people in jail, not to fine people,” Cardin said. “I was a victim and I was a bully when I was a youngster. And, now, I have become very sensitive to those issues.”
DISPARITY GRANT: Washington County legislators are continuing their quest to get millions of dollars for the county through a wealth-based formula called the disparity grant, a state program created to help counties with low income tax revenues, writes Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
UTILITIES MUST UPGRADE: Electric utilities will be ordered to improve their distribution systems to make them more reliable following last summer’s derecho storm when nearly 1 million customers lost power, but the Maryland Public Service Commission says it would not impose any fines or penalties, according to an AP story in the Frederick News-Post.
The 33-page order directs the power companies to be “more responsive to outages that occur after severe storms and more resilient to weather-related outage events,” reports Meredith Somers for the Washington Times.
HARPER SWORN IN: Nina Harper was sworn in yesterday as a delegate from East Baltimore’s 45th Legislative District, succeeding Del. Hattie Harrison, a Democrat who died Jan. 28 at 84 after nearly 40 years in office, the Sun reports.
NEUMAN REPLACES IT CHIEF: Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman hired an NASA contractor and former colleague Tuesday to lead the county’s Department of Information Technology, replacing William Ryan, the fourth person to lose his job since Neuman was appointed county executive last week. Ryan worked for the county for 31 years, reports Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette.