March 1, 2013

State Roundup, March 1, 2013

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GUN CONTROL PASSES SENATE: Maryland Senate Democrats passed sweeping gun-control legislation yesterday that would make the Free State the first in nearly 20 years to require residents to submit to fingerprinting, training and background checks to obtain a license to buy a firearm, writes Aaron Davis in the Post.

The contentious issue moved immediately to the House of Delegates, where the chamber’s first public hearing on the bill and a rally by supporters are expected to draw thousands to Annapolis today, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

Alex Jackson of the Capital-Gazette writes that Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin said that a “horrible bill” left the Senate. “This does nothing for the safety of our citizens. That’s a disappointment,” he said. “If anything, all we’ve really done here is made some law-abiding citizens potentially criminals.”

Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that most of Washington County’s delegation is against the gun control measure.

David Hill of the Washington Times reports that Maryland is now poised to become one of the first states to pass stricter gun laws in the wake of last year’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., and it may not be the last.

FROSH SHEPARDS GUN DEBATE: Erin Cox homes in on Brian Frosh, the soft-spoken Montgomery County Democrat who shepherded Gov. Martin O’Malley’s top legislative priority – gun control – through the Senate, leading 12 hours of floor debate in such a manner that he never earned the animosity of conservatives and gun advocates.

Gazette columnist Laslo Boyd praises Frosh’s work on the gun legislation.

COMMITTEE VOTES: Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette has more details on the live streaming of the voting session on the gun control bill by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Senate President Mike Miller said committees should stick with the Rules Committee decision not to webcast those votes until the Senate has a uniform rule.

MORE ON SEQUESTER CUTS: If the federal government goes through with sequestration cuts beginning today, Maryland stands to lose millions of dollars in health-related funding that could leave hospitals such as Anne Arundel Medical Center looking for ways to make up lost revenue without weakening medical care, the Sun’s Andrea Walker reports.

Reporters at the Frederick News-Post try to gauge how the cuts will affect Frederick County. Toilets along the towpath might go unpumped, and Frederick’s new airport tower could be grounded. Meat inspections might be trimmed. But they report, no one really knows.

Officials at the Woodlawn-based Social Security Administration informed employees they do not anticipate furloughs when across-the-board federal budget cuts go into effect, the union that represents many of those workers told John Fritze of the Sun.

Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland opines that for years and years, the Democrats have been perpetuating the myth that that Maryland’s economy was recession-proof. But today of course is a new day. Sequestration is the law of the land now.

COPS IN SCHOOLS: Mark Bittle, writing for the Cecil Whig, reports that the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, state lawmakers have introduced an emergency bill seeking to station a police officer in every Maryland public school. Under SB 807, each county superintendent would have to work with a police department to ensure that every school had a school resource officer stationed there.

TRANSPORTATION TALK: The General Assembly’s presiding officers met with Gov. O’Malley yesterday in an attempt to agree on on a transportation funding plan, reports Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

“It was a good discussion,” said O’Malley chief of staff Matt Gallagher. But he said there was nothing yet to announce, blogs the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

MD ROADS COSTING: Poor road conditions in Maryland are costing drivers in the Washington area about $2,200 a year, according to a new report released by TRIP, a national transportation research group based in the District, Kate Jacobson reports in the Washington Examiner. The report said roads in Maryland are crumbling and are gridlocked — costing drivers time and money.

LEASING OUT THE ICC: Michael Dresser reports for the Sun that the Maryland Transportation Authority has thrown some cold water on the idea of leasing the Intercounty Connector as a relatively pain-free way of raising money to pay for other projects – saying such deals are too complex to enter into without extensive study.

SCHOOL BREAKFAST PROGRAM: Gov. O’Malley and state and local education leaders are pushing for $1.8 million in additional state funding for a school breakfast program for morning meals 57,000 more students through the state’s Maryland Meals for Achievement program, which gives students milk, fruit and other breakfast items to eat at their desks before school.

PARENT SCHOOL PETITIONING: National education reform advocates support a Maryland bill that would mandate reform for failing schools whenever a majority of parents petition for intervention, but the state superintendent and the state teachers union oppose the idea, Ilana Kowarski of MarylandReporter writes.

PET PROTECTION: The Cumberland Times-News reports that the killing of a family pet has led to proposed legislation that would make it illegal for hunters to shoot domesticated animals.

TABLE GAMES: The last hurdle on the way to implementation of table games at Maryland casinos may be cleared by a General Assembly committee today, writes Alexander Pyles for the Daily Record. Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review, said the panel will review and likely approve regulations that would govern black jack, poker, roulette and the like at Maryland’s commercial casinos.

BABY BUMPER BAN CHALLENGE: Legislation pending in the General Assembly challenges new regulations to go into affect this summer that would ban decorative bumpers that line the inside of baby cribs, writes the Sun’s Andrea Walker. The bill would allow crib bumpers that meet standards set up by the American Society for Testing and Materials.

STUDENTS LOBBY: The halls of the state legislature were bustling Wednesday as the Senate debated Gov. O’Malley’s gun control bill, write Tim Pratt for the Capital-Gazette. But the crowd wasn’t just senators and delegates: More than 240 Anne Arundel County public school students met with lawmakers to voice opinions on bills dealing with everything from school safety to social media.

BOAT SALES TAX: A state bill proposing to set a $10,000 maximum tax on boat sales sparked a tense debate due to its potential implications on Maryland’s struggling maritime economy and the Waterway Improvement Fun, MarylandReporter.com’s Becca Heller reports.

BARRY PUSHES BAG TAX: Former D.C. Mayor and current D.C. Councilmember Marion Barry was in Annapolis urging the Legislative Black Caucus to push for a 5-cent grocery bag tax to complement the ones that D.C. and Montgomery County have in place, the Post’s Miranda Spivack reports.

ULMAN TECH SAVVY: Howard County Executive Ken Ulman was honored by Government Technology magazine yesterday as one of its Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers for 2013, Blair Ames writes in the Sun. The award highlights government accomplishments that set the standard on how technology can be used to improve government performance and strengthen citizen services.

SUPREME ARGUMENT: Margie Hyslop of the Gazette profiles Deputy Attorney General Katherine Winfree, who on Tuesday at the U.S. Supreme Court argued Maryland’s case for DNA collection from people arrested but not convicted.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on the women’s suffrage march; Sen. Nathnaiel McFadden’s health; Del. Anne Kaiser’s engagement; Sen. Jim Brochin and mistaken identity; and early meetings.

WIND FARM: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar details all the expensive problems with an off-shore wind farm to generate electricity, compared to other forms of clean energy.

INFORMATION REQUEST TO GO TO COURT: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners has chosen to go court rather than comply with the Carroll County Times‘ Maryland Public Information Act request for email distribution lists collected by the commissioners, Christian Alexandersen reports in the Carroll County Times.

HUFF RETURNS POLICE RADIO: Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports that Baltimore County Councilman Todd Huff has returned a $4,000 public-safety radio he was given by the county fire chief last year following his arrest last weekend on drunken-driving charges.