A BUSY WEEK: David Hill of the Washington Times reports that the General Assembly is entering one of the busiest stretches of its 90-day session, with lawmakers poised this week to give final approval to a gun control bill, advance legislation abolishing the death penalty and possibly begin considering a transportation funding bill.
GUN CONTROL IN HOUSE: Maryland’s gun control debate drew more than 2,000 people to Annapolis Friday as the House of Delegates took up the governor’s bill to ban the sale of assault weapons and impose some of the nation’s strictest licensing requirements, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. People arrived as early as 7 a.m., and some stayed into the night as testimony went past 3 a.m.
Hundreds of activists on both sides of the gun-control debate converged on Annapolis by the busload to weigh in on another of the governor’s top priorities, write Aaron Davis and John Wagner of the Post.
Several hundred rallied outside the State House in favor of the measure and hundreds more showed up to register their opposition on Friday, writes Kate Havard and Aaron Davis of the Post. It was the first major rally in support of the governor’s bill, though smaller than the anti-gun-control rally.
Three-quarters of Marylanders who bought guns over the past decade say they completed a background check before being allowed to make their most recent purchase, and the vast majority bought guns in traditional gun shops, Scott Clement reports on a Washington Post poll.
Dan Rodricks, in a column for the Sun, writes that students and teachers who were traumatized by the Perry Hall school shooter in August might wonder why their local senator would vote against any gun control measure at a time of heightened fears, and with dozens of Perry Hall students still unwilling to take lunch in the cafeteria. And he wonders why we would sentence a teenager to 35 years in prison when he needs mental health care.
SAFE SCHOOLS: If Comptroller Peter Franchot, and the state, are serious about their stated desire to make our schools safer, then they have to propose a funding source that comes with an assurance that the money to pay for it won’t be taken from current funding, opines the editorial board for the Carroll County Times.
GUN CONTROL HISTORY: CNS’s Allen Etzler reports, in the Cumberland Times-News, that gun restrictions are not new in Maryland, dating back to at least 1886, when the legislature passed a bill stating the only way someone could carry a firearm, concealed or not, was if the person was a public official who needed a firearm as part of their official equipment.
DEATH PENALTY: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to repeal Maryland’s death penalty survived an early test in the Senate Friday as supporters turned back an amendment that would have allowed executions to continue in some cases, writes John Wagner of the Post.
Senators are expected to resume debate at 8 p.m. tonight, when they are scheduled to work late into the night considering other amendments that opponents are likely to offer, Michael Dresser is reporting in the Sun.
GAS TAX HIKE: Senate President Mike Miller has said he expects Gov. O’Malley to introduce a transportation revenue bill of his own — a move that would raise the likelihood Marylanders will be paying higher taxes on gasoline later this year, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.
CUTTING CORPORATE TAXES: Del. Justin Ready is spending a bulk of this year’s legislative session working to reduce the state’s corporate income tax rate, which he said Maryland needs to do in order to compete with its neighboring states, Brett Lake writes in the Carroll County Times.
DNA REGULATIONS: Del. Jill Carter is preparing, with the backing of the Legislative Black Caucus, to introduce a bill that would subject all DNA collected by Maryland police to the restrictive standards used for genetic information taken from people charged with violent crimes and burglaries, reports the Sun’s Ian Duncan.
PETITION REFORM: Del. Jon Cardin, who chairs the elections subcommittee in charge of the Referendum Integrity Act, says his committee may consider a number of amendments this week that would address concerns of the bill’s opponents, as well as supporters of the legislation’s disclosure provisions, Glynis Kazanjian writes in MarylandReporter.com.
EVICTIONS: Pending legislation would change a 600-year-old English law that allows so-called “self-help evictions,” which many didn’t realize were legal until the Court of Appeals ruled last October that the 14th-century common law that Maryland inherited still stands, Yvonne Wenger reports in the Sun.
GAS PIPELINE: Sen. Bobby Zirkin is engaged in a bitter public clash with a giant energy company over its plans to build an underground natural gas pipeline that would run through land alongside his Owings Mills home and through the yards of many of his neighbors, writes Michael Dresser of the Sun. Zirkin has introduced more than a dozen bills in Annapolis that take aim at the gas pipeline industry and its federally granted powers to seek condemnation of private property.
LICENSING MIDWIVES: Supporters of home births are trying to convince legislators to create a pilot program that could eventually lead to the licensing of midwives without nursing degrees, writes Andrea Walker in the Sun. A hearing is set for tomorrow.
VISITATION RIGHTS: Several Maryland legislators are pushing for stricter limits on custody and visitation rights for parents convicted of sex crimes, Amber Larkins of CNS is reporting in the Cumberland Times-News.
HOMESCHOOLERS, PUBLIC PROGRAMS: Del. Michael Hough has filed legislation in the Maryland General Assembly to give private-school and home-schooled students the chance to participate in sports and music programs at their local public schools, Bethany Rodgers reports in the Frederick News-Post.
ONLINE LEARNING REQUIREMENT: After significant opposition to a bill to require Maryland students to complete one online course for graduation, it was amended to require the Maryland Advisory Council for Virtual Learning to find out about the resources needed to support a requirement of a compulsory online course in high schools or a course that blended digital content and a traditional classroom learning experience, Kaustuv Basu reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
REFILLABLE WINE BOTTLES: The Sun’s Arthur Hirsch writes that among the stainless-steel wine kegs in a chilled back room at Aida Bistro Wine Bar in Columbia, owner Joe Barbera shows off a prototype for a possible new venture: a slender dark bottle with a stopper that he likes to call the “growlier.” The term “growler” is taken by beer drinkers, of course, and that doesn’t fit Barbera’s niche. He hopes the growlier (it sort of rhymes with “sommelier”), which is designed for wine, will be the next big thing in the refillable container market.
VITALE UNSPUN: The Post’s Kate Havard picks Del. Cathy Vitale for her latest “Unspun.” Vitale is on a mission to make “spice,” a synthetic marijuana, illegal.
O’MALLEY RATES MEH: Only 49% of Marylanders approve of the job Gov. O’Malley is doing as governor, a new Washington Post poll has found. That’s little changed from the fall but down from his high of 57% in September 2010, shortly before his reelection. It is also well shy of the assessment President Obama receives in deep-blue Maryland (61%) and lower than what O’Malley’s Republican predecessor, Bob Ehrlich, got the summer before he was voted out of office in 2006 (56%), John Wagner and Scott Clement of the Post report.
NOW THE BUSINESS GAZETTE: The Gazette of Politics and Business, the only paid publication in a chain of weeklies in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Frederick counties, is apparently dropping much of the politics and becoming the Business Gazette, with one reporter covering State House news from a Montgomery County perspective, blogs Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.
UPBEAT IN ANNE ARUNDEL: Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette interviews employees in Anne Arundel County government, who are saying the atmosphere of the offices has become more upbeat and optimistic since Laura Neuman took the helm and brought with her an open-door policy.
NO LEOPOLD SOUP: As expected, when Chick and Ruth’s Delly owner Ted Levitt releases the Annapolis, eatery’s new menu on March 15, former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold’s name will no longer be attached to the chicken noodle soup, Elisha Sauers reports in the Annapolis Capital.