March 14, 2013

State Roundup, March 14, 2013

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DEATH PENALTY REPEAL: Supporters of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill to repeal the death penalty turned back 18 proposed amendments Wednesday in the House of Delegates, including attempts to keep capital punishment on the books for cop killers, child abductors and terrorists, reports John Wagner in the Post.

The bill is likely to come up for a final vote in the House Friday. Because it was not changed from the Senate version, its expected approval there would send the legislation to the governor for his signature. The Senate approved the measure 27-20 last week, Michael Dresser is reporting in the Sun.

Frederick County’s GOP lawmakers labored in vain to reshape a state death penalty repeal bill Wednesday night, as they fought to permit execution in cases of mass murder or deny certain inmates access to libraries, televisions and visitors, Bethany Rodgers reports in the Frederick News Post.

The Capital-Gazette’s Alex Jackson writes that supporters of the repeal say the death penalty is costly and ineffective, and has been used only five times since it was reinstated in the 1970s, and not at all since 2005. But opponents say it’s a necessary deterrent.

REFERENDUM PUSH UNLIKELY: Maryland Republicans might concede the fight over the state’s death penalty, saying that they are unlikely to mount a referendum effort as the House prepares to grant final passage to a repeal, reports David Hill for the Washington Times.

DEMS MOVING LEFT: Post columnist Robert McCartney writes that everybody knows the Republican Party has moved to the right in recent years with the tea party’s rise. Attracting less attention, however, is the Democratic Party’s shift to the left, especially on social issues. That shift is highlighted this year by the Maryland General Assembly’s surprising move to repeal the death penalty.

HOUSE OKs O’MALLEY BUDGET: With only minor changes, the House of Delegates on Wednesday gave initial approval to Gov. O’Malley’s $37 billion budget, his first spending plan in several years that doesn’t propose significant cuts, Erin Cox writes in the Sun. While a final vote in the House is expected Friday, Wednesday’s actions signaled the last cuts the chamber will make before the budget proposal moves to the Senate.

MarylandReporter.com’s Ilana Kowarski reports that during floor debate over the state budget, the House of Delegates rejected an amendment that would restore $1.1 billion in funds that had been taken from highway user revenues to pay the state’s bills during budget shortfalls since 2003.

TOBACCO TAX FIGHT: Tobacco lobbyists and anti-smoking advocates went head to head in a high-stakes hearing Wednesday on the legislature’s latest proposal to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $2 to $3. The tax rate on cigars would triple from 30% to 95%, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com.

LEGAL FEE PAYBACK: A state Senate panel on Wednesday heard a bill that would force any future John Leopolds to pay back legal fees, Alex Jackson reports in the Capital-Gazette. Senate Bill 210, introduced by Sen. Bryan Simonaire, would hold elected officials in Maryland liable for costs associated with breaking the law.

MO CO COUNCIL CHAFES AT 2 BILLS: Two bills in the General Assembly are chafing the Montgomery County Council, placing mandates that could affect the county’s bottom line, reports Holly Nunn for the Gazette. One is a proposal that would exempt defense firm Lockheed Martin from a hotel tax currently applied to their training center. The other would require what’s known as “maintenance of effort” to apply to county budgets.

HELP FOR CHICKEN FARM: Brian Witte of the AP is reporting that the Maryland House of Delegates amended the state budget on Wednesday to make up to $300,000 available to help a farm family pay its legal bills after it was sued unsuccessfully over alleged poultry pollution. His article appears in the Cumberland Times-News.

SPAY-NEUTER PET SUPPORT: Operators of animal shelters and rescue centers in Frederick County say that proposed state legislation that would create a fund to support spaying and neutering services could help reduce the homeless animal population in Maryland, Morgan Young reports in the Gazette.

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE: As the country celebrates Sunshine Week this week, Mark Newgent of Watchdogwire.com writes about how Maryland agencies use provisions within the Public Information Act to routinely withhold requested documents and prevent transparency.

GOUCHER POLL: A new Goucher poll finds slight majority of Marylanders favor the death penalty while they overwhelmingly support gun control, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

 

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FIRST CITIZEN AWARDS: Three women known for strong will and public accomplishment received the Maryland Senate’s First Citizen awards Wednesday, capping an annual tradition in the upper chamber, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley joined Victoria Gruber, chief of staff to Senate President Mike Miller, in accepting the award.

VA, MD SPAR OVER FBI HQ: Lawmakers from Virginia pressed a U.S. House panel Wednesday to forgo a requirement that a potential new FBI headquarters be located close to the Capital Beltway, saying it gives Maryland an unfair advantage as the two states compete for the project, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Maryland officials have been working for months to lure the FBI to Prince George’s County if the agency leaves its HQ in downtown Washington. The state is competing for the roughly $1 billion development project and the 11,000 jobs associated with it.

BLUEPRINT FOR A RED MARYLAND: Greg Kline of Red Maryland outlines a blueprint for the Maryland Republican Party for it to make inroads in the very deep blue state of Maryland.

SNOWDEN GETS JAIL: Annapolis civil rights leader Carl Snowden will spend 10 days in jail for violating his probation in a 2010 drunken driving case, writes Allison Bourg in the Capital-Gazette.

LEOPOLD SENTENCING ANTICLIMATIC? The sentencing of former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold for misconduct Thursday will signal the end of two years of government turmoil. But, reports Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette, political observers wonder if the formal conclusion of the Leopold trial will be anticlimactic. “Once he made the decision to resign, that was closure for me,” said Alan Rzepkowski, head of the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee. “As far as I was concerned, that was the right thing to do.” In a sidebar to the story, Bourg offers a timeline to the sordid situation.