March 20, 2013

State Roundup, March 20, 2013

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ASSAULT WEAPONS: Aaron Davis of the Post reports that some semiautomatic rifles popular with veterans and sportsmen — but also carried by the alleged Aurora, Colo., movie-theater shooter and the Beltway snipers — could remain legal in Maryland under significant changes being weighed to the assault-weapons ban championed by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

GUN LICENSES SOAR: The threat of new restrictions in Maryland is creating a demand for guns – and a huge demand for gun licenses. State police typically process about 40,000 gun applications a year, but they say they have already seen that number in the past four months, WBFF-TV is reporting.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY: A bill prohibiting double jeopardy prosecution in Maryland was defeated on third reading in the House of Delegates, 89 votes against to 46 in favor, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com. Sponsored by Del. Curt Anderson sought to prohibit the state prosecution of a defendant who was acquitted in federal court for the same crime.

DECRIMINALIZING POT: As the Maryland Senate voted Tuesday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, advocates for legalizing the drug saw an opening move in a multiyear effort to make it completely legal, Erin Cox of the Sun reports.

John Wagner of the Post writes that supporters of the bill said the move is consistent with a growing number of states that have sought in recent years to do away with jail time for minor offenders. But Maryland’s bill doesn’t go far as measures in Colorado and Washington that have legalized marijuana.

The Capital-Gazette’s Alex Jackson writes that lawmakers say the bill, which would remove the threat of jail time for people caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana, likely won’t receive a warm welcome at its next stop: the House Judiciary Committee.

The bill has garnered mixed reactions from Carroll County officials, write Kelcie Pegher and Rachel Roubein of the Carroll County Times.

LOCKHEED TAX BREAK: David Moon of Maryland Juice, a rabid opponent of legislation that would give a Lockheed Martin hotel and conference center a property tax break, writes about what appears to be a canceled dinner that Lockheed lobbyists were going to have with members of the House of Delegates Ways & Means Committee one day after the state Senate voted to send the Lockheed bill to the panel.

WIND A WHILE AWAY: Despite legislation encouraging wind power, daunting regulatory, political and financial hurdles remain before a wind-driven power plant could be built in the water 10 to 20 miles from Ocean City, reports Tim Wheeler of the Sun. Even if all goes right, construction could be four to seven years away, industry and government experts say.

CITY SCHOOLS PLAN: With bipartisan help from sympathetic lawmakers, Baltimore City won a House committee’s approval Tuesday for a $1 billion plan to replace and repair old schools, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

Sun opinionators laud the spending plan, saying that this massive school construction and renovation program could drastically improve opportunities for students and attract new families to the city.

ONLINE LEARNING: An amended version of a bill that tasked a state education council with finding out more about the resources needed to support a compulsory online course requirement in state high schools or a course that blended online learning and traditional teaching has been voted down by a Senate committee, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Sen. Chris Shank, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, said Tuesday that the bill was “just an effort to keep the discussion moving.”

AIDING & ABETTING: Brian Shane of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that the General Assembly is considering a bill that would double the maximum possible sentence for people convicted of aiding a murder after-the-fact, from five years to 10, in either first- or second-degree murder convictions.

ABORTION & DEATH PENALTY: Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas takes on O’Malley and his stands against the death penalty and for abortion rights in this opinion piece in the Sun. Thomas writes that “In 2008, according to the Guttmacher Institute, while the number of abortions in the U.S. remained ‘virtually unchanged from 2005 when the abortion rate was 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women…,’ Maryland, produced ‘rate of 29 abortions per 1,000 women…’ ”

MANDEL HONORED: The Maryland Senate honored an emotional former Gov. Marvin Mandel on his 93rd birthday, remembering his decades of public service while leaving his legal travails unmentioned, Michael Dresser of the Sun writes. In a ceremony that came as a surprise to the former governor, the Senate presented Mandel with a proclamation honoring his accomplishments over a long political career in the House of Delegates and as chief executive from 1969 to 1979.

O’MALLEY’S GOP SHADOW: As he moves around the country in coming months, Gov. Martin O’Malley could have an uninvited traveling companion, writes the Post’s John Wagner. David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, is vowing that he or someone else affiliated with the state GOP will show up each time O’Malley attends an out-of-state event, starting this weekend in South Carolina.

Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland calls Ferguson’s plan “totally insane,” and asks: How does this help elect a single Republican in the state of Maryland?

WASHINGTON EXAMINER SHUTS: Thomas Heath of the Post writes that the demise of the eight-year-old free tabloid is another reminder of the cost of producing and publishing a local daily newspaper, and a free one at that, in an era of growing digital dominance.

AND SOME SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes about the demise of the Washington Examiner’s local coverage, reflects on his history with the Baltimore Examiner and offers some shameless self-promotion as he works to keep MarylandReporter.com — including this shamelessly self-promoting news roundup — viable.

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