April 2, 2013

State Roundup, April 2, 2013

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SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET: Gov. Martin O’Malley today released a $222 million supplemental budget that creates a “Gun Center,” strives to save a baseball program and sets aside another $10 million in case federal sequestration cuts take a toll on Maryland, Erin Cox reports in the Sun.

TU SPORTS SPARED: Towson University baseball could live to fight another year after Gov. O’Malley included an additional $300,000 in his 2014 budget to help the university sort through difficulties with its athletic funding, writes Childs Walker for the Sun. The baseball program had been slated for elimination after this season until O’Malley became interested in its fate.

BILLS OF NOTE: Alex Jackson of the Capital Gazette gives a rundown of the notable bills passed by the House of Delegates Monday as it kicked off the final week of the General Assembly’s 90-day session, among them are legislation covering dog baiting, dog bites and growlers.

GUN CONTROL DEBATE: The Maryland House of Delegates will begin debate and take up proposed amendments to Gov. O’Malley’s gun bill today, reports Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

Opponents cried foul. Del. Shawn Tarrant called it an honest mistake. He changed his vote on a Republican amendment calling for stricter penalties for violent gun crimes during a House joint committee voting session on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gun bill Friday. The move caused consternation for GOP delegates but Tarrant attributed it to confusion, writes Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette.

On WEAA-FM, Marc Steiner hosts Vincent DeMarco, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, and Brian Griffiths, co-founder of Red Maryland, to discuss the gun control issue, which includes an assault weapons ban.

The editorial board for the Sun opines that despite the national horror at the massacre of 20 children and six adults in December, the effort in Congress to enact any meaningful legislation to address gun violence appears increasingly at risk. That makes the votes on Gov. O’Malley’s gun violence legislation Friday in two House committees all the more significant. Although the committees endorsed some amendments that weaken the bill slightly, they approved others that make it stricter.

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that, despite what many firearms enthusiasts in Maryland fear, no one is going to confiscate their legally purchased guns. If they take care of their firearms, they’ll be around for a long time and can be left to the next generation. Under the current version of the bill, collectors and sportsmen can keep buying the popular AR-15-style weapons from Maryland dealers until Oct. 1.

GAS TAX & BORDER BUSINESSES: While a bill raising the state’s gas tax by as much as 20 cents a gallon in three years is on its way to becoming state law, the reality of its potential impact is beginning to ripple through Cecil County. “It will be a big loss of business for us,” said Gurchet Singh, owner of Extreme Gas in Elkton, whose business is about two miles from the Delaware border. Cheryl Mattix of the Cecil Whig writes that Singh predicts it will hurt his gas sales, but also sales of grocery items inside the store.

MOVIE TAX CREDITS: The state has offered movie companies more tax incentives to film in Maryland in recent years, and current legislation would more than triple the amount of tax credits Maryland offers to film companies, to $25 million next fiscal year, reports Kevin James Shay for the Gazette.

CAREGIVER PROTECTION: The General Assembly has passed a law that allows caregivers of patients who use medical marijuana to possess up to an ounce of pot without being convicted of a crime, Erin Cox of the Sun is reporting.

SOFT-SHELL SYMBOL: The soft-shell crab sandwich would join Maryland’s roster of state symbols under legislation passed Monday night by the Senate. Michael Dresser of the Sun writes that the 43-1 vote sends the bill to the House of Delegates, where it faces an uncertain fate

SURGERY CENTER OVERSIGHT: The Sun’s Scott Dance writes that a bill to give health regulators more oversight of plastic surgery centers is making a late surge in the General Assembly after weeks of discussions among state and industry officials.

INDEPENDENT NEW COVERAGE: The Washington Examiner will stop local news, The Gazette cuts Annapolis coverage, but you can help MarylandReporter.com continue this roundup and its independent coverage of State House news by attending Thursday’s fundraiser or contributing to the site.

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THERAPIST ABUSE: A bill seeking to make the abuse of patients by their therapists a crime has brought together an unlikely team of legislators and a young woman who could have never imagined herself so immersed in state legislation, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com.

CANCEL 2014 SESSION: In a column for Center Maryland, Josh Kurtz writes that we may as well just go ahead and cancel the 2014 General Assembly session. What, after all, is left for O’Malley to accomplish? Legislative sessions in election years are usually sleepy affairs, anyway. With re-elections uppermost in the lawmakers’ minds, no one has the stomach to confront anything remotely controversial. That’ll be especially true with primaries just six or seven weeks after Sine Die.

CHARITIES CONCERNED OVER FEES: Local stormwater fees could cost parishes, schools and charitable organizations thousands of dollars annually if nonprofit organizations are not exempted or granted reasonable caps, writes Maria Wiering for the Catholic Review.

ARUNDEL RELIEF ON STORMWATER FEES: Anne Arundel County property owners fearing sticker shock from a pending stormwater remediation fee might be able to rest a little easier, reports Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette. Legislation back before the County Council Monday includes a system of rebates and credits to offset costs from the fee and encourage owners of both residential and non-residential properties owners to make improvements to their land.