April 4, 2013

State Roundup, April 4, 2013

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GUN BILL PASSES HOUSE: The House of Delegates voted Wednesday to give Maryland one of the toughest gun laws in the nation, passing a bill that would ban the sale of assault-type weapons, set a 10-bullet limit on magazines and require fingerprints and a license to buy a handgun, Erin Cox reports in the Sun.

The measure would also let the Maryland State Police audit gun dealers and would require owners of regulated firearms to report within 72 hours when their guns are lost or stolen, reports Holly Nunn for the Gazette.

Democrats struck a provision they added to the bill allowing members of the military under the age of 21 to own a handgun. Federal law prohibits anyone under 21 from owning a handgun, and firearms dealers who sell to anyone under that age could lose their license, Andy Brownfield reports in the Washington Examiner.

The bill survived multiple attempts by Republicans and conservative Democrats to water it down with amendments that would, among other things, narrow the definition of an assault rifle, eliminate the fingerprinting requirement and delay the effective date of the bill, CNS’s Lucas High writes in the Cecil Whig.

The 78 to 61 vote handed Gov. Martin O’Malley a major policy victory as Maryland joins the ranks of Democratic-leaning states passing broad gun-control restrictions, writes Aaron Davis for the Post.

The bill now heads to the Senate. If senators agree with the changes the House made to the bill, the bill heads to O’Malley’s desk. If not, the bill will go to a House-Senate conference committee where differences will need to be worked out by Monday, the last day of the General Assembly’s 90-day session, reports Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette.

John Wagner of the Post tallies up how House members voted. And here’s a video report from WJZ-TV. Christian Schaffer of WMAR-TV also reports the story.

The state joins California, Colorado and New York in adopting significant measures to regulate guns this year, even as Connecticut passes harsh new weapons restrictions of its own in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in December, writes Meredith Somers of the Washington Times.

TALE OF TWO CULTURES: The debate and vote on a sweeping new gun control measure that establishes a stringent licensing regime for handguns reflected a sharp split between two cultures in Maryland. One shuns guns as instruments of violence and the other embraces them as essential to freedom and safety, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com

ON NEW GUN LAW: Maryland is set to pass some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the country. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Gov. O’Malley, has seen a number of revisions that have made it increasingly more restrictive. Due Diligence host Carmen Russell-Sluchansky spoke with Len Lazarick, of MarylandReporter.com, to discuss the legislation.

DWYER CALLS FOR MILITIA: As the House of Delegates debated Gov. O’Malley’s gun control initiative Wednesday afternoon, Del. Don Dwyer was using social media to call for creation of a volunteer militia around the state, reports Rick Hutzell for the Capital-Gazette.

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FINANCE REFORM: The General Assembly is close to passing a comprehensive campaign finance reform bill that would raise campaign donation limits and stop corporations from finding ways to donate more than those limits, writes Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette.

SPEED CAMERAS: Scott Calvert of the Sun reports that legislation that one Baltimore lawmaker said would create a “new and improved speed camera program” is headed to the House of Delegates, after a committee overwhelmingly approved a legislative package Wednesday in the waning days of the General Assembly session.

DISTRACTED DRIVERS: The House of Delegates and Senate have each passed the bill that would make it a primary offense to use a cellphone while driving, but a Senate committee tweaked the Senate version to make it allowable to use a cellphone while at a red light, writes Blair Ames for the Howard County Times.

FRAGILE FOSTER CHILDREN: State lawmakers are considering stronger safeguards so medically fragile children who have been in foster care don’t fall through the cracks as they reach adulthood., Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News-Post.

PAPER MILL TAX CREDIT: A dozen people met Wednesday to plan their next move to try to get Del. Galen Clagett to change his mind and vote for a bill that would stop tax credits for out-of-state paper mills that burn their tarlike final waste products for energy, Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News-Post.

PG SCHOOL TAKEOVER: A partial takeover of the troubled Prince George’s County school system by the county’s top elected official won critical support in Annapolis Wednesday when members of the county’s Senate delegation voted overwhelmingly to support legislation that would let County Executive Rushern Baker choose the school system’s next chief executive officer, as the superintendent’s position is known there. Tim Wheeler reports the story for the Sun.

BAR INSPECTIONS: Regulators that oversee Baltimore City’s 1,360 bars, night clubs and restaurants have serious problems managing the licensing, inspection and disciplinary action of the liquor industry, state auditors found, Becca Heller of MarylandReporter writes.

TU ‘BAILOUT’ BLASTED: State officials are questioning Gov. O’Malley’s attempt to spare Towson University its baseball program with a $300,000 cash infusion, writes Yvonne Wenger for the Sun. Comptroller Peter Franchot said the money, recently included in the governor’s 2014 budget, is a “bailout” that rewards bad financial decisions by a university. TU President Maravene Loeschke decided last month to eliminate the university’s baseball and men’s soccer programs because of insufficient funding and a lack of gender equity in the university’s sports.

PUBLIC DEFENDER FURLOUGHS: Federal public defenders will begin taking furloughs this week because of forced spending cuts, raising concerns that reduced schedules will strain an already overburdened court system and compromise rights to adequate counsel and speedy trial, Alison Matas of the Sun reports.