April 8, 2013

State Roundup, April 8, 2013

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BUDGET BILL: A $36.9 billion state budget for fiscal 2014 easily passed the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate Friday, with less Republican opposition than last year. HB 100 raises overall spending 3% and is $500 million less than Gov. Martin O’Malley originally proposed, largely by setting aside funds in case federal budget cuts impact state revenues, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

WHAT’S LEFT: Bills that could affect every dog owner and every driver who talks on a cell phone still await approval, as does legislation that would craft tighter rules on speed cameras, legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes and put new restrictions on government speed camera programs, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

The Post updates where certain bills are standing now.

FATE OF DEATH ROW INMATES: John Wagner of the Post writes that, with last month’s vote to repeal the death penalty, Maryland lawmakers handed Gov. O’Malley a long-sought legislative victory — and a question that he has refused to answer: What is he going to do about the five prisoners on death row?

Who are the five men still on Maryland’s death row and what are their crimes?

STORMWATER FEES DELAY? Amid complaints over what critics dismiss as a “rain tax,” some powerful lawmakers in Annapolis are mounting a last-minute attempt Monday to delay state-mandated storm-water fees that Baltimore City and Maryland’s nine largest counties are about to assess their property owners for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, Tim Wheeler reports in the Sun.

IMMIGRANT DRIVER’S LICENSES: A bill granting immigrants in the country illegally with access to a legal driver’s license passed in the House of Delegates Friday after heated debate, reports Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com. The bill has already been approved in the Senate and awaits the governor’s signature.

The measure, which passed the House of Delegates 82 to 55, would reinstate and expand a program that allowed some immigrants to obtain licenses prior to 2009, when it was ended so Maryland could conform to a stricter, federal rule on IDs, writes Aaron Davis for the Post.

WINNERS & LOSERS: With just one day to go, Alex Jackson of the Capital-Gazette outlines the winners and losers in this year’s General Assembly session.

A year ago, Gov. O’Malley’s political situation was so dire that Hillary Clinton expressed sympathy. The state legislature had adjourned messily without agreeing on a budget. O’Malley was drawing blame for weak leadership. “It looked like you were having a really great session right up until the train wreck,” O’Malley remembers Clinton telling him. How different it looks today, columnist Robert McCartney writes for the Post.

Life isn’t only different for O’Malley, it’s different for the General Assembly. This time last year, the Maryland General Assembly was mired in anger and confusion, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun. This year, legislators will begin the session’s final day Monday having already passed an array of landmark legislation.

Many legislators will call the session a success, touting the passage of a wind farm off of Ocean City, repeal of the death penalty and some of the nation’s strictest gun-control measures. But some Lower Shore officials, many of them Republicans in a predominantly Democratic state, have a different ­opinion, writes Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times.

Legislators from Frederick County were counting down to the end of the three-month span that they say was particularly painful, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News-Post. “I think we’ve hit our quota of bad legislation,” Del. Michael Hough said. “This is probably the most left-wing session in the history of Maryland.”

WHEN TO ANNOUNCE: With one day remaining in Maryland’s legislative session, most of the big issues are out of the way. But, writes John Wagner of the Post, lawmakers are still wrestling over when candidates for state office — including the General Assembly — will have to make their intentions known next year. The Senate would set the filing date for the 2014 elections in January, nearly six months in advance of the June primaries. Under the House version of the bill, the filing date would be in April.

CRIME OF THERAPIST-CLIENT RELATIONS? Sexual relationships between therapists and clients are clearly unethical. The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post asks the question, but should they be illegal, even criminal? Legislation being debated in the Maryland General Assembly would make it so. The bill passed unanimously in the House of Delegates and is being debated in the Senate.

GUN CONTROL: Nowhere is the division over gun control more pronounced than along the banks of the Potomac River, writes Steve Contorno of the Washington Examiner. Gov. O’Malley last week celebrated the legislative approval of his sweeping new restrictions on military-style guns and high-capacity magazines. Across the river in Virginia, lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session recently after killing off every gun restriction proposed.

John Wagner and Paul Schwartzman of the Post write that after the massacre at Newtown, O’Malley knew he wanted to push through tougher gun control measures.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports that as discussions center around whether to petition the gun bill to referendum, Sen. E.J. Pipkin reacted to the final passage of O’Malley’s gun control bill saying, “All they’re going to do is make people who legally own guns become criminals.

Kate Havard interviews 11-hour talker and gun control advocate Del. Kathleen Dumais for the Post Unspun column. During the gun debate, Dumais learned how to fire a gun. She was also a leader in the House pushing gun control legislation.

David Sherfinski of the Washington Times writes that a 15-year-old Baltimore City girl has drawn nationwide attention for her arguments against gun control, which can be found here on Youtube.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: CNS’s Ethan Rosenberg reports in the Cecil Whig that the Maryland Senate Friday voted to approve medical marijuana use, putting Maryland one step closer to becoming the 19th state, along with the District of Columbia, to do so. The bill already passed the House 108-28.

PRINCE GEORGE’S SCHOOLS: Maryland lawmakers gave final approval Saturday to a bill restructuring the Prince George’s County school system, clearing one of the last remaining marquee measures from their agenda in advance of Monday’s planned adjournment, Ovetta Wiggins and John Wagner report in the Post.

It will give Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker a lot more control over the county’s school system, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

CITY SPEED CAMERAS: Baltimore-bashing is nothing new in Annapolis, whether from representatives of rural counties or the Washington suburbs who believe the city gets more than its fair share of state resources. But when it comes to the city’s well-publicized speed camera problems, some of the sharpest criticism has been meted out by Baltimore’s own House of Delegates contingent, writes Scott Calvert of the Sun.

NUTRIENT MANAGEMENT: Delmarva Poultry Industry is working to learn as much as it can about an environmental advisory council within the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, writes Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. After hearing a request for comprehensive nutrient management plans was filed with the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, DPI has filed its own request seeking detailed records and emails on the Attorney General’s Environmental Advisory Council.

MDGOP CHAIRMAN RACES: Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com reports thatThe beleaguered Maryland Republican Party, which has won only one statewide election in decades, is having yet another bitter internal contest over who will chair the state central committee. Three candidates representing various factions in the party are running: interim chairman Diana Waterman, attorney Greg Kline, and businessman Collins Bailey.

VINCENT ROPER DIES: Vincent Roper, 79, a long-time advocate for Victims’ Rights in Maryland, passed away early Thursday morning after experiencing trouble breathing, the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center announced this morning. His death came just hours after Roper received a governor’s proclamation crediting the work of Roper and his wife Roberta for victim’s rights after the 1982 kidnapping, rape and murder of their daughter Stephanie, reports Peggy McEwan of the Gazette.

CARROLL SEWER MAINTENANCE: Customers using the county’s water and sewer systems may be getting a fee increase as the Carroll County Bureau of Utilities tries to find ways to pay for continued maintenance and improvements, Christian Alexandersen reports in the Carroll County Times.