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Published on April 15th, 2013 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, April 15, 2013

OPEN MEETINGS PENALTIES: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that new laws passed by the Maryland General Assembly very late in the session would put stricter penalties and an element of public shaming behind the state’s open-meetings laws. State lawmakers said public officials have been able to flout the rules without significant consequences.

FINANCE REFORM: An extensive revamping of Maryland’s campaign finance laws is raising donation limits for individuals, while emphasizing disclosure and enabling the state elections board to fine violators, according to an AP report in the Frederick News Post. The bill is the product of a commission that studied potential changes to campaign finance law, and it also includes new rules for super PACs.

PIT BULL FIGHT: The debate everyone was talking about on the last day of Maryland’s legislative session — over a bill to establish stricter standards for liability for dog bites — has continued in the days since the Maryland General Assembly emptied out, writes Kate Havard of the Post.

Del. Luiz Simmons said he planned to work through the summer studying what other states do, with the goal of penning two bills for next year. One would address the burden of proof for dog owners. The other would reduce a landlord’s liability if a tenant’s dog mauled someone, reports Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

POT LAWS: Maryland liberalized its marijuana laws in this year’s General Assembly session, including legalizing medical marijuana, but advocates say lawmakers fell short of the changes they wanted, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

TRANSPORTATION ON THE MOVE: Katherine Shaver of the Post reports that Maryland transportation officials are asking private companies to consider how they could help build — and, most importantly, help pay for — a light-rail Purple Line in the Washington suburbs. If they move ahead with the ideas, it would be the first time the state has sought private investment for building a transit project.

Damian O’Doherty of Center Maryland speaks with Maryland Department of Transportation Acting Secretary Darrell Mobley among others in this video report on the successes of the transportation effort during this past legislative session.

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT: You might not expect a CEO and a person without a job to agree on legislation, but there are exceptions, writes Ilana Kowarski for MarylandReporter.com. Mark Rice and Paul Behler live in very different circumstances. Rice is the owner of a manufacturing plant and Behler is unemployed. Both support a new state program signed into law Tuesday that will fund the training of Maryland’s workforce.

TAX HIKES MIGHT OVERSHADOW: Alex Jackson of the Capital Gazette reports, with the same issue in the national spotlight, Gov. O’Malley’s sweeping gun control plan has dominated news about Maryland’s 2013 General Assembly session. But years from now, once hikes to the state’s gas tax are fully implemented, Marylanders may have a different perspective on the session.

ARTS FUNDING: The Maryland State Arts Council will receive $15.2 million in state funds during fiscal 2014, bringing the organization back to pre-recession funding levels, writes Sarah Meehan for the Baltimore Business Journal. Gov. O’Malley’s budget allocated an additional $2 million for the arts council, which had its budget slashed during the recession.

WIND FARM WINNER: Sierra Gladfelter writes in an op-ed in the Sun that Maryland is on the winning side of the wind-farm energy debate.

ALLEGANY GUARDS’ RIGHTS: A bill that gives Allegany County correctional officers certain rights during investigations and disciplinary proceedings, similar to state correctional officers and officers in some other counties, was signed by Gov. O’Malley earlier last week, writes Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News.

GOP LAMENT: Washington County’s two Republican delegates must navigate the shallow shoals of a Democrat-controlled House to get their agenda through, writes Kaustav Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

MBRG Annapolis Unwrapped 2013GINSENG HARVEST BAN: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is banning the harvesting of wild ginseng on state lands, according to an AP report in the Salisbury Daily Times. The prohibition takes effect Sept. 1, the start of the ginseng season. It doesn’t apply to ginseng found on private land.

KILLINGS IN STATE PRISONS: Even as Gov. Martin O’Malley and state lawmakers celebrate an impending end to Maryland’s death penalty, killings in state prisons — some involving inmates who was serving a relatively short sentence on drug charges — show no signs of tapering off, writes Kevin Rector in the Sun. Mourning relatives and civil liberties advocates say that the trend is unacceptable and that prison officials should be doing more to ensure the safety of prisoners while in state custody.

OPPOSING VIEWS ON O’MALLEY: Alexander Burns and Burgess Everett of Politico write a long piece on Gov. O’Malley, his political ambitions and whether his legislative successes have been a liberal’s push for big government or for better government.

Addressing the Politico piece, Mark Newgent at WatchDogWire.com blasts article, calling it a “fairy tale,” by two people who “uncritically report O’Malley spin as fact.”

The editorial board for the Sun opines that the knock on Gov. O’Malley by his critics is that everything he does is an effort to pad his resume for a presumed run for president. The latest evidence: He enacted Maryland’s most sweeping gun control measures in a generation, abolished the death penalty, laid the groundwork for a wind farm off the Ocean City coast etc. Maybe, writes the opinionaters, Maryland should elect governors with presidential ambitions more often.

IF DUTCH RUNS: David Moon of Maryland Juice conducts a video interview with U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger about his exploring a run for Maryland governor. Ruppersberger speaks about his long experience as Baltimore County executive as well as within Congress and his relationships with those people who have already declared that they are running.

John Wagner of the Post writes that the entrance of Ruppersberger, who is well-known in the Baltimore region, could reshape what already promises to be a very competitive Democratic primary. The two leading hopefuls — Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown — both hail from the Washington region.

JUDGE BELL TO RETIRE: As Robert Bell, the chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, gets ready to retire this summer, Andrea Siegel and Jean Marbella profile the former plaintiff who would replace a former adversary as the highest ranking judge in Maryland. It is one of the more remarkable arcs in the state’s legal history, they write.

FACEBOOK SAFETY PARTNERSHIP: The Sun is reporting that, today, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler is expected announce a partnership with Facebook on a national campaign to educate teens and parents about safety and privacy when using social media.

UNCLAIMED PROPERTY: Comptroller Peter Franchot has released a spoof of the popular Dos Equis’ beer commercials as promotion for Maryland’s unclaimed property website, writes Erin Cox for the Sun. The video is above Cox’s brief article.

U.S. POULTRY RULES: Farming advocates are pressing Sen. Barbara Mikulski to reverse a little-noticed measure approved by Congress last month that rescinded tough new rules on the poultry industry — a move that has strained the already rocky relationship between mom-and-pop chicken farmers on the Eastern Shore and Salisbury-based Perdue, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

CONTRACTOR DONATION: Referencing the Baltimore Brew piece from last week, in which Baltimore City agreed to pay $2.2 million for speed cameras when it wasn’t supposed to pay anything, Adam Meister, a political blogger who writes about the Baltimore City Council, says that the city council president’s reason for approving the allocation was to help minority contractor. That minority contractor, Meister writes, also donated about $1,000 to Young’s campaign over the past two years.

PRAYERS IN CARROLL: Carroll County Commissioner Richard Rothschild used prayer on the first day of budget deliberations Thursday to ask God for guidance so that the board of commissioners would not make decisions that would negatively affect the county taxpayers. The political-sounding prayer did not sit well with Commissioner Doug Howard, reports Christian Alexandersen for the Carroll County Times.

SAFE SCHOOLS IN AA: Tim Pratt of the Capital Gazette reports that, as legislators and gun organizations at the state and national levels are attempting to beef up school safety, and the Maryland General Assembly has passed one of the strictest gun laws in the country, Anne Arundel County Public Schools released statistics showing the rate of referrals for gun and weapons offenses this school year is on pace to top last year. But a review of those statistics also shows the rate of referrals for fighting and attacks on students and staff has dropped.

LEOPOLD OUT OF JAIL: Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold walked out of jail shortly after 10 Friday morning where he has been locked up for 30 days after being convicted of misconduct in January, writes Ian Duncan in the Sun. He also must serve 30 days in home detention and has been ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.

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