April 17, 2013

State Roundup, April 17, 2013

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GUN CONTROL FIGHT: Meredith Somers of the Washington Times reports that the Maryland State Board of Elections said Tuesday it is reviewing paperwork for a petition to put sweeping firearms legislation on the 2014 ballot, a day before a Maryland state delegate plans to announce progress in an effort to challenge the recently passed gun laws. The online organization MDPetitions.com – the same group that spearheaded the referendum efforts against the Dream Act, gay marriage and redistricting last year submitted the paperwork last week. Those laws were upheld by the voters.

BIDEN PRAISES MARYLAND: Vice President Joe Biden, speaking Tuesday at an event in Baltimore, said he was unsure whether there is enough support in the Senate for what would be the biggest change to federal gun laws in decades, Carrie Wells of the Sun writes. But Biden did praise Gov. O’Malley and the Maryland General Assembly for passing comprehensive gun control legislation, the AP is reporting at WBFF-TV.

FIRST LADY IN ANNAPOLIS TODAY: First lady Michelle Obama will be joining Gov. Martin O’Malley in Annapolis today as he signs a bill designed to help veterans re-enter the workforce, the AP reports on WBFF-TV.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who have all-but-officially announced campaigns for governor, will join the first lady, Steve Lash blogs for the Daily Record.

TU PRES WON’T BE: Towson University President Maravene Loeschke’s expected appearance before the Board of Public Works today over the elimination of some sports will not happen, writes Bryan Sears for Patch.com. Her deputy chief of staff wrote in an email: “The issue has been resolved with the governor and Legislature’s approved intercollegiate athletics donation incentive match program for qualifying University System of Maryland institutions.”

In a video report, Center Maryland’s Damian O’Doherty speaks with Loeschke on TU’s ability to work with the governor to allot $300,000 out of the state budget to allow time for the university’s baseball program to become self sufficient by 2015.

QUESTIONABLE FIGURES: Under the headline “$350,000 for nine months of work?” the editorial board for the Washington Examiner notes a MarylandReporter.com article on the $1.2 million budgeted for five outside contractors to replace the state’s touch-screen voting machines with paper ballots in time for the 2016 presidential elections, and questions the figures, from state elections administrator Linda Lamone, calling them “highly suspect.”

PENSION FUNDING: The outside advisor for the Maryland pension system told its Board of Trustees Tuesday that he was “very disappointed” that the legislature reduced the state’s payment into the retirement fund by $100 million in budget action this month, Len Lazarick writes in MarylandReporter.com. The money comes from $300 million in added contributions of state employees and teachers passed in 2011. It is being set aside for the possible federal budget cuts from sequestration

INVASIVE SPECIES ERADICATION: The State Highway Administration is taking down trees and invasive species along several roads in Anne Arundel County, and in other roadsides, medians and wetlands in nine Maryland counties, to prevent problems with visibility and drainage and to improve the effectiveness of wetlands, writes Zoe Read for the Capital-Gazette. Some drivers, however, are seeing devastation where there was once beautiful greenery.

SENATE, HOUSE RETIREMENTS: The Sun’s Blair Ames reports that the end of the 2014 General Assembly session in Annapolis will mark the end of 48 years in public service for Howard County Sen. Jim Robey, who confirmed he will retire next year after eight years in the Maryland Senate.

Longtime Southwestern Baltimore County state Dels. James Malone and Steven DeBoy, who also serve parts of Howard County, both announced Monday that they will not seek reelection in 2014, writes Julie Baughman for the Sun.

MBRG Annapolis Unwrapped 2013

LEFT LEANING: Some Eastern Shore lawmakers said the Maryland General Assembly has made a shift to the left side of the political spectrum, writes Josh Bollinger for the Easton Star Democrat. Sen. Richard Colburn said, “Now, with the legislative session over, the state faces the question of whether Maryland is becoming a liberal bastion equivalent to Massachusetts, California and Vermont. I believe Maryland is becoming more liberal than those states.”

STORMWATER FEE ACTION: A state senator from Pasadena has called on Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman to veto the stormwater tax narrowly passed by the County Council Monday night, reports Allison Bourg for the Capital Gazette. Simonaire asked Neuman to send the legislation back to councilmen and order the council to lower the tax, which takes effect in July, to $1.

Meanwhile, Harford County residents will be charged a $125 stormwater fee, but will only be required to pay 10% of it, reports Bryna Zumer for the Aegis. After weeks of debate, the Harford County Council Tuesday passed a significantly amended version of the contentious stormwater fee bill, designed to generate funds to help treat stormwater and improve water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.

GOP CHAIR ELECTION: Amid internal bickering and following a session full of Democratic victories, the Maryland Republican Party is scheduled to meet this weekend in Timonium to elect a new state central committee chair, reports Holly Nunn for the Gazette.

WICOMICO BUDGET: Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt approved a $127 million budget for fiscal 2014, $10 million more than this year with the majority of expenses going to education and public safety, Jennifer Shutt reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

CITY SPEED CAMERAS SHUT DOWN: Baltimore City officials announced Tuesday that they have suspended the city’s troubled speed camera program amid fresh reports of erroneous tickets, this time involving a new multimillion-dollar camera network, report Scott Calvert and Luke Broadwater in the Sun.