April 19, 2013

State Roundup, April 19, 2013

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BROCHIN DEFENDS TU PRES: Chris Korman, in a column for the Sun, writes that Sen. Jim Brochin of Towson is defending TU President Maravene Loeschke from the onslaught of criticism by Comptroller Peter Franchot over the cancellation of two men’s sports programs saying, “When … Dr. Wallace Loh gutted (the University of Maryland’s) swim program and decimated the hopes of thousands of swimmers who thought one day they could swim for the school, the comptroller was silent. President Loh wasn’t asked to explain himself to the Board (of Public Works). … when Maryland moved to the Big Ten and broke open meetings laws, the comptroller again did not say one word. I simply do not understand this double standard.”

HOMEOWNERS BILLS: In addition to an extension of the Homestead Tax Credit application deadline, several other pieces of legislation relevant to homeowners passed both chambers of the General Assembly during the most recent session, reports Steve Kilar of the Sun. Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to sign them — provided they pass a constitutional review.

CECIL COUNCIL OPPOSES GUN MEASURE: Cheryl Mattix of the Cecil Whig reports that Cecil County Councilman Alan McCarthy hopes to get the attention of state lawmakers this week by sending the message that the council opposes the recent gun law passed by the General Assembly, but not yet signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

NEW CHIEF OF STAFF: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday named John Griffin, a veteran of state government and currently secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, as his next chief of staff, writes John Wagner in the Post. Griffin, 66, will replace long-time aide Matthew Gallagher, 40, who is leaving the governor’s office in June to lead a philanthropic foundation in Baltimore.

PRISON PROGRAM: In a column for the Sun, attorney Matthew Vocci writes about a prison program that cuts prison sentences. In Maryland, the rehab program allows prisoners to complete in-prison drug and mental health treatment in exchange for conditional parole and treatment opportunities available outside the fence, he writes. To be eligible for program, the participants must undergo months of treatment within prison and serve at least 25% of their sentence.

BAY BRIDGE WORK: In an effort to improve safety, the three-lane span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge will soon have new lane markings, rumble strips and signs, according to a story in the Salisbury Daily Times. The Maryland Transportation Authority said the upgrades to the west-bound span are intended to make driving over the bridge safer, especially when there is two-way traffic.

LOWERY ON ED: Maryland Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery spoke about the state’s public education system and the new Common Core standards and answered questions during the Business Before Hours breakfast held at Deep Creek Lake, writes Elaine Blaisdell for the Cumberland Times-News.

MIDDLE EAST TRIP: Gov. O’Malley plans to depart Saturday on an eight-day trade mission to Israel and Jordan, a trip that was rescheduled as a result of last fall’s violence in the Gaza Strip, writes John Wagner in the Post.

SOCIAL MEDIA SECURITY: Led by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, the National Association of Attorney Generals has teamed up with Facebook to improve social media security with the launch of a new consumer education program, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com.

GOP BLOGGERS REACT: Conservative bloggers are hitting back at the just-announced Maryland GOP policy of credentialing bloggers to cover its events.

Mark Newgent at Red Maryland wrote, “It is incredulous that MDGOP leadership would make it official policy to treat conservative bloggers, who are ideologically predisposed to the party, as second-class citizens compared to traditional media outlets that are not inclined to give the party favorable coverage, let alone even report on party events or initiatives.”

Clearly this policy, as communicated by MDGOP Executive Director David Ferguson, is a petulant response to the steady string of criticisms the party establishment has received from me and many other members of the blogosphere, blogs Richard Cross.

Jeff Quinton writes, “Basically, the rules show laziness by letting other credentialing bodies do all the work. Additionally, there seems to be an attempt to shut out bloggers. … This would appear to be a pathetic attempt to reign in those bloggers. It won’t work and the current MD GOP leadership now has egg on their faces.”

Cornell Law associate professor William Jacobson, on his Legal Insurrection blog, asks “Is the Maryland GOP really that stupid? (hint, you betcha).”

COUNTY COUNCILMAN PLEADS GUILTY: Baltimore County Councilman Todd Huff will have to wait until April 30 to learn his sentence after pleading guilty to driving under the influence, reports Bryan Sears for Patch.com. Huff pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement for the Feb. 23 arrest. In return, prosecutors agreed to drop all other charges.

Huff, 44, told the judge that his arrest has been difficult for him as a person in the public eye. He said he wanted to apologize to his family, colleagues and constituents, Alison Knezevich writes in the Sun.

FEEL THE PAIN: Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit wants those fellow lawmakers planning to vote to legalize Tasers and other electronic control devices in Anne Arundel to feel the jolt in a public forum, reports Allison Bourg of the Capital Gazette.

SENATE GRILLS PEREZ: Thomas Perez, the former Maryland labor secretary nominated to lead the U.S. Department of Labor, faced pointed questions at his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday about whether politics influenced his decisions as the top civil rights attorney in the U.S. Justice Department, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

TOLL DODGERS: Holly Nunn in the Gazette reports on the bill that will allow the Maryland Transportation Authority to suspend the licenses of motorists who are not paying their tolls on the Intercounty Connector and other facilities.

WESTERN MD. DEMS: Ryan Marshall of the Gazette does an advance article on the Democratic summit in Western Maryland next weekend.

NOTEBOOK: The political items are now at the end of the Gazette’s Reporters Notebook; they include Roscoe Bartlett on extraterrestrials; Rep. Paul Ryan to speak at GOP dinner; and Peter Franchot hawking unclaimed property.

ABORTIONIST’S TRIAL: Gazette columnist Blair Lee describes what he calls a media cover-up of the trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermitt Gosnell.