April 22, 2013

State Roundup, April 22, 2013

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CONSUMER VICTORIES: Consumer advocates say they didn’t get everything on their wish list during the latest meeting of the General Assembly, but the session produced several victories for Maryland consumers, reports Eileen Ambrose for the Sun. For example, Marylanders would find it easier to buy auto coverage from a state insurance fund, foster children would gain protection from identity thieves and debtors would be less likely to be jailed under bills recently passed by lawmakers.

WHY NO GUN REFERENDUM? Sen. Brian Frosh says the National Rifle Association’s decision to fight Maryland’s yet-to-be-signed gun control law in court rather than at the polls shows the pro-gun organization knows state voters would uphold the law, blogs Alexander Pyles for the Daily Record.

GUN SALES: With a bill imminent for the governor to sign which will narrow the definition of an assault weapon and require more stringent background checks, gun shop owners are experiencing high sales and waiting for what could happen to their shops come October, reports Kelcie Pelger for the Carroll County Times.

STORMWATER FEES: Montgomery County businesses and nonprofits will have to pay as much as $14,000 per year to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay starting July 1, but the county and state won’t have to pay the fee on their government buildings, which account for millions of square feet, reports Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

CYBER REVOLUTION & BULLYING: In an op-ed for the Sun, law professor Michael Meyerson writes that the telecommunications revolution has created the capability of causing far greater harm to children than the bullying many of us remember from when we were young. The omnipresent nature of the Internet means that there is no place for the child who is victimized to hide. Not even one’s home is a safe haven when repeated, vicious attacks appear on Facebook and Twitter.

UNION FEES: Trey Kovacs of the Competitive Enterprise Institute writes, in an op-ed in the Sun, that a bill awaiting the governor’s signature, would force all public school teachers in the state to pay union dues whether they are members of the union or not. Kovacs asks what if teachers don’t want this type of “equity?” What if they don’t want to join a union? What if they want to negotiate their own contract? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to do so?

WA CO VICTORIES: Washington County’s state legislators said that the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly was a productive one for the county, with many delegation bills being approved, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Hearld-Mail. The county also got a $1.55 million share of a wealth-based formula called the disparity grant for fiscal year 2014.

FORECLOSURE IRONY: A Severna Park delegate who has bought and sold foreclosed homes for a living now faces two foreclosure suits himself, writes Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette. Del. Tony McConkey and his wife face foreclosure on two properties they own together in legislative District 33, according to court filings.

O’MALLEY’S FUTURE: After an extraordinarily productive two years in which Gov. Martin O’Malley muscled through legislation on several top priorities — including same-sex marriage,gun control, transportation funding and repealing the death penalty — the question is: What, if anything, is there left for him to do before leaving office? John Wagner attempts to answer the question for the Post.

Susan Page of USA Today profiles Gov. O’Malley for a national audience, comparing his governorship with former Arkansas Gov. (and President) Bill Clinton, as he considers running for president. The article runs in the Salisbury Daily Times. There’s a video interview at the top of the story.

ZIRKIN PONDERS RETIRING: Bryan Sears of Patch.com talks with state Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who has been considering retiring from public life. For the first time since being elected to the House of Delegates in 1998, Sears writes, the now state senator says he’s thinking more about his relationships with his two young daughters than his political relationships in Annapolis.

SEGREGATED SCHOOLS: More than half of Maryland’s black students attend schools where the vast majority of students are nonwhite and poor, according to a report released Thursday that documents intensifying segregation patterns in the state’s public schools over two decades, reports Michael Alison Chandler for the Post.

POT PENALTIES: In recent years, Maryland has taken small steps to scale back laws against possession of marijuana. This year state lawmakers turned down a move to decriminalize the drug, but hundreds of smokers in Baltimore are taking advantage of deals offered by prosecutors to avoid jail time — and convictions on their records, writes Ian Duncan in the Sun.

WATERMAN NEW MD GOP CHAIR: Diana Waterman, the newly elected chairwoman of the Maryland Republican Party, said Sunday that she anticipates a competitive governor’s race next year and is hopeful that the minority party will make gains in the General Assembly, despite the challenges of redistricting, reports John Wagner in the Post.

FBI HQ FOR MD: For Maryland officials, the fight over the new FBI headquarters is about more than just a big building and thousands of jobs — it’s about equality, writes Taylor Holland for the Washington Examiner. All 10 of the state’s congressional leaders have told the federal government that one reason to move the FBI to Maryland rather than Virginia is to promote “regional equity in federal facility distribution.” In other words, it’s Maryland’s turn to get a federal agency.

MIKULSKI PURSE: In addition to having a hand on the nation’s checkbook, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski is reaping a political reward from her new assignment as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee: a significant increase in campaign cash, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

BONGINO ON MESSAGE: Jennifer Allard of the Easton Star Democrat reports that Dan Bongino has said it before: “We are in trouble here in Maryland,” a message the 2012 U.S. senatorial candidate is sticking to. Speaking before the Mid-Shore League of Republican Women, Bongino talked edgy politics openly and affably over lunch with a small group of Talbot County residents and Republican voters whose main concerns for him centered on health care, the economy, the future of the Republican party in Maryland and the country.

SCHOOL AID IN BALTIMORE COUNTY: The editorial board for the Sun writes that, in Baltimore County, like much of Maryland, tax revenues have flat-lined. State aid for such things as road resurfacing is not much better. Yet amid all this austerity, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz proposed a budget that finances new schools and retrofits many others with air conditioning.

TU PRES PART 2: In the second part of Towson University President Maravene Loeschke’s interview with Damian O’Doherty of Center Maryland, she focuses on TU’s commitment to STEM Education, a new leadership program and the important role the university has in the Towson community.