April 25, 2013

State Roundup, April 25, 2013

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LAWMAKERS REACT TO JAIL INDICTMENTS: Maryland lawmakers are expressing a range of reactions — from outright anger to qualified support of the O’Malley administration — following allegations that state prison guards helped a gang operate a drug-trafficking scheme from behind bars at a Baltimore City jail, reports John Wagner for the Post.

Senate President Mike Miller said the accusations detailed in a federal indictment this week were “disgraceful” and “unbelievable.” And some state legislators took aim at corrections department Secretary Gary Maynard, report Erin Cox and Ian Duncan in the Sun. Already, lawmakers have suggested investigative hearings into the situation at the jail, have contacted auditors to review the prison system, and have called for Maynard to explain what happened.

Del. Michael Smigiel, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee, says Secretary Maynard, the head of the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, needs to step aside, reports Christian Schaffer for WMAR-TV.

OFFICER ‘BILL OF RIGHTS’ EYED: Ian Duncan of the Sun reports that the corruption allegations have focused attention on the extensive “bill of rights” that protects state corrections officers who face disciplinary proceedings, a measure that union leaders hailed when it passed the General Assembly in 2010. Those protections left jail officers without fear of sanctions for allegedly smuggling contraband or having relationships with inmates, the FBI said in an affidavit made public this week.

WHO WAS IN CHARGE? In a column for the Sun, Dan Rodricks simply asks, “Who was in charge when all this stuff was happening?” – oh, “and did the guards who were impregnated by an inmate given maternity leave?”

BUY AMERICA BILL: A bill that would require many contractors and subcontractors on government projects to use American-created goods is awaiting Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News. The bill overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly by votes of 46-0 in the Senate and 132-2 in the House of Delegates.

A BAD IDEA: Columnist Marta Mossburg, writing the Sun, says that forcing landlords across the state to accept Section 8 vouchers so that low-income people could have access to better neighborhoods and schools sounds like a great idea, but fails to take into account human nature and the realities of the situation.

UNION PACTS: Local labor organizations are claiming victory this week after brokering a pair of agreements that will ensure the use of union labor in every aspect of a new $375 million downtown Baltimore City casino project. Backed by special legislation from Maryland state government, the proposed Horseshoe Casino is expected to create 1,200 permanent jobs, writes Bruce Vail for In These Times.

PUB GRUBSTAKE: In a somewhat unorthodox designation of state funding last week, the Maryland Board of Public Works granted a $300,000 refinancing loan to a bar-restaurant, The Limerick Pub, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com.

O’MALLEY, TOP ISRAELIS MEET:Gov. Martin O’Malley met Wednesday with top Israeli officials, including Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as part of an eight-day economic development trip to Israel and Jordan, writes the Post’s John Wagner.

O’MALLEY FOR PRESIDENT? Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post interviews Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young, a frequent O’Malley critic, about O’Malley’s presidential ambitions. The interview is folded into an AP story about O’Malley’s Middle East trip, in which O’Malley again addresses his political future.

Andy Brownfield of the Washington Examiner speaks with elections experts on the normalcy of a likely presidential candidate making oversees trips and the turnover in O’Malley’s staff.

U.S. REP. EDWARDS IN ARUNDEL: In an outreach to Anne Arundel County seniors, U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards will visit Pasadena next month to discuss policies and take questions from constituents, writes Zoe Read in the Capital-Gazette.

AN ED NORRIS INJURED: The Dagger runs a press release from the State Police about a motorcycle accident in which the rider, an Edward Norris of Hampstead, is injured and taken to Shock Trauma. The headline reads, Radio Host, Former Top Cop Ed Norris Airlifted Following Motorcycle Accident in Darlington. There is no confirmation of the headline in the press release.

TOLLIVER DENIES CLAIM: Calling the allegation “absolutely not true,” Anne Arundel County Police Chief Larry Tolliver answered claims Wednesday that he retaliated against officers who testified against the former county executive, Ben Weathers reports for the Capital-Gazette. You can read the letter from Arundel Councilman Jamie Benoit outlining the complaints to County Executive Laura Neuman. And here is Neuman’s response.

PHONE CONSULTANT: Baltimore City’s spending panel agreed Wednesday to hire a consultant in an attempt to save money on the city’s outdated phone system — even as agencies say they’ve identified nearly 1,200 unused phone lines that cost the city $670,000 annually, writes Luke Broadwater for the Sun.