April 26, 2013

State Roundup, April 26, 2013

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JAIL SCANDAL: John Wagner of the Post reports that Maryland lawmakers announced plans Thursday for a hearing and called for a blue-ribbon commission in response to the indictments this week of 13 corrections officers who allegedly helped a gang run a drug-trafficking operation behind bars in Baltimore.

One of the corrections officers accused this week of helping Black Guerrilla Family members smuggle drugs into a Baltimore jail was flagged seven years ago for alleged gang ties, Ian Duncan of the Sun reports.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Maryland’s largest labor union, takes exception to a federal prosecutor’s charge that legal protections offered to correctional officers go too far, according to WBAL-TV

Lawmakers say after the seizure of more than 1,300 cell phones last year, the indictments make it clear that inmates and guard knew they wouldn’t be much of a punishment if they were caught, reports Christian Schaffer for WMAR-TV.

Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM hosts a one-hour program on the jail scandal, looking at race, gender, class, prison culture and mass incarceration with Del. Jill Carter; Sen. Lisa Gladden; Vikki Law, author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women; Hassan Giordano of the Baltimore Independent Examiner and publisher of DMVDaily.com; Jacqueline Robarge of Power Inside; and Sue Esty of AFSCME Council 3.

STORMWATER TAX: The “rain tax,” as opponents have dubbed the stormwater runoff fees set to kick in July 1, is likely to be modified, key legislative leaders told a business group Thursday. The fees could amount to hundreds of dollars for residents of some counties and thousands more for businesses and even churches, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman on Thursday vetoed that county’s version of the so-called rain tax — making it the first jurisdiction to take action against the controversial state-mandated stormwater management fee, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.

In this column for the Capital-Gazette, Neuman explains why she vetoed the legislation.

INTERNET SALES TAXES: Maryland and Virginia are both counting on new taxes on Internet sales, being voted on by Congress, to keep prices lower at the gas pump, Andy Brownfield writes in the Washington Examiner.

Pat Warren of WJZ-TV reports that Comptroller Peter Franchot says that the state could bring in $175 million a year in Internet sales taxes.

DEATH PENALTY REPEAL: Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to sign a law abolishing capital punishment in Maryland next week, though a referendum effort may be on the horizon, Erin Cox of the Sun writes. The group mdpetitions.com, which organized three ballot drives over the past two years, has submitted possible petition language to the Maryland Board of Elections for approval.

GUN GROUPS THREATEN SUITS: A gun owners’ rights group has threatened to sue 35 Maryland counties or municipalities unless they repeal regulations that the group says violate state gun laws, the AP’s David Dishneau reports in the Salisbury Daily Times. The Second Amendment Foundation of Bellevue, Wash., said Thursday that Maryland is the third state targeted in its campaign to eliminate more-restrictive local laws in states where local governments have little or no authority to regulate firearms.

Jim Bach of the Diamondback reports about the nation’s foremost gun lobbying group – the National Rifle Association, which is taking Maryland’s new gun control measures to task by planning to challenge the constitutionality of the law in court.

MEDICARE CUTS & HOSPITALS: The state’s hospitals would absorb all of the 2% Medicare cuts required by federal sequestration under a proposal released Thursday by the state panel that sets hospital rates, writes the Sun’s Andrea Walker.

LOWER CORPORATE TAX? Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, is predicting that Maryland’s 8.25% corporate income tax will be lowered next year, at least by the Maryland Senate.

MIZEUR WHACKS BACK: David Moon of Maryland Juice points out a few newsy tidbits, the newest being the response from Del. Heather Mizeur’s campaign to Dan Rodrick’s Sun column of U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s possible run for governor. The campaign took issue with Rodrick’s calling the governor’s seat “the big-daddy chair” among other snubs toward the gubernatorial candidate. See Juice #2.

SIDDIQUI CONSIDERS SENATE RUN: Howard County Board of Education member Janet Siddiqui is considering running in 2014 for the seat in the state Senate, Luke Lavoie reports in the Howard County Times.

DEMS SUMMIT IN HAGERSTOWN: Top Democrats from the state will converge in Hagerstown on Saturday for an annual summit of Western Maryland Democrats, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. And although Western Maryland hasn’t been a Democrat stronghold in recent years, party leaders said they were buoyed by significant gains made in the 2012 election such as a strong showing by U.S. Congressman John Delaney.

FEDERAL CELL PHONE ABUSE: Maryland was cited as the second biggest abuser of a controversial federal program that funds cell phones for people already receiving government aid, Jeff Abell of WBFF-TV reports.