April 29, 2013

State Roundup, April 29, 2013

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JAIL SCANDAL: Corrections officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center were preparing for a middle-of-the-night search of jail cells to root out drugs, cellphones, weapons and other contraband inmates had stashed away. But hours before the planned checks in January, an FBI affidavit says, word reached Tavon White, an inmate who prosecutors say reigned as the jailhouse leader of a violent gang called the Black Guerrilla Family. White’s alleged tipster, according to court records: a corrections officer at the jail. Ian Duncan, Kevin Rector and Scott Calvert write the story for the Sun.

State corrections Secretary Gary Maynard ordered polygraph tests Friday of top administrators and “integrity reviews” of every employee at the Baltimore City Detention Center in an effort to root out corruption at the jail, writes Kevin Rector for the Sun.

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler called last week’s indictments of more than a dozen state corrections officers “egregious and outrageous” and said he is confident federal prosecutors will get to the bottom of the scandal.

Reviewing national media coverage of the Black Guerrilla Family’s virtual takeover of the Baltimore City Detention Center, it’s impossible not to feel the pressure mounting on Gov. Martin O’Malley who is expected to return this week from a trip to the Middle East, writes Sun media columnist David Zurawik. And how he handles the scandal could go a long way in determining how well he does or doesn’t do with those national aspirations we’ve been hearing so much about the last year.

NO STATE-STAT DATA: Mark Newgent of Red Maryland writes that StateStat, Gov. O’Malley’s vaunted data metric system for measuring government performance, contains no specific information on contraband seizures for the facility at the heart of prison scandal where the U.S. Justice Department alleges several guards assisted the Black Guerrilla Family gang in drug trafficking and money laundering.

OPENED CELLS: In other jail news, officials declared a security emergency early Saturday morning after the locks of more than 500 cell doors at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Md., simultaneously opened, Jessica Chasmar reports in the Washington Times.

No inmates tried to escape and the situation was handled without incident, reports Kate Jacobson for the Washington Examiner. Police and staff were called as part of emergency situation procedure.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL GUN LAW? Now that the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 has been passed by Maryland lawmakers, the question is whether a possible Supreme Court lawsuit by the National Rifle Association against Maryland will find the bill unconstitutional, Josh Bollinger reports for the Easton Star-Democrat. Sen. Richard Colburn say, “I think it (bill) is so broadly written that it does violate the Second Amendment. The only way to get the answer to that question is to take it to the court.”

GUN FORUM TURNS HEATED: What began as an orderly forum about state gun laws Saturday quickly turned into an emotionally charged showdown between gun owners and state Senate Democrats. Cara Anthony of the Frederick News-Post writes that the energy of the room forced one attendee to leave, soon after a short question-and-answer session with the senators began. “People who own guns feel so threatened, they think their guns are going to be taken away from them, it’s a bunch of bologna,” she said. “The energy in there is so negative.”

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION OVERSIGHT: Becca Heller of MarylandReporter.com reports that the Interagency Committee on School Construction, which oversees the state’s $336 million annual school construction budget, had problems overseeing construction projects, recovering state funds and reporting on maintenance inspections.

RX POT’S UNCERTAIN FUTURE: Maryland’s “yellow-light approach” to freeing marijuana for medical use may as well be a red light, some advocates say. Jeremy Cox of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that as the dust settles from the measure’s avalanche of support in the General Assembly, supporters on both sides of the Chesapeake Bay are skeptical it will make any difference for patients anytime soon — if ever.

MED-SPA REGULATIONS: Maryland is moving to toughen regulations on the fast-growing med-spa industry — a move designed to narrow a “loophole” and prevent deaths such as one last year following a liposuction treatment at a Timonium facility, reports Scott Dance in the Sun. Regulations being discussed by state officials would bar plastic surgeons from performing liposuction and other procedures in med-spas and medical offices unless the facilities are inspected by the government or third-party accrediting bodies.

HOTEL SPENDING: Alex Jackson of the Captial-Gazette is reporting that Anne Arundel County Democrats in the General Assembly outspent Republicans 47-to-1 on taxpayer-funded hotel stays during the 2013 session. Six of 10 county Democrats asked the state for lodging reimbursements totaling more than $47,000, with five claiming the maximum amount of $9,191.

WIND WORRIES: A wind power project proposed on the lower Eastern Shore that’s struggling to overcome objections from the Navy has a new, airborne worry — bald eagles, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

ISRAELI-MD PARTNERSHIP: Gov. O’Malley’s office is announcing a new Maryland/Israel Development Partnership to fund joint development efforts by Maryland and Israeli companies in the cybersecurity and life sciences sectors, according to an AP report at WBAL-AM.

TROUBLED GOP: It’s not easy being a Maryland Republican, writes Kate Havard for the Weekly Standard. In November, voters rebuffed two Republican-backed initiatives, thus upholding same-sex marriage and approving in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. When the legislature convened in January, Gov. O’Malley, feeling the momentum from his ballot-box victories, laid out an ambitious agenda: repeal the death penalty, pass some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation and raise the gas tax by as much as 20 cents per gallon by mid-2016.

DEMS FOR GOV:John Wagner of the Post is reporting that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is poised to announce next month that he is running for governor, is in discussions with Howard County Executive Ken Ulman about joining his ticket, a move that could shake up the governor’s race.

Lt. Gov. Brown emerged as the leading choice for Maryland’s next governor in a straw poll conducted at a gathering this weekend of Democrats in the western part of the state. But the second place finish by Del. Heather Mizeur seems to have created just as much buzz.

DELANEY AT DEM GATHERING: The ninth annual Western Maryland Democratic Summit on Saturday drew the state’s party heavyweights from the U.S. Senate, House and Statehouse, but also featured something this part of the state has not had in many years — a Democrat representing Washington, Garrett and Allegany counties, reports Don Aines for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. U.S. Rep. John Delaney was among the speakers at Saturday’s event. Delaney defeated longtime Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the November 2012 general election for the seat representing Western Maryland.

Delaney didn’t urge the crowd on to partisan warfare. He advocated compromise on economic issues, saying that Democrats need to work with Republicans “because they’re not entirely wrong” on some of those, writes Ryan Marshall of the Gazette.

REPUBLICANS RUNNING: Amid all the talk of Democrats running for governor, WBFF-TV speaks with some of the Republicans who are considering a run for the seat as well.

JUDGE’S SSA WORKLOAD: Administrative law judges who evaluate disability claims for the Social Security Administration want a federal court to ease a workload that they say makes errors more likely and possibly costing millions of taxpayer dollars, reports Yvonne Wenger in the Sun.

FRAUD PROTECTION: Small businesses would be protected from the type of fraud allegedly committed by Harford County payroll firm AccuPay Inc. under legislation being proposed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Lorraine Mirabella reports in the Sun.

MO CO AIR: The air quality in Montgomery County received a mixed report from the American Lung Association Wednesday, earning an “F” for its levels of ozone pollution but showing improvement in its levels of particle pollution, Daniel Leaderman reports in the Gazette.