May 1, 2013

State Roundup, May 1, 2013

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GOP SHAKEUP IN HOUSE: Vastly outnumbered and constantly thwarted by Democrats, Republicans in the House of Delegates ousted longtime Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell Tuesday and replaced him with Anne Arundel County Del. Nic Kipke, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

Kipke acknowledged that it will be a challenge to pick up seats using a map that was “gerrymandered” to favor Democrats, reports John Wagner in The Washington Post. But he said the party can make gains by working with a number of Republican party and conservative advocacy organizations to promote their initiatives.

Freshman Del. Kathy Szeliga of Baltimore and Harford counties was elected minority whip, reports Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

This was the third attempt to oust O’Donnell, with Kipke leading a similar effort in 2011 that failed, the AP is reporting in the Daily Record.

FROM GOP TO UNAFFILIATED: Longtime Republican Richard Cross writes in a column for the Sun that he’s become an “Unaffiliated” conservative, saying, “I came to the realization that Maryland needs a countervailing force to its ruling political establishment, and the hapless MDGOP party organization isn’t cutting it and likely never will.”

O’MALLEY ON CITY JAIL SCANDAL: As critics of Gov. Martin O’Malley sensed a new political vulnerability, the governor insisted Tuesday that last week’s indictment of inmates and correctional officers at the Baltimore City Detention Center was “a positive achievement” in Maryland’s fight against violent gangs, Michael Dresser writes in the Sun. Here’s Sun video of the governor speaking.

Gov. O’Malley said he learned of the ongoing problems at the Baltimore City Detention Center last spring, at which point he directed Gary Maynard, the head of Maryland’s prisons, to fully cooperate with a prison task force led by federal officials, reports John Wagner in the Post.

O’Malley said changes are needed that include a revamped process for hiring corrections officers after 13 female officers were among 25 people indicted in an alleged contraband-smuggling conspiracy at a Baltimore jail, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette reports that O’Malley said he shares “the public’s revulsion” at allegations of corruption at the Baltimore City Detention Center but remains confident in public safety officials who oversee the state’s prisons.

Here’s WBFF-TV’s report on O’Malley’s reaction. And here’s WJZ-TV’s story.

UNION RESPONSE: The union that represents Maryland correctional officers identified several systemic weaknesses at the detention center — weaknesses that are likely rampant in prison systems statewide. Chief among them was the critical lack of staffing in the detention center, reports Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com.

NO GOOD SPIN: The Sun editorial board opines that the governor’s chipper assessment of the indictment of 25 gang members and corrections officers falls far short of taking responsibility. There is no good face that can be put on an inmate bragging, with no small justification, that he ran the jail.

STATE SETTLES SUIT: The O’Malley administration has settled a class action lawsuit brought by critics who accused the state of failing low-income and disabled Marylanders by regularly taking nearly a year to approve medical assistance applications as part of a severe backlog, writes Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

DEATH PENALTY FIGHT: The group that led efforts to petition three measures to Maryland’s ballot last fall could announce a decision by the end of the week on whether it will launch a drive to overturn legislation repealing the death penalty, the Post’s John Wagner is reporting.

GUN PETITIONS: If you hate Maryland’s new gun law and wish you could vote against it, Sue Payne is looking for you. The Montgomery County woman last week filed paperwork with the Board of Elections to petition the controversial new gun-control bill to referendum, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

RED LINE: If all goes according to plan, the Maryland Transit Administration’s long-debated Red Line, connecting southeastern Baltimore City with the west side of Baltimore County, will be running by 2021. Dan Rodricks of WYPR-FM takes a look at the early stages of the Red Line plans with the executive director of the MTA’s Transit Development and Delivery office among others.

RUN FOR GOV: Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that Del. Ron George, a Republican who operates a jewelry store almost under the shadow of the State House, will go for the political gold as he makes a run for governor in 2014.

Alex Jackson of the Capital-Gazette quotes George as saying, “My plan is to really build a new Maryland, one that has true economic growth, not government-created jobs that don’t last long.”

NORRIS RECUPERATING: Former State Police Superintendent and current radio show host Ed Norris is recuperating at home following last week’s accident in northern Harford County in which he was injured while avoiding a collision between his motorcycle and a truck, reports Allan Vought of the Aegis.

LEOPOLD SERVES: Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold is completing his court-ordered community service at the Anne Arundel County Food Bank, writes Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette.

HUFF GETS PROBATION: Baltimore County Councilman Todd Huff was sentenced Tuesday to one year in jail suspended and 24 months supervised probation after pleading guilty two weeks ago to one count of drunken driving, Bryan Sears reports for Patch.com. The judge also ordered Huff to complete a 26-week alcohol treatment program that the councilman has already started, writes Allison Knezevich for the Sun.