May 2, 2013

State Roundup, May 2, 2013

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PRISON ASSAULT SETTLEMENT: The Board of Public Works reluctantly approved a request by the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to provide $40,000 in settlement to inmate Michael Smith, who was brutally assaulted multiple times while in state custody, Becca Heller reports for MarylandReporter.com.

Smith alleged that when he was transferred to a Hagerstown prison after an initial beating, his request to be placed in a segregated unit was rejected and he was put in the general population, where he was assaulted again, reports Carrie Wells and Michael Dresser for the Sun. He was assaulted once again at a Jessup facility, he said.

The settlement with Smith comes as spotlights have already shone on deep-rooted gang activity as well as a recent spate of violence in the state’s prisons system. Seven inmates have been killed in Maryland since September, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky write in the Post.

CITY JAIL SCANDAL: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake met with Gov. Martin O’Malley Wednesday night following her request to get “some answers” about alleged corruption at the city jail, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

THE SKEPTIC: “Pardon me,” writes Dan Rodricks in a column for the Sun, “but I tend to be a little skeptical about what this governor says when it comes to matters of criminal justice. And, of course, when you’re running for president, you have to spin anything that looks as if it has a remote chance of tarnishing your record.” Rodricks is a long-time critic of O’Malley’s approach to crime problems.

SIGNED INTO LAW TODAY: Gov. O’Malley will sign more than 200 bills into law today, including one addressing cyber-bullying, according to WMAR-TV.

O’Malley will sign legislation this morning abolishing capital punishment in Maryland — a goal of his since he took office in 2007, writes the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

O’Malley also will sign legislation legalizing medical marijuana in Maryland under limited circumstances, writes Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

A shark fin bill passed by Maryland lawmakers is drawing support from fishing and conservation interests. It too is expected to be signed into law today, according to WBFF-TV.

O’Malley also is expected to sign an oyster shell recycling bill that provides a dollar a bushel tax credit for empty oyster shells, up to $750 a year. Those shells are needed for restoration efforts because young oysters raised in hatcheries prefer to attach to adult oyster shells, WMAR-TV is reporting.

ONLINE SALES TAX: The Board of Public Works raised a unified voice yesterday in calling on Congress to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act that would impose a state tax for online sales and, in effect, hold down Maryland’s gas tax increase, blogs Alexander Pyles in the Daily Record.

OVERLOOKED ACTION: Opinionator Laslo Boyd, now opining at Center Maryland, writes that among the significant actions in this past General Assembly session, one has been completely overlooked: House Speaker Michael Busch’s formation of a work group to come up with ideas to revitalize the Baltimore region.

ARCHIVIST PAPENFUSE TO RETIRE: Edward Papenfuse, an Annapolis icon who has presided over the Maryland State Archives for almost 38 years, announced this week that he will retire as of Nov. 1.

HADDAWAY-RICCIO’S NEXT STEP: After three years as whip for Maryland House Republicans, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is planning her next career move. While the third-term delegate was voted out of her leadership position by fellow Republicans she plans to focus her efforts on constituents, her business and politics, writes Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.

HER REPLACEMENT: Josh Bollinger of the Easton Star Democrat writes that her replacement, Del. Kathy Szeliga, said, “We thought that we could bring some new ideas to the caucus. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a fresh set of eyes looking at things.”

DISTRICT 14 SLATE: Sen. Karen Montgomery and Dels. Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke and Craig Zucker announced the formation of the District 14 Team slate, after each filed for re-election April 9, writes Terri Hogan for the Gazette.

SEEKS HARRISON’S SEAT: A Northeast Baltimore City community leader plans to step down from the city’s Board of Elections to run for a state delegate seat once held by Del. Hattie Harrison, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. Cory McCray, 30, said he plans to run for the seat, now held by Nina Harper, who was appointed to succeed Harrison, a Democrat who died in January after nearly 40 years in office.

HOSPITAL CUTS: Maryland hospitals said they will need to cut jobs and patient services after a state panel voted Wednesday to keep hospital rates flat, despite a 2% cut in Medicare payments required by federal sequestration, Andrea Walker of the Sun reports.

TOWERS TO STAY OPEN: Five air traffic control towers in Maryland that had been scheduled to shut down in June as a result of federal budget cuts are now expected to remain open, lawmakers said Wednesday — easing fears that the closures could back up flights at BWI Marshall Airport, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

AA COUNCIL ADJUSTS STORMWATER FEE: The Anne Arundel County Council introduced emergency legislation Wednesday afternoon to modify the county’s stormwater fee – dubbed the “rain tax” by opponents — after voting 5-2 to override County Executive Laura Neuman’s veto, writes Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette.

PRAYER SUIT: Two residents will challenge the Carroll County Board of Commissioners in federal court to end its process of starting each meeting with a sectarian prayer to Jesus Christ, writes Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times. The residents are suing the county because they believe the commissioners’ sectarian prayers are unconstitutional.