May 16, 2013

State Roundup, May 16, 2013

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GUN CONTROL BILL SIGNING: Gov. Martin O’Malley will sign into law one of the nation’s strictest gun-control measures today, a major victory after months of contentious debate during this year’s legislative session, reports Aaron Davis in the Post. But the signing of the law, which goes into effect Oct. 1, isn’t the end of the fight. A new battle begins to convince judges and voters that it was the right response to last year’s school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

The new law, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner, would outlaw the sale of 45 assault rifles, require licensing and fingerprinting for new handgun purchases, restrict ammunition magazines to 10 rounds and outlaw gun ownership by the mentally ill. It would become effective Oct. 1.

In a related story, Brownfield writes that groups have long ranked Maryland among the strictest states when it comes to gun ownership — both the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence rank Maryland seventh among states with the strictest gun laws.

Advertisements praising Maryland’s new gun control law will appear on Baltimore-area televisions soon after the measure is signed — the first volley in a two-pronged effort to defend the legislation and the politicians who voted for it, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.

OTHER BILLS TO BE SIGNED: Gov. O’Malley plans to sign more than 250 bills into law today, including one to raise taxes on gas to yield more money for transportation projects, writes John Wagner of the Post.

TAX COLLECTION FEE: A Pennsylvania collections firm has pried Maryland back taxes out of delinquent taxpayers so well that the comptroller’s office just got approval for $300,000 more from the Board of Public Works to pay the agency’s commissions, writes Christopher Goins for MarylandReporter.com.

$271 FOR O’MALLEY: For once, Gov. O’Malley got a pleasant surprise from Comptroller Peter Franchot at the start of a Board of Public Works meeting, according to an AP report in the Daily Record. Franchot presented the governor with a check for $271 from the comptroller’s unclaimed properties division Wednesday.

The check — apparently a royalty from O’Malley’s cameo appearance as Baltimore’s mayor in “Ladder 49″ (a 2004 film starring Joaquin Phoenix and John Travolta) — made O’Malley the 7,001st Marylander to find unclaimed property this year, blogs Alexander Pyles for the Daily Record.

CASINO BID: Greenwood Racing’s bid to build a Parx Casino in Fort Washington came as a surprise to many following Maryland’s gambling saga, but company officials say the move had always been in the cards, reports Matt Connolly for the Washington Examiner.

ECONOMY’S FUTURE: Eileen Ambrose of the Sun writes that the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond is saying that Maryland for years benefited from its close proximity to the nation’s capital, but the mandatory federal spending cuts called sequestration will be a drag on the state’s economy for the next couple of years.

DEM PART PROTEST FOLLOWUP: David Moon of Maryland Juice has been following the labor union protest of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s annual spring fund-raiser, which was Saturday, and provides a range of photos, videos, and newspaper commentary describing and reacting to the conflict.

BROWN TO PRESENT PREAKNESS TROPHY: John Wagner of the Post reports that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who announced his campaign for governor last week, should get some national television exposure Saturday: He is scheduled to present the trophy to the winner of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

DEL. MYERS’ FUTURE: Del. LeRoy Myers announced Wednesday that he will not seek re-election to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2014, ending a run as a state legislator that began with an upset victory in 2002 over longtime House Speaker Cas Taylor, a Western Maryland Democratic heavyweight. Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that Myers is getting ready for a second act in politics.

TUITION HIKE: Maryland’s in-state undergraduates will pay a few hundred dollars more per semester this fall under a new tuition-and-fee plan approved Wednesday by the university system’s Board of Regents, reports Tricia Bishop in the Sun. Out-of-state students will be hit a little harder, paying as much as $1,060 more, for example, at the University of Maryland, College Park.

LOBBY FIRM MERGER: The Annapolis-based law firm Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver LLC has acquired and is merging with the Law Offices of Arnold M. Weiner, located in Baltimore. The merger will go into effect on July 1, according to a statement from the firms released Wednesday, writes Steve Kilar in the Sun. (A much more detailed story is in the Daily Record, but behind its paywall.)

NO SIGN WAVING: Anne Arundel County Councilman John Grasso said he’ll introduce legislation to allow people to wave signs along Anne Arundel roadways after he got cited for doing so early Wednesday morning, reports Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette.

NO SMITH ISLAND BUYOUT: Tim Wheeler of the Sun reports that a proposed buyout of Smith Island homeowners to help them escape future damage from tropical storms and rising waters has been dropped amid vocal resistance from residents of the low-lying community in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.

LOWER VOTING AGE: A national movement to grant more teens the right to vote scored its first victory this week with the passage of legislation in Takoma Park, to lower the voting age in municipal elections to 16. But momentum continued Wednesday as advocates in Massachusetts spoke at the statehouse in favor of allowing 17-year-olds to vote, reports Andrea Noble in the Washington Times.

The Takoma Park City Council also voted to allow convicted felons- who have served their time – to vote in city elections, according to a report at WBFF-TV.

GAZETTE SHUTS TWO PAPERS: The Gazette has shut down its Frederick and Mount Airy editions, the newspaper is reporting. Owner Post-Newsweek Media said the company will continue to publish community weeklies in Montgomery, Prince George’s and Fairfax (Va.) counties where the business models are strong.

Cara Anthony of the Frederick News-Post reports that 18 full-time and 12 part-time workers were laid off from the Frederick Gazette.