May 17, 2013

State Roundup, May 17, 2013

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BILL SIGNING, SERENADE: Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday signed bills to give Maryland some of the strictest gun laws in the nation and hike the state’s gas tax, writes Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette.

The gun law bans the sale of assault-style rifles, including the AR-15 used in the Newtown killing of six educators and 20 first- and second-graders, the Sun’s Erin Cox reports. The law limits gun ownership for people with mental illness, outlaws the sale of high-capacity magazines and establishes the nation’s first new handgun licensing scheme in two decades.

As he signed legislation Thursday raising Maryland’s gas tax, Gov. O’Malley identified an initial $1.2 billion in new road and transit projects that he said the new revenue will make possible, including several in the Washington region, the Post’s John Wagner reports. Erin Cox of the Sun lists 10 projects that officials announced immediately after the gas tax bill was signed.

A $1 billion plan to replace aging schools in Baltimore City, signed into law Thursday, went from ridiculous to reality because of hard work by scores of people in both Baltimore City and Annapolis, and a host of political forces were in play. But three stand out, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

The Carroll County Student Government Association members went to Annapolis Thursday to watch Gov. O’Malley sign into state law the bill they helped create – SB 428 adds the position of a non-voting student representative to the Carroll County Board of Education into the education article of Maryland law, writes Alisha George for the Carroll County Times.

For much of the two-hour bill signing, barn dance music was piped into the governor’s reception room as he and legislative leaders signed more than 250 bills into law.

TAKING AIM AT GUN LAW: Christian Schaffer of WMAR-TV reports that gun rights supporters in Maryland agree they would like to fight to overturn the state’s new gun law. But not all of them agree on just how to do it. On Thursday, hundreds of gun owners and advocates gathered in Carroll County to hear details on the gun restrictions and to plan their next move in their attempt to repeal them.

JAIL SCANDAL HEARING: Maryland lawmakers have rescheduled a hearing prompted by problems at the Baltimore City Detention Center for June 6, two weeks earlier than previously announced, writes John Wagner of the Post.

NO. 2 FOR SEXUAL CONTACT: Ian Duncan of the Sun reports that the Baltimore City Detention Center had the nation’s second-highest rate of sexual contact between jail staff and inmates, according to a U.S. Department of Justice study released less than a month after federal prosecutors accused corrections officers at the jail of sleeping with gang members.

TAX APPEAL CASE DELAYS: The Maryland Tax Court, which hears appeals in cases involving state and local taxes, must hear and decide residential property assessment cases within 90 days. But, reports Jamie Smith Hopkins of the Sun, 41% of the cases heard between July 2010 and mid-February took longer — as much as a year past the 90-day point, the Office of Legislative Audits said.

OT A BOON FOR SOME STATE WORKERS: Some Maryland state government workers more than doubled their salaries with overtime payments in 2012, and more than 3,300 topped $10,000 in overtime payments, writes Meg Tully for MarylandReporter.com.

BAKER STICKS WITH MGM: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker is holding pat on his support for MGM Resorts International’s casino plan at National Harbor, despite a surprise bid from a Pennsylvania-based gaming company, reports Michael Neibauer for the Baltimore Business Journal.

PROPER NOTICE: Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports that a state panel that rules on open meeting complaints has found that Baltimore County officials gave proper notice of its meeting where residents could testify about a new stormwater fee.

HOWARD RAIN TAX CALCULATOR: Thanks to a new web-based impervious surface estimator created by Howard County’s Geographic Information Services, county residents and businesses can now calculate how much Maryland’s new storm water management fees or the “rain tax” as it is known, will cost them on their July property tax bills, writes Red Maryland’s Mark Newgent for Watchdogwire.

DEL. KACH TO RUN FOR COUNCIL: Long-time Baltimore County Del. Wade Kach has formally announced he will challenge Baltimore County Council Todd Huff next year, writes Alison Knezevich of the Sun.

DEL. SCHUH TO CHAIR: Del. Steve Schuh was elected Thursday morning to serve as chairman of the Anne Arundel delegation in the House of Delegates, replacing Del. Nic Kipke who resigned from the role after being elected House minority leader last month, reports Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

RAIN TAX: Homeowners already implementing measures to deal with stormwater runoff say they are being double-taxed by new fees, Kevin James Shay reports in the Gazette.

MoCo DEMS: A union protest limited attendance at a Montgomery County Democratic party fundraiser last weekend , but it hasn’t stopped donations from rolling in, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette. County Democratic Central Committee Chairman Gabe Albornoz said that pledges made in the wake of the party’s May 11 Spring Ball have helped the party exceed its fundraising goal for the event.

HOSPITAL CHARGES: Two patients in Maryland go to the hospital for an identical procedure. If they both go to the same hospital, they will face the same charges. But if each goes to a different facility, the charges for that procedure could differ, sometimes by thousands of dollars, Daniel Leaderman writes in the Gazette.

MoCo BUDGET: The Montgomery County Council will enhance services and reduce energy taxes through its fiscal 2014 operating budget unanimously agreed to Thursday morning, reports the Gazette’s Kate Alexander. The council reached a tentative agreement on the $4.8 billion spending plan and will take a final vote on the budget Wednesday.

RACE FOR GOVERNOR: Gazette columnist Blair Lee handicaps the Democratic race for governor.