July 3, 2013

State Roundup, July 3, 2013

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WOMAN TO HEAD APPEALS COURT: Maryland achieved several milestones Tuesday as Gov. Martin O’Malley named the first woman to lead what will be the first female majority on the state’s top court, reports Erin Cox for the Sun. The appointments, to be announced today in Annapolis, mark a shift in a male-dominated profession and put Maryland among a minority of states with their highest courts led by women.

The Daily Record has an AP version of the story.

PRO BONO LAWYERS HONORED: Gov. O’Malley and retiring Chief Judge Robert Bell honored lawyers Tuesday night who volunteered to help Maryland homeowners in danger of foreclosure as representatives of the best of their profession. The governor praised Bell as the author of the pro bono program. As the housing crisis deepened in 2008, Bell circulated a letter to Maryland lawyers urging them to offer free services to homeowners in need of representation.

COST OF PROGRESS: Barry Rascovar of PoliticalMaryland.com writes that the fees and taxes that went into effect on July 1 are necessary over the long run. We may not like it, but progress comes with a price, he writes. But politicians should have had the courage to raise them earlier.

AGENCY HEADS SWORN IN: Gov. O’Malley swore in former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith as the state’s transportation secretary and longtime aide Abigail Hopper as director of the Maryland Energy Administration at a State House ceremony Tuesday, the Sun reports.

STATE POLICE DUI UNIT: Brett Lake of the Carroll County Times writes that, just in time for the Fourth of July holiday, the Maryland State Police unveiled its new DUI enforcement team with a clear message for motorists: Don’t get caught in our web. SPIDRE, or State Police Impaired Driving Effort, is a group of seven specially trained troopers assembled to combat the number of alcohol-related crashes throughout the state.

WMAR-TV also does a story about the SPIDRE team.

LOW MARKS FOR LEADERS: Maryland Business for Responsive Government, in its annual Roll Call report rating state lawmakers, gave low marks to the two Democrats leading the Maryland General Assembly, typifying how business organizations view the legislature as a whole, writes Meg Tully for MarylandReporter.com.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BAN: In a friendly reminder that last week’s Supreme Court decisions are far from the end of the marriage equality debate, 29 Congressional Republicans – including Maryland’s Andy Harris — have come out in favor of a bill proposing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the United States, writes Michael Gold for the Sun.

ZIRKIN-MORHAIM-STEIN TICKET: With much of the General Assembly in flux in the run-up to the 2014 election, Baltimore County’s 11th District is what passes for an oasis of stability, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Del. Dan Morhaim and Del. Dana Stein — all Democrats — announced yesterday that they would run for re-election as a slate. That leaves one likely vacancy in the delegation because Del. Jon Cardin is expected to seek the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

CAMPAIGN ANALYSIS: On Political Pulse, Charles Duffy has columnist Josh Kurtz give an analysis of all the top races, from Montgomery County executive to governor and attorney general, examining the racial and regional rivalries. (You may need to upload Silverlight or other plugins to make this work. If you have cable in Montgomery County, you can see Doug Gansler on Political Pulse this Friday.)

WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Michael Dresser of the Baltimore Sun talk about Harford County Executive David Craig’s Republican candidacy for governor and what Attorney General Doug Gansler has to do now that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has joined Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s Democratic ticket.

6th CONGRESSIONAL CHALLENGE: Daniel Vogt, the U.S. Marine combat veteran who has declared his candidacy in the 6th Congressional District, is challenging his competitors to set a campaign spending limit of $500,000 in the 2014 race, Bethany Rodgers reports in the Frederick News-Post.

Kaustuv Basu writes for the Hagerstown Herald Mail that Vogt, who has never held political office, said he joined the U.S. Marine Corps because he has a “passion to serve,” a passion that prompted him to run for Congress.