July 26, 2013

State Roundup, July 26, 2013

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DETENTION CENTER’S FUTURE: Several Maryland lawmakers who toured Baltimore’s state-run jail Thursday said the General Assembly should consider spending large sums to upgrade or even replace the antiquated facility at the center of a federal racketeering indictment, reports John Wagner of the Post.

The Sun’s Ian Duncan reports that Del. John Cluster, a Baltimore County Republican, said he has asked the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to calculate the cost of a replacement jail. Del. Keiffer Mitchell, a Baltimore Democrat, said he “would like to see a new, state-of-the-art facility.”

Lawmakers went through new protocols to enter the center. Among the changes? Better monitoring of movement throughout the jail and other measures to control contact by gangs to the outside world. But it’s the size and numbers of detainees inside the facility that lawmakers concede hamper efforts to control inmates, according to a WMAR-TV video report.

According to an AP report in the Daily Record, members of a special legislative committee said afterward that there is a considerable movement of detainees in the Baltimore City Detention Center, as they head to court appointments or health checkups. The jail, which is run by the state, has a standing population of between 2,400 and 3,000 detainees.

MORAL OBLIGATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE: Gov. Martin O’Malley said Thursday that Maryland will not meet its ambitious goal to cut greenhouse gases unless the state adopts more aggressive measures he is proposing, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. The governor — who said the state has a “moral obligation” to avert climate change — outlined several strategies for more quickly reducing gases that drive global warming.

The AP’s Brian Witte, in a story in the Salisbury Daily Times, writes that Maryland would get more energy from renewable sources and do more recycling under a long-term plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions that Gov. O’Malley released Thursday.

BARS NOT LIABLE FOR DRUNK DRIVERS: Bars in Maryland cannot be held liable for injuries their patrons cause after they leave, even if the bars fail to stop serving patrons who are clearly drunk. Maryland’s highest court ruled Thursday in a 4 to 3 vote, reports Julie Zauzmer of the Post. The court offered the same opinion in 1951 and 1981.

The majority opinion, written by Judge Lynne Battaglia, holds that individuals are responsible for their own actions and that the proper venue in which to create a new law is the General Assembly, Danielle Gaines writes in the Frederick News-Post.

DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: After most of a grueling, six-hour Board of Public Works meeting on Wednesday was devoted to a proposed residential project in an environmentally sensitive area, Gov. O’Malley said Thursday the General Assembly may need to act so the board has authority to deny such developments, reports Alexander Pyles in the Daily Record.

LOW TAX RANKING: Maryland’s Money Matters writes that, according to a study of Census data on taxes by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as a percent of personal income, Maryland ranked 39th highest for state and local personal income tax and 45th for corporate income tax and property tax. Overall for total taxes as a percent of personal income, Maryland ranked near the bottom at 41st place among the states.

COURT FREES SIX: Six men convicted in killings exited a side door at the Baltimore courthouse Thursday after spending more than half their lives in prison — their freedom secured by a court ruling that found they had received unfair trials because of improper jury instructions, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports.

AUDIT UNCOVERS PROBLEMS: An outside audit of how the state of Maryland spent almost $13 billion it got from the U.S. government found significant problems in some of the programs the state runs with federal dollars, reports Charlie Hayward for MarylandReporter.com.

BALTIMORE COUNTY DELEGATION TURNOVER:Baltimore County will be losing several members of the Maryland General Assembly, the most noteworthy being Sen. Norman Stone, who has served 52 years. He was a dependable vote for Senate President Mike Miller and Democratic governors, a rock of support for organized labor and one of the few remaining conservatives in the Democratic caucus who acted as a counter-weight to the group’s liberal majority, writes Barry Rascovar in his PoliticalMaryland.com blog.

GOP-LESS AG’S RACE: Red Maryland Radio’s Brian Griffiths and Greg Kline discuss the fact that no Republicans have joined the Attorney General’s race and Maryland’s congressional delegation is seeking a Congressional Gold Medal for Shock Trauma Founder R. Adams Cowley. Kline has a personal story about the doctor. The political discussion doesn’t start until after minute 4.

IMPROVING TRANSPARENCY: Attorney General Doug Gansler, an all-but-declared candidate for governor, unveiled a series of proposals to increase government transparency and accountability, and while they wouldn’t solve every problem with access to public information in Maryland, they would represent a significant improvement, according to a Sun editorial.

SO MUCH FOR TRANSPARENCY: Baltimore Development Corp. President Brenda McKenzie said Thursday that the controversy over the Harbor Point tax increment financing plan contains a lesson about “constant communication” for the city’s development arm, reports Kevin Litten for the Baltimore Business Journal. But even though she said Harbor Point “really did highlight the need for constant communication about what we do, why we’re doing it,” the BDC’s board then voted to enter a closed session without citing the topics that were to be discussed in the meeting, in apparent violation of the Open Meetings Act.

EARLY CAMPAIGNS: Some candidates for statewide and legislative office have already declared and even filed for office, while others are holding off till the fall. Ryan Marshall of the Gazette talks to campaigns about what’s too early or too late with a new June 2014 primary date.

SAVE THE GOP: How can Maryland Republicans save their party from perpetual minority status? asks Gazette columnist Blair Lee. By allowing independents to vote in the party primary next year, as some are proposing, he says. “This isn’t a philosophical sellout, it’s a rendezvous with reality.”

PG OPENNESS: A Gazette editorial criticizes Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker for the lack of public input into his appointments of the new schools CEO and a member of the school board.

COUNCIL JETTISONS ART: As part of a month-long renovation of the Annapolis City Hall council chambers, three large paintings depicting historical scenes and three portraits of noteworthy women – including one of Harriet Tubman — will be permanently removed, leaving the walls nearly bare, writes Elisha Sauers for the Capital-Gazette.