August 14, 2013

State Roundup, August 14, 2013

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CORRECTIONS OFFICER PLEADS GUILTY: Charged with policing inmates in the Baltimore City Detention Center, correctional officer Jennifer Owens pleaded guilty to a federal racketeering conspiracy charge Tuesday, accepting a plea agreement that dropped two other criminal counts, reports Justin George for the Sun. Prosecutors say Owens smuggled in marijuana and prescription drugs for a gang leader who fathered two of her children while incarcerated. She is the U.S. attorney’s office’s second conviction among 25 people indicted as part of a drug and cellphone smuggling operation at the jail.

O’MALLEY IN VEGAS: Gov. Martin O’Malley was scheduled to be in Las Vegas Tuesday for a panel discussion on clean energy, appearing alongside former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at an event with big names in national politics, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. The day-long National Clean Energy Summit 6.0 is hosted by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, and the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

O’MALLEY IN TALBOT: Gov. O’Malley will be at a transportation event Friday, Aug. 16 at the Dover Bridge, leaving many people wondering if a new Dover Bridge is finally on its way, writes Josh Bollinger for the Easton Star-Democrat. Charlie Gischlar, spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said a new Dover Bridge in Talbot County is funded for engineering design, which is currently underway, and SHA is also in the process of acquiring any property needed to build the project.

SENTENCING REFORM: With U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announcing federal policy reform on mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenders, several Carroll County law enforcement officials agreed the changes won’t have much of an impact in the county. Holder said the new policy will relieve prisons and ensure federal laws are enforced more fairly. But, writes Brett Lake for the Carroll County Times, the Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office said it already evaluates each case on a case-by-case basis and takes into account the crime and the criminal history of an individual and then determine a just sentence.

Holder’s plan to reduce overcrowding in federal prisons by instructing federal prosecutors to stop invoking mandatory minimum sentences against low-level, nonviolent drug offenders was a welcome, if overdue, announcement. The policy’s chief shortcoming is that Holder can’t, by himself, correct this long-standing problem. That will require intervention by Congress — as well as by legislatures in states where similar problems exist, opines the editorial board for the Sun.

WELFARE OR WORK? In an op-ed for the Sun, Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute writes that contrary to stereotypes, there is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy. Indeed, surveys of welfare recipients consistently show their desire for a job. However, there is also evidence that many are reluctant to accept available employment opportunities. In Maryland, a mother with two children participating in seven major welfare programs, could receive a package of benefits worth $35,672, the 10th highest in the nation.

DEL. HOGAN WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION: Maryland Del. Patrick Hogan announced Tuesday he will not seek election to a third term, a decision that will allow him to spend more time with his wife and three young children, and explore other career opportunities, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.

BROWN CAMP SEEKS APOLOGY: John Wagner of the Post reports that the gubernatorial campaign of Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Tuesday called on Democratic rival Doug Gansler to apologize for disparaging remarks he made about Brown during a secretly recorded meeting with volunteers last month. Audio of the tapes is to the left of the story.

GANSLER REFUSES: Gansler’s remarks sparked an escalating exchange between the two prominent Democrats. Brown’s campaign called for an apology. Gansler refused to give one, instead lobbing back criticism that Brown has been dodging a scandal in Maryland’s prison system, reports Erin Cox and Michael Dresser in the Sun.

FACES MOUNTING CRITICISM: Gansler faces mounting fallout for telling a group of supporters last month that Brown, his African American opponent for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, has few accomplishments and is relying on his race to win the 2014 primary. Several prominent African American Democrats and Brown supporters said the remarks could have more serious consequences for Gansler in a state where blacks often make up a third of voters in Democratic primaries, John Wagner and Bill Turque report for the Post.

The editorial board for the Sun, calling Gansler’s remarks a liability for his gubernatorial aspirations, says that, for most voters, this probably serves as a first real introduction to the blunt-to-a-fault Doug Gansler who seems at times to say out loud whatever thought flits through his head. Maryland voters have rallied around that kind of person in the past — William Donald Schaefer being the prime, but not only, example — but it’s fair to wonder whether the state’s tastes have grown more sensitive and refined.

EXEC CRAIG CRITICIZES SCHOOL BUDGET: Harford County Executive David Craig, who is running for the GOP nomination for governor, has criticized his county’s school budget, reports Karen Parks of WBFF-TV. As schools in Harford County prepare to open up next week controversy over this year’s $424 million budget has been brought to light. Last year there were 37,868 students in Harford County Schools. This year the projection is 38,000. The school board asked for an additional $20 million, which was denied.

RACISM IN FREDERICK: Frederick County leaders got together last night to discuss racism, discrimination and racial profiling and whether it occurs in the county. County Commissioners President Blaine Young said his experience as a white man hasn’t brought him face to face with racial discrimination in the community, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News-Post.

ARUNDEL POLICE PROBE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Allison Bourg of the Annapolis Capital talk about the recommendations made by a task force appointed by County Executive Laura Neuman that investigated the Anne Arundel County Police Department.

CHEVERLY DROPS GUN LEGISLATION: A warning from a gun-rights organization led Cheverly to drop legislation that made carrying firearms in the town illegal. Council members agreed Section 20-4 of the Town Code was not in conformance with Maryland law and voted unanimously Aug. 8, though reluctantly, to eliminate the legislation. In April, the Second Amendment Foundation, a nonprofit based in Washington state, sent notices to Prince George’s municipalities demanding that they change their laws to align with state law, reports Eric Goldwein in the Gazette.