September 16, 2013

State Roundup, September 16, 2013

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MINIMUM WAGE: Those trying to raise the state’s minimum wage will have an ally in U.S. Rep. John Delaney when the Maryland General Assembly convenes in January, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Delaney, a Democrat who represents the 6th Congressional District that includes Washington County, is promising a campaign using his personal funds to make the argument for a higher minimum wage in the state.

Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times News writes that Delaney’s views clash with with that of Ray Givens, a Republican candidate for the District 1-C delegate seat in the Maryland General Assembly for the 2014 primary. “On the other hand,” Givens says, “how reasonable is it that a corporation pays minimum, or low wages to its workers while presidents, CEOs and other executive officers leave after just a couple of years with parachute severance packages and benefits.”

FARM INDUSTRY BID REJECTED: An AP story in the Easton Star Democrat reports that a judge rejected a bid by farm industry groups to block federal and state pollution limits designed to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay by more tightly regulating wastewater treatment, construction along waterways and agricultural runoff.

PAY UP, THEN SPLIT: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that Western Maryland’s five counties have every right to pursue the independence some of their residents seek from the rest of the state. However, they have a lot of state assets that the rest of Maryland paid for. They can’t just have it. They need to pay up first. The people of all Maryland, not just the western counties, paid for Deep Creek Lake and own it. West Maryland would have to buy it from the state at fair market value. The same goes for all the state parkland in those counties, which generate thousands of jobs and millions in tourism dollars.

Other portions of the country have talked about splitting off from their state. Tim Swift creates a slide show of those would-be 51st states for the Sun.

GUNS IN MARYLAND: Jacob Owens of the Cecil Whig writes about the gun registration backlog, the Maryland State Police attempts to get through it using other agencies and the controversy and solution surrounding that.

One long time Waldorf gun dealer is moving his business to Pennsylvania, reports Meredith Somers for the Washington Times. He says Maryland’s restrictive gun laws make his business tougher.

DEATH ROW INMATES: Gov. Martin O’Malley, an outspoken death penalty opponent considering a 2016 presidential run, has yet to commute the sentences of the state’s five death row inmates despite his role in pushing a repeal of capital punishment that takes effect next month, according to an AP story in the Frederick News Post.

4 FREED IN ERROR: Four people were mistakenly set free from the Baltimore booking facility and jail this summer — a total that exceeds the count from recent years and has the state corrections department scrambling to defend its record at one of the nation’s busiest detention complexes, Carrie Wells and Ian Duncan report in the Sun.

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ANTI-FRACKING GROUP: Conservation and political groups have teamed up to stop natural gas fracking in Maryland, writes Pat Furgurson for the Capital-Gazette. Marylanders Against Fracking called on Gov. Martin O’Malley to stop drafting regulations for the practice before state studies of the issue are complete.

REDISTRICTING REGRET: Lots of people in Maryland, particularly Republicans and minorities, didn’t like Maryland’s congressional redistricting in 2012 that helped eliminate one of the last two GOP seats and did not create another potential minority district. But, blogs Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com, during a talk Friday night, one of the major participants in the process, House Speaker Michael Busch, admitted, “I did not like the redistricting.”

STUDENT ASSESSMENTS: Maryland wants to continue annual assessments of students this year at a cost of about $9 million, even though the scores wouldn’t be used to gauge school progress — one of the main reasons for giving the tests, reports Liz Bowie in the Sun.

AIR POLLUTION: CNS’s Kate Andries writes in the Cecil Whig that long-term exposure to air pollution leads a higher percentage of the population in Maryland to die prematurely than in any other state, according to a new study on the impact of air quality on health.

TAXES & TEXAS: The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post addresses Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s call for Maryland businesses to relocate to Texas, opining clearly Texas is more conducive when taking into account a comparison based purely on taxes and job growth. But take the whole state into account as an individual; would you really want to work there?

Sun editorial cartoonist KAL draws a bead on Gov. Perry’s “Texas two-step.”

PERRY’S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Columnist Barry Rascovar, writing in MarylandReporter.com, says that Gov. Rick Perry’s camouflaged his Wednesday visit as an economic development pitch to get companies to move from Maryland to low-tax, pro-business Texas. But it’s really just part of Perry’s nascent presidential campaign for 2016. He’s done it in other states that just happen to have important primaries like California, New York, Illinois, Missouri and Connecticut. It’s a brash, aggressive move that underlines Perry’s macho reputation for sweeping aside political niceties.

NEW ADMIN JUDGES: Two new circuit administrative judges were appointed to oversee the day-to-day court functions in the city, Baltimore and Harford counties, Jessica Anderson reports in the Sun.

NOT SO FREE STATE: In a special report on the Civil War, the Post’s Miranda Spivack writes that while Maryland calls itself the Free State, it was in no hurry to give up slavery during the Civil War. Congress freed the slaves in the District in 1862, compensating their owners. The Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in the states that had seceded, went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863. But Maryland didn’t act until 1864, when it held a referendum — and even then, the outcome wasn’t at all certain.

BROWN FILES: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown made his 2014 gubernatorial bid official Friday afternoon by filing the necessary paperwork at the Maryland State Board of Elections — but not until a nearby bomb scare delayed him for more than an hour, reports John Wagner of the Post.

BALTIMORE VA WOES: A senior official of the American Legion, working with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to reduce its disability claims backlog, told Congress her organization had encountered an “obstructionist attitude” in the VA’s underperforming Baltimore office that was “aggressively excluding” Maryland servicemen and -women from a program that was designed to fast-track their claims.

HO CO EXEC RACE: The race for the next Howard County executive is practically upon us. Republican state Sen. Allan Kittleman announced his bid in June; County Council Democrat Courtney Watson has scheduled a “special announcement” for Sept. 21 in Columbia, where she is expected to announce her candidacy, writes Amanda Yeager for the Sun. Who knew that two graduates of Atholton Elementary would one day battle to lead Maryland’s wealthiest county?

ON SYRIA: John Fritze of the Sun puts together a photo essay on where members of Maryland’s congressional delegation stand on the Syria situation.

FREDERICK CITY ISSUES: The City of Frederick primaries are over, and Republican incumbent Mayor Randy McClement and Democratic candidate Karen Young have secured the mayoral nomination for their parties. Former Mayor Jennifer Dougherty will be in the race as an unaffiliated candidate. Kelsi Loos of the Frederick News Post talks to the candidates about transportation.

Jen Bondeson of the Frederick News Post reports that it doesn’t matter if they are Democratic or Republican, or none of the above. When asked what they want in a mayor, downtown business owners and associates will tell you the same thing: The mayor of Frederick needs to know how to bring consumers — and, specifically, tourists — downtown.

JONES’ COUNCIL SEAT: The ordinance that removed former Anne Arundel County Councilman Daryl Jones from office in January 2012 was voided by a judge on Friday, reports Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette. Jones’ lawyer Linda Schuett said the ruling appears to clear the way for Jones, a Severn Democrat who served five months in prison for tax violations last year, to return to the council.

But, writes Pamela Wood for the Sun, David Plymyer, the county attorney who defended the County Council’s removal of Jones, said the ruling does not change the status quo: Jones is off the council and his replacement, Peter Smith, is on the council.

ANNAPOLIS PRIMARY: Political observers watching the Annapolis city races say that turnout for Tuesday’s primary could be higher since there are challengers, writes Elisha Sauers for the Capital-Gazette.

You can read more about Annapolis’ upcoming elections in the Capital-Gazette.