September 26, 2013

State Roundup, September 26, 2013

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NO. 1 FOR WOMEN: Maryland received a new No. 1 title for Gov. Martin O’Malley to crow about Wednesday as the Center for American Progress ranked it the best of the 50 states for women, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.. The ranking is unlikely to impress conservatives because the Center for American Progress is a liberal group that counted such things as unimpeded access to abortion services and contraception among its criteria for a positive rating.

HUNGER IN MARYLAND: Deborah Flateman of the Maryland Food Bank, in an op-ed for the Sun, writes that Marylanders need to start talking about ways to end hunger for the 780,000 who experience it in the richest state in the nation.

HIGHER WAGES, HIGHER SATS: The more money a family in Maryland earns, the more likely their child is to have higher-than-average SAT scores, according to data released by the College Board on Thursday. On average, students living in poverty scored hundreds of points below wealthy students on the national tests used in college admissions, giving them an advantage during the process, writes Liz Bowie in the Sun.

FRACKING FEEDBACK: Members of the public participated in a big way by offering comments – 4,200 of them – on the report on best practices being prepared by the state’s Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times News. Members of the public were especially concerned about methane releases and waste water disposals.

HIT & RUN PENALTY: State Sen. Bryan Simonaire plans to introduce legislation next year that would increase the maximum penalty for hit-and-run drivers from 10 to 15 years in prison. The bill also would require driver’s ed classes to spell out the penalties for being involved in an accident and fleeing, this in the wake of 10 fatal hit-and-run accidents in Anne Arundel County since 2010, reports Zoe Read in the Capital-Gazette.

INCOMING LAWS: Maryland’s sweeping gun-control package takes effect next week along with a slew of other new laws. Alex Jackson of the Capital-Gazette writes about it and explains the other laws, including the death penalty repeal and establishment of a spay/neuter fund.

HANDGUN WAIVERS: Maryland’s new handgun licensing law, which takes effect Oct. 1, will be waived for the nearly 50,000 gun buyers still waiting for background checks, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. It calls for handgun buyers to give their fingerprints to law enforcement and get a $50 license.

GUNS & MENTAL ILLNESS: In an opinion piece on guns and the mentally ill, written for the Capital-Gazette, psychologist Catherine Smithmyer says that those with mental illness aren’t a homogenous group. It includes such disparate conditions as anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental health professionals know that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Thus, the best warning that the Navy Yard shooter might commit a violent act was his history of arrests for gun violence, not the voices in his head. Also, to suggest the Second Amendment does not apply to people with mental health problems is discriminatory.

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BOND HIKE: The O’Malley administration on Wednesday successfully pushed to raise next year’s bond authorization to $1.16 billion, $75 million more than this year, rejecting objections by state Comptroller Peter Franchot that “we’re adding another Christmas tree ornament,” writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

MGM NATIONAL HARBOR: After the grand spectacle of a special legislative session and referendum fight to approve gambling expansion in Maryland, MGM has now released renderings of what the National Harbor casino will look like and Maryland Juice is running them.

MGM Resorts International CEO reiterated Wednesday the company’s promise to bring more revenue and high-paying jobs into Maryland if the company is offered the state’s sixth casino license, reports Chase Cook for the Gazette.

An 18-story hotel tower will hold between 400 and 500 rooms. A large reflecting pool will host fountains during the warmer months, and ice skating in the winter. A skylight will run from one end of the property to the other. The casino floor will run more than 100,000 square feet, reports Michael Neibauer in the Baltimore Business Journal.

CLAGETT ELECTIONEERING: Del. Galen Clagett broke electioneering rules during Frederick’s primary election Sept. 10, according to the city’s Board of Supervisors of Elections. Clagett lost the Democratic mayoral primary to Alderwoman Karen Young, who will be on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. The elections board voted at a Sept. 18 meeting to pursue legal action against Clagett, who it said illegally entered polling places and displayed campaign material on Sept. 10, reports Jen Bondeson for the Frederick News Post.

DISTRICT 40: Social justice activist, Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, made it official Sept. 24: He’s placing his hat in the ring for a run for a seat in the General Assembly of Maryland from the 40th legislative district, writes Bill Hughes for the Baltimore Post-Examiner.

DISTRICT 44B: Aaron Barnett said that during his years of community and recreation work, he often heard comments that he should run for public office. On Sept. 13, the Woodlawn native became the fourth candidate to file for one of the two open seats in the Maryland House of Delegates in the new District 44B, reports Julie Baughman for the Sun.

GANSLER’S VISION: Attorney General Doug Gansler said Wednesday that, if elected governor, he would push to extend Metro rail service to National Harbor and to establish a law school at Bowie State University, reports John Wagner for the Post. His pledges came as Gansler addressed an audience in Prince George’s County on the second day of a weeklong gubernatorial announcement tour.

GANSLER ATTENDEES: Several politicos asked Maryland Juice who attended Attorney General Doug Gansler’s kickoff of his campaign for governor. He was able to compile the list of Montgomery County officials who attended, but notes that he has no idea if these folks are actually endorsing Gansler.

SECURITY UNION: Baltimore City workers who want to unionize private security firms in the city have gotten the attention of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a Democrat who is running for governor, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. Brown spent a half-hour in the kitchen of a Baltimore security guard Wednesday morning, snacking on doughnuts and chatting about the struggles of working for a company that is not unionized.

CLASH OF THE TITANS: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Martin O’Malley clashed publicly Wednesday over how to drive down crime in Baltimore, stoking a widening political debate after a violent summer in Maryland’s largest city, reports Luke Broadwater and Erin Cox for the Sun. It was an unusual public split for the two Democrats and longtime political allies.

CAMPAIGN DONATIONS: Jen Bondeson of the Frederick News Post reports that Frederick City’s Board of Supervisors of Elections decided Wednesday that the city law regarding how much business owners can donate to candidates in elections should mirror state law.

ATV TRAILS OPPOSED: With Hancock residents expressing concern about disruption of peace, impacts on wildlife, crime and other issues, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources found itself facing considerable opposition Wednesday night over its proposal to build 32 miles of off-road vehicle trails on Sideling Hill, reports Dave McMillion for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.