September 30, 2013

State Roundup, September 30, 2013

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SAFE BICYCLING: When Maryland legislators approved a law in 2010 that said drivers must stay at least 3 feet away when passing a bicyclist, the cynics said it was a nice gesture, but no one expected police officers with yardsticks to go about enforcing it. In the aftermath of Trish Cunningham’s death, her friends and family are mounting educational efforts to encourage drivers to abide by the law. That message was a focus of Saturday’s rally and memorial ride, reports Ashley Halsey for the Post.

In writing about the rally, Sara Blumberg of the Capital-Gazette writes that, under the law, motorists also must yield to bicycles when making turns, as well as when entering or crossing bike lanes or shoulders, according to the state Motor Vehicle Administration.

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT PACT: Gov. Martin O’Malley has joined two frequent ideological sparring partners to support a collaboration of public universities from their three states to conduct testing of unmanned aircraft systems, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. The Maryland Democrat signed a joint letter with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Virginia Gov. Bob  McDonnell, both Republicans, endorsing an agreement by the schools to become partners on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Unmanned Aircraft System test site.

UNDERAGE GAMBLING FINES: More than two dozen instances of underage gambling at Maryland casinos will cost casino operators tens of thousands of dollars in fines, according to an AP story in the Frederick News-Post. A consent agreement signed last week by gambling regulators and earlier by Maryland Live casino marks the state’s first financial penalty for underage violations.

AA CASINO DOLLARS: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Rick Hutzell of the Maryland Gazette talk about the influx of casino money into Anne Arundel County’s coffers and why citizens and journalists need to follow how it is spent.

NEW LAWS: It won’t matter if you’re obeying every other traffic law: Starting Tuesday, if you’re talking on a hand-held mobile phone while driving in Maryland, the police will have the right to pull you over and ticket you, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. Among the hundreds of other new laws to take effect Tuesday are high-profile measures banning the sale of some types of guns and repealing the death penalty.

2nd GUN RIGHTS SUIT: Ian Duncan of the Sun reports that gun rights advocates filed a second lawsuit against Maryland’s new gun law Friday, calling a requirement that buyers of handguns obtain a license an “unconstitutional de facto ban” on sales. The new suit escalates an assault on the law, which is scheduled to go into effect Tuesday. The article is topped by a video report from Ron Matz of WJZ-TV.

RESPONSE TO 1st SUIT: The state of Maryland is arguing its case for gun control. The U.S. District Court in Baltimore has given the attorney general’s office until noon today to file its response to a lawsuit filed last week by opponents of the state’s new gun control law, according to an AP brief at WMAR-TV.

TROUBLED WATERS: Tim Prudente of the Capital-Gazette writes a several part series on the Chesapeake Bay, the monies that have been spent to clean up the bay and why cleanup efforts haven’t succeeded so far.

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SCHUH SEEKS TAX ROLLBACK: Del. Steve Schuh, a candidate for Anne Arundel County executive, is calling for the county to roll back its property tax to offset the new stormwater fees, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Schuh, a Gibson Island Republican, launched a petition effort on Friday to lobby the County Council and County Executive Laura Neuman to make the change for next year.

UNDERSTANDING STORMWATER FEE: William Baker of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation writes in an op-ed for the Sun that Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman misunderstands the new storm water fees, required by the state of 10 jurisdictions and imposed by them.

O SAY CAN YOU SEE: Philip Marshall, resident filmmaker at Maryland Public Television, is raising money on Kickstarter to make a film about Francis Scott Key and the “song that built America.”

IMPROVING DDA: In an op-ed for the Sun, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, writes that his department has been working long and hard to improve the services and internal functions of Developmental Disabilities Administration.

CHARTING CITY CRIME: As Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake have battled over crime-fighting strategies, both have come up with diagrams to illustrate their positions. But experts say neither politician has presented a compelling visual argument, adding that crime also follows national trends and the causes of declines are far from clear, reports Carrie Wells for the Sun.

ARRESTFEST VS. TARGETING: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that Gov. O’Malley tries to rehabilitate his reputation as a tough on crime mayor of Baltimore City, there’s no proof that his ArrestFest strategy works any better than targeted enforcement.

THE LONG RACE IS ON: Maryland voters might not be ready, but six candidates with their eye on the governor’s mansion are poised to start running in earnest — touring the state, signing up volunteers and raising millions of dollars for a spirited race, more than a year before the November 2014 general election and months earlier than past gubernatorial contests, report Erin Cox and Michael Dresser in the Sun.

JINXED OFFICES: Not only is this is a long race, writes columnist Barry Rascovar, in MarylandReporter.com. It’s also unusual in that the leading contenders hold two jinxed state offices. No lieutenant governor has ever been elected to succeed his boss in Maryland.  And no attorney general has won election to the state’s top office in 75 years, either. Most settled for prestigious judgeships but a few considered running or they failed trying.

HOME-GROWN GANSLER? Would Maryland voters prefer a home-grown candidate for governor, asks John Wagner for the Post. Attorney General Doug Gansler certainly seems to think so.

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: Brown says no new taxes; Gansler says Md. not No. 1 in schools; Grasmick backing McGuirk Spence; Apple Ford is bipartisan host; Ulman, Sarbanes yuck it up; Warren Miller loves to annoy the Dems. Here are some tidbits from the abundance of campaign events in the past week that we didn’t want to wind up on the cutting room floor, in MarylandReporter.com.

ENVIRONMENTAL GRASSO: In a profile of Anne Arundel County Councilman John Grasso, Kate Yoon of the Capital Gazette writes that the Glen Burnie Republican’s commitment to the environment was going to be part of his campaign for county executive in 2014, but it was also a small part of his decision to drop out. Instead, he’ll run for a second term on the council.

JONES & SMITH: Daryl Jones said he has put his past in the rear view and is “looking forward and pushing forward.” The Anne Arundel County Council ousted Jones from his District 1 seat 18 months ago because he would not be living in the district while serving time for not filing his taxes, writes Kate Yoon and Zoe Read in this profile of Jones and his temporary replacement, Pete Smith, in the Capital-Gazette. He returned to the council last week, after challenging the legality of his removal.

KAMENETZ DRAWS FIRE: Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is drawing criticism for refusing to repay about $573,000 to more than 400 police retirees who a judge found were overcharged for their health insurance.