October 3, 2013

State Roundup, October 3, 2013

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ARMED TO THE TEETH: “Maryland is armed to the teeth,” said Del. Luiz Simmons. Maryland gun dealers have sold more firearms in the first nine months of this year than in all of 2011 and 2012 combined, reports Erin Cox for the Sun. Buyers have applied to purchase 117,009 guns this year as lawmakers debated and enacted some of the toughest new gun laws in the country.

DRIVING SAFETY: AT&T, members from the Maryland Vehicle Administration and police forces from around the state gathered Tuesday to discuss new laws about seat belt safety and cellphone usage. About 65 students joined them, reports Kelcie Pegher for the Carroll County Times. Seat belts will now be required for everyone in the back seat, and fines rose to $50 from $25 per offense. Before Oct. 1, passengers younger than 16 were not required to wear seat belts in the back seat.

Carl Hamilton of the Cecil Whig reports that the tougher state law forbidding motorists from using cell phones and other wireless devices went into effect on Tuesday and, thanks to a special Maryland State Police operation, a few dozen drivers in Cecil County received personal reminders.

HEALTH CARE LOGJAM: Technicians pinpointed the cause of congestion on the new online health exchange where Marylanders can purchase insurance plans under Obamacare, reports Andrea Walker in the Sun. When people create an account at marylandhealthconnection.gov, they are routed to a federal questionnaire to give information to verify their identity. The logjam is occurring during that process, said Rebecca Pearce, executive director of the entity responsible for operating the exchange.

HEALTH CARE CONFUSION: Tony Hausner searched on Google Tuesday for the Maryland Health Connection, the state’s new online insurance marketplace, and was pleased that he was able to access the site that had crashed earlier in the day. But Hausner inadvertently landed on an insurance broker website that features the Maryland Health Connection logo and a map of the state, Eileen Ambrose reports in the Sun.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT AUDITS: Charlie Hayward reports for MarylandReporter.com that state auditors have found that some of the 179 local governments in Maryland, which were to submit audit reports for fiscal 2012, are having difficulty preparing adequate financial statements and getting good audit results.

TROUBLED WATERS DAY 4: The campaign to “save the bay” has two levels. First, is actually improving the quality of water and animal life in the Chesapeake Bay, a scientifically difficult task with a myriad of challenges. But, writes Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette, in some ways, the tougher challenge is getting and maintaining public support, made all the more difficult by a process of slow results, false starts — and those complicated agency names.

GANSLER VIDEO: Maryland Juice is reporting that Attorney General Doug Gansler’s kickoff video for his campaign includes a statement of support from former Montgomery County police officer Mike Mancuso, whose extracurricular activities apparently include immigrant scapegoating in local newspapers.

CURRIE’S SEAT: Del. Melony Griffith (D-Prince George’s) said Wednesday that she plans to run next year for the Maryland Senate seat currently held by Ulysses Currie, the chamber’s former budget chairman who was censured by his colleagues last year in an ethics case, reports the Post’s John Wagner.

DISTRICT 15: Louis Peck in Bethesda Magazine has a pretty full rundown of the candidates seeking appointment to the District 15 delegate seat in Montgomery County left vacant when Del. Brian Feldman was named senator.

DISTRICT 22: The son of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III, who shares his father’s name, announced Wednesday that he plans to run for delegate to the Maryland General Assembly from a mid-county district where he recently moved.

PAY FOR FURLOUGHED WORKERS: The Maryland Democratic delegation took the lead in introducing legislation that would guarantee that federal workers who are furloughed because of the government shutdown would receive their full pay, reports Mark Reutter for Baltimore Brew.

COUNTY-OWNED FACILITIES: The Frederick County-owned nursing and assisted living centers whose monetary woes could lead to their privatization lost a combined $251,357 in June, but a sale opponent says strong revenue totals show the facilities are making progress, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News-Post.

PLEDGE OR NOT? A disagreement between a former U.S. Marine and a Quaker woman about the Pledge of Allegiance has sparked discussion about whether all Frederick County board and commission meetings should begin with the recitation, Bethany Rodgers writes in the Frederick News-Post.

OPEN MEETINGS COMPLAINT: People seeking standing in a recent Howard County Board of Appeals case about a proposed gas station on Centre Park Drive in Columbia are accusing the board of violating the Maryland Open Meetings Act for holding an unannounced work session after a hearing on Sept. 11, writes Amanda Yeager in the Sun.