February 5, 2014

State Roundup, Wednesday, February 5, 2014

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Several hundred people rallied for 2nd Amendment gun rights in Annapolis Tuesday.

Several hundred people rallied for 2nd Amendment gun rights in Annapolis Tuesday.

GUN CONTROL PROTEST: Several hundred gun-rights supporters rallied in a defiant spirit outside the Maryland State House on Tuesday, with some making fiery calls to repeal last year’s tough new gun-control law, reports Frederick Kunkle in the Post. “We’re not out here watering the liberty tree yet, but it’s parched,” Del. Michael Smigiel told the crowd, referring to Thomas Jefferson’s remark that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS: Transgender people and their advocates urged a panel of senators Tuesday to help make Maryland the 18th state to protect them from discrimination in housing, at work and in public places, the Sun’s Erin Cox reports.

Campaign On leaderboard 11-1-2013

WAGE HIKE HARM: In an op-ed in the Sun, Howard Leathers, a professor at the University of Maryland, writes that it may be that some minimum wage earners would be harmed by an increase in the minimum wage because they would lose their jobs. But what about those who keep their jobs? A more surprising result is this: Some minimum wage earners who keep their jobs would be harmed by an increase in the minimum wage because the dollar value of the government benefits they would lose is higher than their increase in wages.

PENSION DIVERSION: The editorial board for the Sun writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to divert pension savings to the general fund is unfair to workers and potentially harmful to Maryland’s fiscal health.

CLEAN UP THE VOTER ROLLS: In voicing its support for Del. Kathy Afzali’s recently introduced bill that would help clear official voter rolls of deceased former voters, the editorial board for the Frederick News Post writes that voter identification has been a hot political topic in recent years. Conservatives have generally favored the requirement of an official voter ID to thwart voter fraud; liberals have argued that such a requirement would be an impediment for many elderly, poor and immigrant voters. That’s a legitimate issue for discussion, but keeping voter rolls as accurate and up to date as possible is something that everyone should favor

DWYER PROPOSES BILLS: Saying it was inspired by his own run-ins with alcohol and the law, Del. Don Dwyer has introduced legislation that would require jail time and rehab for public officials convicted of drunken driving and would subject legislators to removal from office if they’re jailed for any offense, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

FRACKING BAN DEAD: A key Baltimore County senator and a powerful committee chairwoman appear to agree on one thing when it comes to fracking: A bill banning the controversial process will not get a vote in the Senate this year, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Hours before a meeting of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, its chair, Sen. Joan Carter Conway reiterated her opposition to the legislation and declared the bill essentially dead on arrival. “There will be no bans in the state of Maryland so long as a blue ribbon commission is studying the issue,” Conway said before the hearing.

INSTEAD OF RAIN TAX: In an opinion piece for the Annapolis Capital, state Sen. Bryan Simonaire offers up five legislative suggestions to replace the rain tax and at the same time help clean up the Chesapeake Bay. He writes, OK, for argument sake, let’s say the rain tax is a $6 billion blunder: What then? Most everyone agrees the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble, but at the same time, no one wants to wastefully throw away $6 billion. Therefore, the obvious solution is to repeal the seriously flawed rain tax immediately and provide real solutions. The good news is that there are solutions already being implemented for a cleaner bay with more on the way.

GMO LABELING BILL: Following a discussion on the federal farm bill, Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM hosts Sens. J.B. Jennings and Karen Montgomery to discuss Montgomery’s bill in the state legislature that would require the labeling of products containing GMOs.

SHORE JOBS, BUSINESS: Maryland’s ecretary of business and economic development, Dominick Murray, met with Eastern Shore delegation members last Friday to update them on his department and how it relates to the Shore, reports John Bollinger for the Cecil Whig. Del. Addie Eckardt prefaced the conversation, saying that one of the things Murray and others will hear from all Shore delegation members is that the region has some of the “lowest-income counties” in the state.

SHOP MARYLAND ENERGY WEEK: Marylanders can take advantage of Shop Maryland Energy, a tax-free weekend on select Energy Star appliances Feb. 15 through Feb. 17, according to the Frederick News Post. The annual tax-free weekend, now in its fifth year, allows people to make qualifying purchases without paying the state’s 6% sales tax, said Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

MIZEUR CRIME PLAN: Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather Mizeur plans to release a far-reaching crime plan that calls for ending mandatory minimum prison sentences, replacing juvenile detention centers with community-based treatment programs and making it far easier for people with criminal convictions to shield them from future employers, writes John Wagner for the Post.

  • Mizeur will introduce a detailed plan calling for a holistic approach to reducing crime, including social and educational programs as well as law enforcement strategies, the Sun’s     Michael Dresser reports. “We cannot settle on ‘tough on crime’ after the fact — we need to stop crime before it occurs,” she says in a 13-page plan.

ESTATE TAX CURVE BALL FOR O’MALLEY: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes that as he becomes more overt about his plans for 2016, for most of his time as governor, Martin O’Malley has had cooperative – critics would say pliant – legislative leaders, who have helped him pass his progressive agenda and have occasionally helped him shape it. But now, in O’Malley’s last year as governor, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch have thrown him a potential curve. They want to lower the state’s estate tax by raising the amount of money that is exempt from the tax.

O’MALLEY IN IRISH-AMERICAN HALL OF FAME: Gov. Martin O’Malley is headed to the Irish America Hall of Fame. O’Malley is one of eight who will be inducted at a ceremony in New York City on March 12, according to Irish America magazine, writes Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital. The Irish America Hall of Fame, founded by Irish America magazine in 2010, celebrates its honorees’ “diverse and significant contributions to American and Irish society, and their personal commitment to safeguarding their Irish heritage.”

SCHUH SEEKS AA PROPERTY TAX CUT: Del. Steve Schuh wants Anne Arundel County to cut property taxes by $18 million to offset residents’ stormwater fee, reports Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital. Schuh delivered more than 2,000 petitions supporting the proposal to the County Council at its bi-weekly meeting Monday night. The Gibson Island Republican is a county executive candidate.

RACE FOR AA EXEC: Annapolis Capital columnist Rick Hutzell writes that George Johnson could be the next county executive. He’s already changed the debate in campaign 2014. The story so far has been one of a Republican’s race to lose. Democrat Joanna Conti has stayed on the sidelines as Republicans Steve Schuh and Laura Neuman trade whacks with a who’s-more-conservative cudgel. Conti wants to step forward after the June primary as the centrist alternative. Johnson is shifting the discussion toward Democratic values, including investment in education and public safety. He will campaign on a reputation as a straight talker earned as sheriff and superintendent of the Natural Resources Police.

RUTHERFORD CHOICE: Boyd Rutherford told MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick he’d never do it, but last week he did — run for lieutenant governor with Larry Hogan.

***MarylandReporter.com is offering four paid three-month reporting fellowships this year. The fellowships are supported by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. One fellowship starts immediately, covering the General Assembly session. For more details, click here.***