March 5, 2014

State Roundup, Wednesday, March 5, 2014

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GUN BILL: A bill aimed at preventing guns from being sold to people legally barred from owning them drew fire Tuesday night in Annapolis, as gun rights advocates charged the measure would simply let state authorities drag out sales now delayed for months because of a large backlog in Maryland State Police background checks, Tim Wheeler reports in the Sun.

TRANSGENDER BIAS: The Maryland Senate on Tuesday passed a civil rights bill that would prohibit discrimination against transgender people in employment, housing and public places such as hotels, restaurants, theaters and sports venues, writes Frederick Kunkle for the Post.

HAZING PENALTIES: A bill sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin would change criminal penalties for hazing, increasing the possible fine from $500 to $5,000. The offense would continue to carry a possible sentence of up to six months, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.

  • A state Senate committee took up the issue on Tuesday, hearing about many of the hazing practices detailed in and around Salisbury that caused former Salisbury University student Justin Stuart to report Sigma Alpha Epsilon to officials, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.

DEATH NOTIFICATION: With some exceptions such as physicians, Maryland law currently doesn’t require a person to report a dead body or a death to authorities. Del. Neil Parrott and state Sen. Christopher Shank, two Republican lawmakers from Washington County, are trying to change that with a bill that would require a person who has personal knowledge of a death or a dead body to notify law enforcement within four hours of that discovery, Kaustuv Basu reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

GROUND RENT: Lawmakers in Annapolis moved Monday night to take another look at Maryland’s arcane ground-rent system only days after the state’s highest court invalidated a key element of sweeping reforms enacted seven years ago, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun. Emergency ground-rent bills were introduced in both House and Senate to, as one sponsor put it, “resurrect” some of the provisions of the law declared unconstitutional Wednesday by the Court of Appeals.

SPEED CAMERA BILL KILLED: Motorists caught speeding have lost one chance to catch a break when a bill that would tighten enforcement on camera systems designed to catch speeders was killed by a House Committee, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times News.

A CLOSE LOOK AT COMMON CORE: To see the Common Core curriculum in practice, reporter Glynis Kazanjian visits a second grade classroom in Gaithersburg. She also talks to experts and educators who support the controversial curriculum and opponents who say they had no say in the standards which are too low, inflexible and untested.

March 13-2014 MR fundraiser medium web adWHOSE SURVIVOR BENEFITS? Maryland’s practice of shoring up its foster care budget by appropriating the Social Security survivor benefits of the children in its care is questionable and merits close scrutiny by legislators, opines the Sun editorial board. Maryland is hardly alone in taking this step, and prohibiting it would present financial and logistical hurdles. But there is a strong case to be made that it is unfair to the children the state is supposed to be caring for.

DNR APPOINTMENT BACK ON TRACK: Acting Natural Resources Secretary Joseph Gill’s confirmation as the department’s permanent chief appears back on track, Sun staffer Tim Wheeler reports. A Senate committee Monday approved Gill’s nomination after he apologized for remarks that angered watermen and vowed to work on closing what he called a “communication gap.”

KEEP GERRYMANDER ISSUE ALIVE: Given gerrymandering’s importance as a tool for the political majority, measures to reform Maryland’s system — the one that gave us absurd congressional district boundaries that arbitrarily partition Anne Arundel County — are unlikely to go anywhere in the General Assembly. Nonetheless, we’re grateful a few legislators, as Marylandreporter.com reported this week, are keeping the issue alive, opines the editorial board for the Annapolis Capital.

MINIMUM WAGE: The Maryland House of Delegates is scheduled to take up a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage today, according to an AP brief in the Carroll County Times. It would boost the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2017.

  • As Maryland considers raising its minimum wage, Robert Reich, in a column in the Sun, writes that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says a minimum wage increase would be a job killer. Republicans and the chamber also say unions are job killers, workplace safety regulations are job killers, environmental regulations are job killers and the Affordable Care Act is a job killer.The California Chamber of Commerce even publishes an annual list of “job killers,” including almost any measures that lift wages or protect workers and the environment. But the facts have not proved this out.

GANSLER ASSAILED OVER BAIL REVIEW STAND: Attorneys for indigent defendants on Tuesday assailed Attorney General Doug Gansler’s call for Maryland’s top court to overturn its landmark decision that arrestees have a state constitutional right to counsel at initial bail hearings, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

Signs for Julius Henson are going up all over District 45 in northeast Baltimore, reports delegate candidate Cory McCray who took this picture while door knocking.

Signs for Julius Henson are going up all over District 45 in northeast Baltimore, reports delegate candidate Cory McCray who took this picture while door knocking.

FOREHAND BACKS KAGAN: It’s good when political adversaries can put the past behind them and work to make the world a better place – or at least help each other get elected. Today’s example comes from Sen. Jennie Forehand who announced her “enthusiastic endorsement” of former Del. Cheryl Kagan. Missing from the statement was any mention of the accusations of negative campaigning between the two in the 2010 election, blogs Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

MIZEUR BLASTS FOES ON FORECLOSURES: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather Mizeur criticized her two leading primary opponents Tuesday for talking about home foreclosures but doing little to prevent them during this year’s legislative session, writes John Wagner for the Post.

At a State House news conference,  Mizeur said Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown as well as Attorney General Doug Gansler — the other Democrat in the race for governor — must  be held accountable for the state’s foreclosure rate, the Sun’s Michael Dresser writes. She said the state had seen a 275% increase in foreclosures last year and now ranks No. 2 in the country in that rate.

GANSLER TO TALK JOBS: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is running in the Democratic primary for governor, is scheduled to talk about a plan to create jobs today in Prince George’s County, according to an AP brief in the Carroll County Times.

DEFINING BROWN CAMPAIGN: As the front-runner in the Democratic race for governor, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown often rallies his supporters as though he were already the incumbent. He touts the past seven years under Gov. Martin O’Malley as “righting the ship” — but then subtly pitches a different vision for Maryland, writes Erin Cox for the Sun. It seems as though Brown is fashioning a message of closing the gap between the haves and have-nots. But he has been vague, political observers say. Even he eschews the notion that inequality would be the focus of his campaign. That has left many to wait and see how Brown will define his candidacy — and how he would be different from O’Malley.

BROWN’S ED INITIATIVE: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown pledged Tuesday to adopt a variety of new educational initiatives that take aim at reducing the achievement gap by extending support to struggling families, reports Liz Bowie for the Sun.

OPPOSITION TO DANCE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Liz Bowie of the Baltimore Sun talk about recent public opposition to decisions made by Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance, and why it may increase support for a bill that makes the school board partially elected.

SMART METERS: Some Marylanders are apprehensive that a digital, smart meter system measuring their electricity use violates their privacy and will heap on costs to electric bills. Jeremy Bauer-Wolf writes in MarylandReporter.com that they are supporting legislation that would allow an inexpensive opt-out option.