July 21, 2014

State Roundup, July 21, 2014

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LOCAL IMMIGRANT PLANS: Officials in Baltimore County reacted Friday to a proposal by Catholic Charities to shelter 50 immigrant children at a facility in Timonium, with a state delegate who is running for the County Council opposing the plan and calling the immigration crisis “a federal problem,” Alison Knezevich reports in the Sun.

FINDING A LAWYER: Before they get a decision in their immigration cases — before they even have a hearing — the tens of thousands of children entering the country illegally will face an increasingly daunting challenge at the heart of a massive backlog in U.S. immigration court: the young immigrants must first find an attorney, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

LICENSE TO SHOWBOAT: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that the federal government is responsible for border security and for setting the rules on naturalization of citizens. But when it neglects its duties for years, state and local governments feel compelled to fill the vacuum. And some local politicians think they have a license to showboat.

HEALTH INSPECTIONS DECLINE: The Maryland health agency responsible for overseeing medical facilities, including the group home where a disabled foster child died this month, is moving to reduce the number of facilities it inspects across the state — even as it acknowledges that thousands of complaints and inspections have not been properly handled. Carrie Wells reports in the Sun.

PERVIOUS PAVEMENT: The concrete oozed rather than poured out of the mixer truck, almost as if reluctant to cover the ground — partly because it won’t, entirely. Timothy Wheeler of the Sun reports that laborers shoveled pebbly gobs around to form a new sidewalk at a park-and-ride lot in Waysons Corner, one of two where the State Highway Administration is laying “pervious” concrete this summer as a test of its environmental friendliness.

GUN LAWS: Advocates of a 2013 gun control law under federal review say it is helping to reduce fatal shootings in Maryland, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. A hearing on whether to dismiss challenges to the law will be heard in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Tuesday.

EARLY RELEASE OF DRUG OFFENDERS: Tens of thousands of federal inmates serving time for drug crimes — more than 600 of whom are in Maryland — may be eligible for early release under a cost-cutting proposal adopted Friday that would dramatically reduce the nation’s prison population over time, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

MORTGAGE PROGRAM: A state mortgage program is reducing its rates by a quarter percent for two months in Western Maryland to entice homebuyers, Kaustuv Basu reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

MVA’S ‘MOST HELPFUL PERSON’ DIES: Rea Dimler was a woman who dropped everything to help others. Indeed, for almost 50 years, she worked in customer service at the state Motor Vehicle Administration in Glen Burnie, retiring only eight days before her death last Sunday, Zoe Read of the Annapolis Capital writes her obituary.

MARTIN WHO? As Gov. Martin O’Malley mulls over a run for president in 2016, a new Gallup Poll suggests he faces a significant challenge — a vast majority of voters nationally have never heard of him, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The poll, released Friday, notes that 69% of those surveyed said they had not heard of the two-term Maryland governor. Another 15% said they had heard of him but had no opinion.

FUNDRAISER RETREAT: Gov. Martin O’Malley gathered with more than 100 of his supporters this weekend for a retreat on the Eastern Shore that included a fundraiser that netted more than $125,000 for five Democratic congressional candidates, John Wagner reports in the Post.

KRAFT ON KAMENETZ ON RED LINE: Baltimore City Councilman James Kraft is not impressed with Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s stance on the proposed Red Line light rail route, reports Adam Bednar for the Daily Record. Kamenetz sent a letter to the state playing hardball about how much the county will pay for the controversial project. “I think the county executive is irresponsible in his approach to [local funding]. Once again Baltimore County wants the benefits of things and wants the city to pick up the tab for it,” Kraft said.

WAIT & SEE ON FREDERICK CHARTER: Most candidates for Frederick County Council agree that the document creating their desired job is not perfect. Some say the charter set to take effect in December should give the council more power to increase county spending. Others say they’d like to consider beefing up ethics rules, cutting the number of elected posts or raising the $22,500-per-year salary for council members. But almost to a person, the candidates say Frederick County’s first council members owe the charter a trial period before they pull out the editing pen, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.

WOMEN PREVAIL: Women indeed are becoming a pivotal force in local and state elections in Maryland. They are more likely to go to the polls than men, writes columnist Barry Rascovar in MarylandReporter.com. Given the right candidate, it can make a difference.

CARROLL WRITE-IN: Sean Shaffer will continue his campaign to become Carroll County Commissioner for District 4 as a write-in candidate in November’s general election, according to the Carroll County Times. Shaffer will challenge incumbent Richard Rothschild and fellow write-in candidate Jim Rowe. Shaffer received the fewest votes out of the three candidates that ran in June’s primary election.

CECIL CONSIDERS LOWER ASSESSMENT CAP: A bill to decrease the amount that Cecil County property tax assessments could rise in any one year was introduced last week during a Cecil County Council meeting, reports Cheryl Mattix for the Cecil Whig. The policy, known as the Maryland Homestead Tax Credit, was designed to help homeowners deal with large assessment increases on their principal residence during times of escalating home prices.

NOT JUST BLACK & WHITE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Ian Duncan of the Baltimore Sun talk about the vote breakdown in Marilyn Mosby’s victory over Gregg Bernstein in the Democratic primary for Baltimore City’s State’s Attorney, and why it brings into question a typical assumption about who votes in Baltimore City.

WORKING TOGETHER: Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides, in an op-ed in the Annapolis Capital, writes that on June 16, the Annapolis City Council adopted the $97.3 million operating budget for fiscal 2015 by an 8-to-1 vote. As adopted, there was no real estate property tax increase. The operating budget projects revenues of $98.9 million, yielding a surplus of $1.59 million across all funds. This outcome, despite skeptics saying the council couldn’t work together, is a clear example of the nine agreeing to disagree on some issues and compromising on others in order to do what is best for Annapolis, says the mayor.