September 2, 2014

State Roundup, September 2, 2014

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IMMIGRANT DETENTION LIMITS: Gov. Martin O’Malley has imposed strict new rules to limit when the state may hold immigrants in Baltimore City’s jail at the request of federal authorities, dealing a new blow to a national program intended to catch people who are in the country illegally, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

MEDICAL POT: As a Maryland panel struggles to figure out how to manage and regulate medical marijuana, families struggle to cope with illnesses that could be helped by the drug and some lawmakers worry that change isn’t coming fast enough, reports John Kelvey for the Carroll County Times.

CASES CLOSED: Maryland Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera has achieved her goal of having the high court decide by Aug. 31, the final day of its 2013-2014 term, all 127 cases it heard during the session and said she intends to duplicate the feat this term and beyond, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

BUSINESS SETBACK: The Sun editorial board opines that, while last week’s decision to abandon the proposed $95 million intermodal rail facility at the Mount Clare yard in Southwest Baltimore may be regarded as a big victory for neighbors in Morrell Park and elsewhere who strongly opposed it, the decision is a genuine setback for efforts to expand business at the Port of Baltimore.

PURPLE LINE NEEDED: Post columnist Robert McCartney writes that having failed to kill or reroute the Purple Line despite years of agitation, a small but resolute band of critics is exploiting a pair of amphipod species in what could be the final, serious bid to disrupt the transit project. It would be a shame if they succeed, and not only because the Purple Line would create a long-overdue transit rail link between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

PUBLIC DEFENDER EXPANSION: Maryland’s Office of the Public Defender handles more than 200,000 cases a year, but it’s cases the agency doesn’t handle that are being used to justify expanding its Towson office, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The Board of Public Works is expected Wednesday to discuss the agency’s two requests to modify the lease for its existing offices at 200 W. Towsontowne Blvd.

WHAT ‘LIKE’ MEANS: What does it mean when a journalist “likes,” “friends” or “follows” a politician? Do they really like them? Are they really friends with them? Are they the politician’s follower? Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com has the answers.

CASINO DOUBTERS: The sparkle has yet to wear off the new Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore but the chairman of the Baltimore City delegation to the House of Delegates remains unimpressed and is telling people to avoid traveling in the area if they can help it, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. “It’s going to be a tremendous hassle from now on,” Del. Curt S. Anderson, D-Baltimore, said during a Friday appearance on the C4 Show on WBAL Radio.

CASINO’S BENEFITS: Granted, Horseshoe isn’t the answer to Baltimore City’s woes, writes columnist Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. But proceeds from the casino will help Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake slowly lower sky-high property taxes, make infrastructure improvements and eventually pour millions it now doesn’t have into community upgrades.

CASINO HOSTESS BARRED: A federal judge has ruled that one unlucky hostess accused of stealing a list of high-rolling clients from a Maryland casino where she used to work and using it to recruit business to another casino cannot contact the gamblers until further notice, the AP is reporting in the Daily Record.

KEEP THE EARLY START: The editorial board for the Sun opines that students return to school for the first time today in only one school system in Maryland. Elsewhere, public school systems opened last week, and they appear universally satisfied with their choice. That 23 of Maryland’s 24 school systems continue to prefer a pre-Labor Day starting date would seem to present a teachable moment to everyone but Comptroller Peter Franchot, who continues his quixotic crusade to force a longer summer break.

VETERANS’ HEALTH CARE: Veterans who have been waiting for months to see a primary-care doctor at the Veterans Affairs Maryland Health Care System can now visit one of the four Evergreen Health Care facilities that are affiliated with the state’s new health insurance co-op, reports Jenna Johnson for the Post.

O’MALLEY RETURNS TO NH: Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to return to New Hampshire in late September, making his fourth trip to the early presidential nominating state since November, writes John Wagner for the Post.

DAMNING THE DAM: The general election is still more than two months away but here’s a bit of friendly advice to candidates hoping to win office in Maryland: Don’t use the Conowingo Dam as an excuse to stop cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, opines the editorial board for the Sun. That would seem like common sense but it’s become increasingly clear that damning the dam has become a popular political strategy.

HITTING THE ROAD: With little competition at home, lawmakers from Maryland are traveling farther down the campaign trail this year to influence the midterm elections, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Members of the state’s congressional delegation have popped up in North Carolina, California and Virginia in recent weeks to stump for colleagues in the closely fought races that will determine which party controls the Senate in January — and those that will likely set the political tone in Washington for the final two years of Barack Obama’s presidency.

UNION ORGANIZING: Following two years of highly publicized fast-food worker agitation around the country, workers at the Baltimore locations of Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches have launched a new organizing campaign under the banner of Jimmy John’s Workers Union, an affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World, reports Bruce Vail for In These Times.

NEVERDON PUSH: A veteran defense attorney running an independent campaign for Baltimore City state’s attorney argued in Circuit Court Friday that city election workers “messed up” when they ruled he did not have enough signatures to appear on the November ballot, Luke Broadwater writes for the Sun.

HARFORD RETREAT ON RAISES: Harford County Council members, in the face of public criticism and the threat of a veto by County Executive David Craig, said they are backing off plans to raise salaries for future council members and will instead recommend that the county executive give other county employees a raise, reports Bryna Zumer in the Sun.

GARDNER VS. YOUNG: This fall, residents of Frederick County will elect their first-ever county executive. WYPR’s Fraser Smith talks to Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post about the two nominees — Jan Gardner and Blaine Young — for the office, their backgrounds and their platforms.

FREDERICK COURTHOUSE RACES: About two months before the general election, races are heating up in the Frederick County Courthouse. There are contested races for each elected office within the courthouse: state’s attorney, clerk of the court, register of wills, judges of the orphans’ court and Circuit Court judge, writes Danielle Gaines for the Frederick News Post.

CAMPAIGNING IN ANNE ARUNDEL: Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital reports that it’s 65 days before voters choose who gets Anne Arundel County’s highest office, pick some new County Council members and State House representatives, and vote for the next governor of Maryland. Open seats could lead to changes in the political landscape.

ARUNDEL BILLS: The Anne Arundel County Council will return from recess Tuesday and hold a public hearing on a dozen measures that include fining residents over recycling and hiking county officials’ salaries, reports Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital. One bill would fine residents for not properly separating their trash at county landfills while another would hike the salaries of County Council member and the county executive over the next four years. A bill that would limit road access to a new residential development in Glen Burnie is also eligible for a vote.

CARROLL LEGAL BILLS: Fighting to say Christian prayers at the beginning of public meetings, denying information to citizens and halting a $200-million-plus incinerator project costs money. Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times reports that the current, five-member Carroll County Board of Commissioners has spent nearly $180,000 of taxpayer money from an outside legal fund fighting those and other legal battles over the past four years.

UNPLEASANT SEAT PLEASANT: While both the Seat Pleasant city council and mayor probably believe their actions are for the good of the community, going to such humiliating extremes as barring the mayor from his physical office only to have him pitch a tent on city hall grounds is doing just the opposite. After all, opines the Gazette editorial board, how is city business expected to be taken care of when those in charge cannot work things out in a productive manner?