February 18, 2015

State Roundup, February 18, 2015

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PUBLIC DEFENDERS: Saying his staff attorneys are overworked, Maryland’s chief public defender will urge the General Assembly to limit their felony and misdemeanor caseloads and to provide funding for about 110 appointed private-sector attorneys to handle the extra cases, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

“DUMB” METER FEES: Rebecca Lessner of Marylandreporter.com reports that extra fees for electricity customers who refuse to accept “smart meters” because they are wary of the new technology would be eliminated by a bill heard by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday, and any extra costs would be spread across all customers. Utility companies argue these fees are necessary because of the extra cost of continuing to read the old meters.

PRISON HOMICIDES: A U.S. Justice Department report shows Maryland’s rate of state prison homicides — killings by and of inmates — was almost triple the national average from 2001 to 2012. Maryland had 11 such homicides per 100,000 inmates, compared to four per 100,000 nationally. But the number in Maryland has fallen from a high of seven in 2006 to just one last year, the Associated Press is reporting in the Cumberland Times News.

CAUTION ON REMOVING GOV. FROM PROCESS: In an op-ed for the Sun Hal Riedl, formerly of the Maryland Division of Correction, writes that the Maryland General Assembly is taking up legislation (Senate Bill 111 and House Bill 303) to eliminate the requirement that the governor approve parole for any inmate serving a life sentence. Before we take the governor out of the loop, he writes, we should take a look at what the parole commission has actually been doing with repeat violent offenders.

William Pallozzi

William Pallozzi was named the new head of the State Police by Gov. Larry Hogan.

TROOPER TAPPED TO HEAD MSP: Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday nominated William Pallozzi as the next superintendent of the Maryland State Police, tapping a 25-year veteran of the force who has risen through the ranks, writes John Wagner of the Post.

DLLR WEBSITE MATTERS: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post writes that letter writer Joe Frank detailed one small hiccup in state government services last week that, if fixed, would make a big difference to him when it comes to him getting a question answered about licensing — having a working, up-to-date website for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Frank implored newly appointed DLLR Secretary Kelly Schulz, a Frederick County resident and former state delegate, to fix the site.

HAMPERING PRIVATE SECTOR GROWTH: Mike Beland, a Montgomery County resident, writes in an op-ed for Center Maryland that Gov. Larry Hogan used his State of the State address to paint a bleak portrait of where Maryland stands. Although his win in November was likely the result of many factors, he appears to be claiming that his victory is a mandate to make Maryland more business friendly. Maryland Democrats need to help voters understand that some of the Hogan administration’s proposals will hamper private sector activity and proudly assert that their principles are the ones that actually promote economic growth.

CUT TO CORPORATE TAX RATE: Del. Mike McKay is introducing a bill to reduce the state corporate-tax income rate in Washington and Allegany counties from 8.25% to 4%, Kaustuv Basu reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. McKay, a Republican, said the bill is an expansion of an idea proposed by Ray Givens, a Republican who lost to him in the 2014 GOP primary.

NEEDLE EXCHANGE: The General Assembly got its first look last week at controversial legislation that may aid in the fight against substance abuse and infectious disease: needle exchange, according to Jacob Owens for the Cecil Whig. Under current state law, only Baltimore City and Prince George’s County are authorized to run programs to exchange used syringes from addicts with clean ones.

IMMIGRATION ACTION: The White House promised an appeal Tuesday after a federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration and gave a coalition of 26 states time to pursue a lawsuit aiming to permanently stop the orders, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

  • John Fritze and Joseph Tanfani, writing in the Sun, report that advocates, as well as several Maryland Democrats who have sided with the Obama administration in the lawsuit, predicted that the order would quickly be overturned. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh have joined separate friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the president’s executive actions.

BROWN COULD HAVE WON: If Maryland’s race for governor had been decided by those who stayed home on Election Day, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) would have been the runaway winner, a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll has found. Scott Clement and John Wagner writes about the poll for the Washington Post.

NATURAL BURIALS: A bill approved Tuesday by the Baltimore County Council allows certain rural areas of the county to be used as natural burial grounds — where bodies can be buried without being embalmed or placed in heavy caskets, Pamela Woods reports in the Sun.