State Roundup, February 5, 2016

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ASSAULT RIFLE BAN OVERTURNED: A federal appeals court dealt a potentially serious blow to Maryland’s landmark 2013 gun control law and similar measures across the country, ruling Tuesday that a lower court was wrong when it upheld the state’s ban on assault rifles, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. In a 2-1 decision applauded by gun rights advocates, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit concluded that the semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines banned by Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act “are in common use by law-abiding citizens” and thus don’t fall under the exception to the right to bear arms that applies to “unusual” weapons such as machine guns and hand grenades.

VETO OVERRIDE NO. 6: The Maryland Senate today is expected to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill that would give released felons the right to vote. The House of Delegates voted to overturn Hogan’s veto last month. The Senate planned to delay action until today, when lawmakers expected an empty seat in the chamber would be filled, reports the Sun.

Craig Zucker being sworn in by Senate President Mike Miller with wife Laura Zucker.

Craig Zucker being sworn in by Senate President Mike Miller with wife Laura Zucker.

DRUG TREATMENT BILL: A Baltimore County lawmaker is introducing legislation that will dramatically change how the state responds to people who are addicted to heroin and other drugs, Daniel Leaderman of the Daily Record reports. The package of four bills, sponsored by Del. Dan Morhaim will shift state policies to focus less on criminal punishment and more on both addiction treatment and allowing safe, supervised drug use for addicts who haven’t responded to previous treatment attempts.

MORE JUDGES: Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Thursday that there are not enough Circuit and District judges in Maryland, which has resulted in courts being overloaded with cases. She was testifying in favor of SB 117, a bill the judiciary asked for that would add 13 judges around the state at an estimated cost of $4.1 million including support staff in its first year. The judiciary has included $3.8 million in the fiscal 2017 budget to pay for the new judges, Bryan Renbaum writes for MarylandReporter.com.

HEALTHY VENDING MACHINES: Sweet-potato crackers, bottled water and other such health-conscious items would replace much of the junk food and sugary sodas in state vending machines under a new bill in the Maryland legislature, reports Josh Hicks for the Post. Sen. Joan Carter Conway introduced a measure Thursday that would require 75% of the food and drinks in vending machines that are located on state property to meet strict standards for sugar, sodium and trans-fat content.

LIQUOR CONTROL SKEPTICS: A detailed presentation by Montgomery County officials on recent improvements in the operations of the Department of Liquor Control was met Thursday with skepticism from several members of the county’s state legislative delegation, reports Louis Peck for Bethesda Beat.

SCHUH PULLS BACK ON AD PLAN: Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh plans to pull back his proposal to post tax sale notices on the government’s website instead of newspapers, writes Elisha Sauer in the Annapolis Capital. A spokesman for Schuh said the administration will announce the state bill’s withdrawal today. County officials rethought the legislation after a hearing on it was held in a Senate committee Wednesday, McEvoy said. Concerns that the policy change could adversely affect people without Internet, such as older residents, were “valid points,” he said.

AA BOARD NOMINATIONS: When Anne Arundel County delegates meet today, a bill proposing changes to the people who nominate local school board members may become the hot topic writes Elisha Sauers in the Annapolis Capital. The bill, part of County Executive Steve Schuh’s legislative priorities, would alter the ex-officio seat on the panel that is designated for an Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce representative. Schuh wants the seat to be rotated among the county’s six chambers of commerce every two years.

ON STATE OF STATE: In his second State of the State address, Gov. Hogan struck a tone of bipartisanship. But Democratic leaders say the governor’s rhetoric doesn’t match his budget. WYPR reporter Rachel Baye and Sheilah Kast discuss this on WYPR’s Midday as well as legislation before the General Assembly.

HOGAN’S FUTURE: Fraser Smith and Richard Cross, speechwriter for former Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, talk about the Iowa caucuses, the upcoming New Hampshire primary and what that means for current Republican Gov. Larry Hogan‘s support of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

MARYLANDERS FOR AID REDUCTION: A majority of Marylanders would cut federal subsidies to agricultural companies, reduce foreign aid and increase taxes on the wealthy to help balance the budget, according to a Citizen Cabinet poll conducted by the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and released on Thursday. John Fritze of the Sun reports that the poll finds bipartisan support for a number of deficit reduction measures.

TOUCH SCREEN VOTING NIXED: Early voters in April’s primary will cast their ballots on paper that will be scanned by a machine — just as election day voters will — after Maryland elections officials on Thursday nixed the use of touch screen machines for early voting, writes Pamela Wood in the Sun. The change was made after elections officials said they realized that many primary contests will feature long lists of candidates that can’t fit on one screen, and some candidates threatened legal action for being stuck on a second or third screen.

UNIONS SPLIT ENDORSEMENTS: Several more labor unions have split in the competitive Democratic primary for Maryland’s Senate seat, underscoring the close race between Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, writes Rachel Weiner for the Post. They are campaigning to replace Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), who is retiring.

TRONE USES OBAMA IN AD: David Trone, the wealthy businessman running for Congress in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, is drawing on a little Democratic Party star power in a new web video that features President Barack Obama at a fundraiser saying “we could run him for something.” The video for the ad, which is essentially unedited, comes from a Democratic National Committee fundraiser Trone hosted at his Potomac home with Obama in November, John Fritze reports for the Sun.

MAYOR CANDIDATES SPEAK: Five of the leading Democrats vying to become Baltimore City’s next mayor shared their visions Thursday, including state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh’s push to put ex-prisoners to work rebuilding the city and former Mayor Sheila Dixon‘s plan to use land trusts to spur investment in struggling neighborhoods, Yvonne Wenger writes in the Sun.