MARIJUANA BILLS: An NAACP leader, a former Maryland State Police major, a candidate for governor and a mother seeking to help her son with epilepsy converged Thursday on Annapolis to support more liberal marijuana laws, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. A number of bills, backed by lawmakers from a range of philosophical backgrounds, are moving through the General Assembly this year as a broader swath of the electorate has embraced legalizing or decriminalizing the drug.
- Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that while many lawmakers, including legalization proponent and gubernatorial candidate Del.Heather Mizeur, they say don’t expect full legalization to pass this year, there is still some hope for decriminalization.
- House Speaker Michael Busch convened several of his lawmakers — including Dels. Bill Frick and Jeff Waldstreicher — to study marijuana policy in Maryland, which included questions of whether the state should take the first steps toward legalization, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette.
- John Rydell of WBFF-TV was at the rally and has a video report.
CRIMES IN FRONT OF CHILDREN: Maryland is on the cusp of increasing penalties for those found guilty of committing a violent crime in the presence of a child, after the Senate approved the legislation in a 47 to 0 vote Thursday morning, the Post’s Jenna Johnson is reporting.
DOG BITE BILL & LOOMING DEADLINE: Kate Alexander of the Gazette writes that in just a few weeks, Gov. Martin O’Malley can sink his teeth in a bill designed to help dog bite victims. But a bill aimed at closing a loophole that lets part-time school employees and coaches escape prosecution for sexual conduct with a minor looks to be headed to a conference committee. The clock is ticking on lawmakers. On Monday, lawmakers face a “cross over” deadline. Bills from one chamber that miss the deadline face extra procedural steps before passage in the other chamber.
TRACKING CUSTOMERS: The Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill Thursday that would require retailers to tell customers when they track their movements and habits via mobile phones, writes Lorraine Mirabella for the Sun. “It is alarming how much information a store can gather from your phone when you walk in the door,” said Del. Sam Arora. “At the very minimum, we deserve to know when stores are tracking information from our phones.”
GROUND RENT: A ground rent holders’ representative squared off against a state senator Thursday over his legislation to permit holders to collect the costs of ejecting the homeowner — such as attorney’s fees — only if the ground lease specifically authorizes it, the Daily Record’s Steve Lash reports.
BUSINESS DISCLOSURE: Some private businesses would be required to report where they spend the state’s money and how many jobs they spin out of the state’s cash, under legislation passed by the House of Delegates on Thursday. The House voted 132-0 to pass House Bill 1086, which would require businesses that receive at least $50,000 in state aid to file a disclosure report, Alex Jackson reports in the Annapolis Capital.
OPEN CARRY VIDEO: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times writes about a kerfuffle in Wicomico County, where county Sheriff Mike Lewis and a deputy, dressed in full uniform and using sheriff’s department cars, have starred in a video detailing when and how Marylanders can “open carry” some weapons. The 5-minute 12-second video was organized by one of the more conservative members of the Maryland General Assembly, Del. Mike Smigiel. And it was posted on YouTube. Lewis says, “I was told by Del. Smigiel that we were doing this as an educational, legislative piece for his colleagues up here in Annapolis. I did not approve, nor did I condone the release of this on YouTube.”
FOR FEDERAL GMO LABELING: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that, while it supports labeling foods purely as a matter of consumer transparency — you should know in detail if you want what you’re putting in your mouth — this should be handled at the federal level, and not through a bill currently under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly.
MOVE-OVER BILL: The Maryland Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday that would require motorists to move into an open lane away from tow trucks that are attending to roadside emergencies, Frederick Kunkle writes in the Post.
HOLOCAUST BILL & FEDERAL FUNDING: The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that the attorney general’s office has concluded that a bill that would block a U.S. subsidiary of the French national railway from bidding to become a partner in a $2.4 billion project because of its role in the Holocaust would put federal funding of the project at “significant risk.”
COMMON CORE FIXES: Legislation designed to solve problems created by the implementation of the Common Core curriculum advanced in the House and Senate Thursday, reports Margaret Sessa-Hawkins for MarylandReporter.com. A bill to delay the use of testing on Common Core standards in teacher evaluations till 2017 passed the Senate with only one dissenting vote, while the House version received a favorable report from the Ways and Means Committee, sending it to the House floor.
- As Maryland public schools transition to a new student assessment test, teachers and school leaders want their bosses to slow down in using those fresh test scores in evaluating their performance. The Maryland Senate agrees. Jenna Johnson of the Post reports that the Senate voted 46 to 1 on Thursday morning to approve legislation that would delay using those scores to make personnel decisions until at least the 2016-2017 school year.
IMMIGRATION DETENTION: WYPR’s Nathan Sterner and Jeremy Bauer-Wolf of MarylandReporter.com talk about two proposed bills in the General Assembly that would each create a different statewide, uniform policy for cooperating with detention requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
REPORTING A DEATH: A bill that would require those with personal knowledge of a death or a dead body to report it to authorities within four hours of that discovery has cleared a crucial House committee, Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports. The measure passed the House Health and Government Operations Committee this week.
BWI WORKERS PROTEST: Fourteen protesters were removed from the State House steps Thursday after a march and sit-in planned to bring attention to a union dispute at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, Zoe Read reports for the Annapolis Capital.
- MarylandReporter.com writes that more than 300 BWI employees, and supporters from UNITE HERE, the union which organized the demonstration, circled the sidewalks of the state complex in chilling winds, chanting into bullhorns and swinging signs that read “I am equal.”
HYBRID SCHOOL BOARD FOR BA CO: Parents who have fought for years to get an elected school board in Baltimore County have won key support for a compromise measure that is given a good chance of passage in the General Assembly, report Timothy Wheeler and Michael Dresser in the Sun. The county’s House and Senate delegations voted unanimously Thursday to endorse creation of a “hybrid” board consisting of seven elected and four appointed members, plus a student, starting in 2018.
- John Lee of WYPR-FM reports on the groundswell of public support for electing members of the school board in Baltimore County. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is supporting a compromise.
CASINO NIGHTS IN FREDERICK: Luck does not seem to be with Frederick County lawmakers who hoped to bring casino night fundraisers to local fire halls and veterans organizations this year. Last week, Howard County legislators appeared willing to let Frederick County tag along on a bill to grant state permission for the gambling events. But by Thursday, chances of a collaboration looked slight, writes Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.
STORMWATER FEE DEAL: Carroll County has struck an agreement with state officials to avoid imposing fees to pay for stormwater pollution controls by funding runoff fixes with property tax revenue. But, writes Pat Furgurson for the Annapolis Capital, don’t expect Anne Arundel County to follow suit.
CECIL CO. BILL UPDATE: Del. Michael Smigiel, chairman of the Cecil County Delegation, said Thursday that most local legislative requests are still alive, reports Cheryl Mattix in the Cecil Whig. The last day for bills to cross over from one house to the other in the Maryland General Assembly is Monday, which usually translates into long floor sessions to ensure bills can advance to third reading and final passage.
READERS RESPOND: Gazette columnist Blair Lee runs letters that he has received from readers in response to recent columns, including addressing the disastrous health care rollout and school discipline, and responds to those comments.
MINISTERS BACK GANSLER: A coalition of Baltimore City ministers endorsed Attorney General Doug Gansler for governor Thursday, saying he was an experienced leader with a strong track record on civil rights issues, the Sun’s Luke Broadwater reports.
- Leaders of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, which has been active in politics since the 1970s, said they had met with both Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and decided their agenda is more closely aligned with Gansler’s platform, writes John Wagner for the Post.
BONGINO ENDORSED: Dan Bongino, the former Secret Service agent and Republican candidate in Maryland’s 6th congressional district, secured the endorsement Thursday of GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, John Fritze reports in the Sun. Lee, a Tea Party favorite, had also endorsed Bongino in his 2012 campaign for Senate. This year, Bongino is running against incumbent Democratic Rep. John Delaney.
BAKER’S PRINCE GEORGE’S BUDGET: Patrick Svitek of the Post reports that Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker on Thursday unveiled a $3.41 billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year, hailing it as a blueprint for the county’s emerging image as the “place to be.”