State Roundup, January 30, 2020

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LAWMAKERS TUSSLE OVER GUN BILL AMENDMENTS: House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, said legislation that would require background checks for secondary transfers of “long guns” such as rifles and shotguns would do little to reduce violent crime in Maryland. “The problem with it is that it doesn’t work. The bill that they brought over doesn’t work. It’s been tried in different places around the country,” Kipke said at a news conference at the State House on Wednesday, Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter writes.

ONLINE AD TAX DEBATED: Maryland lawmakers began discussion Wednesday of how to solve the biggest challenge they face this year: how to raise billions of dollars for extra spending on public education, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. Senate President Bill Ferguson said the business of tracking internet users and presenting them targeted ads is a $400 billion worldwide industry. The companies who make that money, he said, should be obligated to help pay for “the costs of civic society” such as public schools.

HOGAN PUSHES POST-LABOR DAY SCHOOL START: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that he will introduce legislation to, once again, try to mandate that public schools may not start their school years until after Labor Day — despite the legislature’s repeal of such a mandate last year, Luke Broadwater reports for the Sun.

SEN. LEE ASKED TO REVISE BILL ON ROAD PROJECT CONTROL: A bill that would give counties more control over major state infrastructure projects was heard in Annapolis on Wednesday. Kate Masters of Bethesda Beat reports that state Sen. Delores Kelley said she appreciated the intent, but the legislation lacks the legal specificity to make it enforceable. Kelley urged the bill’s sponsor — Montgomery County Sen. Susan Lee — to spend a year revising the language.

LOOSENING REAL ID REQUIREMENT: Maryland drivers who have their licenses confiscated due to Real ID non-compliance would be protected under legislation being heard this week in the General Assembly, Jeff Barnes of Capital News Service reports. In 2005, the federal Real ID Act mandated that all U.S. residents obtain an updated identification card in order to travel on commercial aircraft and access federal facilities. The rule, which goes into full effect on Oct. 1, requires states to verify documentation that proves name, birth date and residence.

OPINION: END ‘FRIENDS & FAMILY’ GA SUCCESSION: In a commentary advocating for reform of the system to fill General Assembly vacancies, Tiffany Jones, who hoped to replace Cheryl Glenn in the House of Delegates, and Andy Ellis of the Green Party opine in a column for Baltimore Brew that, “After watching Chanel Branch, daughter of Majority Whip Talmadge Branch, break the tie between her and Caylin Young by voting for herself two weeks ago, the community walked out of the room in silence. Some left with their head hung low, others with eyerolls. Why? Because as most of us already knew, ‘the fix was in.’ ”

HOUSE ACTION LIVE-STREAMED: For the first time in history Wednesday, Maryland residents were able to watch a live-stream of the House of Delegates engaged in substantive debate on pending legislation. It happened without warning, when Speaker Adrienne  Jones, D-Baltimore County, decided to activate the half-dozen small, robotic cameras that were installed around the chamber late last year, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.

ABANDONED BOATS BILL: Olivia Sanchez of the Capital Gazette reports that a recently introduced bill inspired by the eviction of a handful of boats from local marinas last summer would tighten regulations for sunken or abandoned boats in Maryland waters. Sen. Sarah Elfreth, D-Annapolis, has introduced Senate Bill 219, which would authorize the Department of Natural Resources to act without first notifying a boat’s last known owner if it poses immediate hazards. The legislation also would prohibit the department from using Natural Resources Police administrative funds to remove or store abandoned boats.

PROTECTIONS FOR THOSE SAVING DISTRESSED ANIMALS: Legislation is being considered in the Maryland General Assembly that would give people certain protections if they decide to break into a vehicle to save an animal in distress, Matthew Prensky of the Salisbury Daily Times reports. The new legislation, Senate Bill 127, would allow people who are not emergency workers to “use reasonable force” to save an animal that appears to be in distress, according to the bill. Currently, state law only allows police officers, firefighters or animal control officers to enter a vehicle to save an animal in distress.

SEN. LAM: LOW RISK OF CORONAVIRUS: As fears of the coronavirus grows, state Sen. Clarence K. Lam (D-Howard), a Chinese-American, says he can certainly understand the rationale for not wanting to be exposed to the illness. “There’s a lot of traveling back and forth between China this time of year,” Lam says. “People want to be with their friends and family. There’s a lot of concern about the potential exposure risk.” But Lam, who is a physician, says that the risk is very low and that it’s important to put the coronavirus into context. About 60,000 people die each year from the flu in the United States alone.

UMMS APPOINTEE’s SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS QUESTIONED: Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that a newly appointed member of the University of Maryland Medical System Board faced tough questions from a Senate panel, not about the scandal that involved self-dealing by some former members, but because of her social media posts involving transgender persons and abortion.

CUMMINGS’ SISTERS BACK MFUME AND SPIKES: The three sisters of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings have made endorsements in the crowded race to succeed him — with two sisters supporting his friend, Kweisi Mfume, and one endorsing his longtime aide, Harry Spikes, Luke Broadwater reports for the Sun.

B’MORE TO FOCUS ON GRIME: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young pledged Wednesday to eliminate the steep backlog of 311 cleaning requests by April 1 as part of a broader campaign to tidy up the city, Talia Richman writes for the Sun. Residents were waiting on more than 17,000 overdue cleaning and property maintenance work orders in September, according to city data. By Jan. 1, city crews whittled the backlog down to roughly 7,500 — a 56% decrease that city officials say shows how focused they are on eliminating grime.