State Roundup: Fate of bill uncertain to give voters a say in filling legislative vacancies; mixed testimony over 11% tax on guns and ammo to fund trauma care

State Roundup: Fate of bill uncertain to give voters a say in filling legislative vacancies; mixed testimony over 11% tax on guns and ammo to fund trauma care

With two months to go in the state legislature, decisions about filling legislative vacancies remain in the hands of local political party committees as the fate of a bill is uncertain.

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BILL TO GIVE VOTERS MORE SAY IN FILLING VACANCIES REMAINS UNCERTAIN: The fate of a bill in the General Assembly to give voters a say in filling vacancies in the legislature — a process now firmly in the hands of local political party committees — remains uncertain with two months left in the session. But, after two recent legislative hearings, advocates of moving toward a special elections process to fill such vacancies are coalescing around a plan — labeled a “compromise” by its sponsor — intended to prevent legislators appointed by party committees from serving almost an entire four-year term without facing the voters. Louis Peck/MoCo 360.

11% TAX ON GUNS, AMMO GETS MIXED REVIEWS IN SENATE HEARING: Legislation to put an 11% excise tax on guns and ammunition, sponsored by Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth (D-Anne Arundel), would fund the state’s Trauma Physicians Services Fund, which helps cover costs for medical care by trauma physicians, for Medicaid-enrolled patients and other trauma related on-call and standby expenses. The fund currently gets about $12 million a year, primarily through a motor vehicle registration fee. William Ford/Maryland Matters.

ENVIRO GROUPS CONCERNED ABOUT MOORE DATA CENTER BILL: Environmental groups, and some legislators, are voicing concerns about a bill proposed by Gov. Wes Moore, arguing that it excessively loosens oversight for energy-hungry data centers looking to open in the state. Moore’s camp argues that the bill reduces onerous red tape for data centers, which can be potent economic drivers, by exempting their large arrays of backup generators from a lengthy review process by the Maryland Public Service Commission. Christine Condon/The Baltimore Sun.

BPW AWARDS MAN $2M+ FOR WRONGFUL CONVICTION: The Maryland Board of Public Works awarded more than $2 million Wednesday to Anthony Hall, a Baltimore man who served 25 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder. “Because of this gross miscarriage of justice, Mr. Hall spent 9,072 days behind bars for a crime he did not commit,” said Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat, at a meeting Wednesday morning of the Board of Public Works in Annapolis. “It took the state more than three decades to acknowledge Mr. Hall’s innocence.” Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun.

HEARINGS ON ‘END-OF-LIFE OPTION:’ The General Assembly is considering legislation that proponents call the “End-of-Life Option” and opponents of the bill call “assisted suicide.” One hearing took place last week and another is scheduled to take place Friday. Dwight Weingarten/The Hagerstown Herald Mail.

SENATOR SAYS TOXIC CULTURE IN LEGISLATURE IS CHANGING: A state senator who spearheaded efforts to end sexual harassment in the halls of the Annapolis legislative campus says reforms passed five years ago coupled with other factors is changing a toxic culture that permeated the state capitol. Bryan Sears/Maryland Matters.

HOSPITAL COST REVIEW PANEL OUTLINES POLICY PROPOSAL FOR YEAR AHEAD: A powerful commission tasked with constraining Maryland’s hospital rates is set to have a busy year. At a commission meeting Wednesday, the Health Services Cost Review Commission laid out its proposed policy and voting schedule for 2024 into 2025, and outlined its legislative priorities for the current legislative session. Danielle Brown/Maryland Matters.

STATE REPLACES BILLING CONTRACTOR: State officials on Wednesday hired a new contractor to process payments to behavioral health providers, ditching a troubled system that wreaked havoc in the treatment community at a time when the coronavirus pandemic was increasing demand for mental health and addiction services. Meredith Cohn and Brenda Wintrode/The Baltimore Banner.

BILL WOULD STOP STUDENTS FROM BEING CHARGED FOR SOME BEHAVIORS: Lawmakers again pushed for the passage of a bill that would prohibit students from being charged for displaying some forms of disruptive behavior at school. “All this bill does is it prevents students from being charged with a crime for something that really shouldn’t be a crime,” Del. Sheila Ruth, a Baltimore County Democrat and the bill’s sponsor, said during Wednesday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing. Hannah Gaskill/The Baltimore Sun.

COMMENTARY: A LOW FILING FEE ATTRACTS HOUSE CANDIDATES: What does it take to run for Congress in Maryland? It only costs $100 to get on the ballot, but it may take over $1 million to win. Plunk down the price of a nice dinner, and a candidate gets to appear on ballots for tens of thousands of voters. In the 3rd Congressional District — all of Howard County, half of Anne Arundel and a slice of Carroll — 22 Democrats have filed to fill the seat that Rep. John Sarbanes is leaving after serving nine terms. Nine Republicans filed as well. Len Lazarick of Business Monthly.

HOGAN TRIPS UP WALTZ OF DEMS TO U.S. SENATE: For months, Angela Alsobrooks and David Trone have been going back and forth on the campaign trail, vying to become the next U.S. senator for Maryland. Both candidates assumed that the winner of the Democratic primary in May would waltz through the general election to win a coveted seat in the U.S. Senate. Larry Hogan had other ideas. Pamela Wood/The Baltimore Banner.

VAN HOLLEN SEEKS MORE PROTECTIONS FOR CIVILIANS FROM U.S. WEAPONS: Even though the White House has taken steps aimed at protecting civilians from American weapons in war zones, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said Tuesday that he would press for a stronger response, especially in light of Israel’s continued bombardment of Gaza. Torrence Banks of Capital News Service/The Baltimore Sun.

SPATE OF SUICIDES AT HARFORD DETENTION CENTER: A Baltimore Banner investigation into four very similar suicide deaths in four years in R-dorm of the Harford County Detention Center revealed a suicide rate five times the average rate of local jails across the country, flawed practices, lapses in supervision and failures by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office to critically question its own staff or share information with the public, including the loved ones of those who died. Ben Conarck/The Baltimore Banner.

  • In April of 2019, Tommy Wayne Pardew had been booked into the Harford County Detention Center for violating his probation on a drinking-and-driving charge. He was immediately placed on suicide watch after a mental health screening. He would die there. Ben Conarck/The Baltimore Banner.

RESIDENTS OFFERS HEALING SUGGESTIONS FOR CROWNSVILLE: An addiction recovery center, a mental health resource for young people, and a therapeutic horse farm were among the many suggestions offered by residents for the redesign of the Crownsville Hospital site. Following Anne Arundel County’s acquisition of the property from the state in 2022, the county is asking nearby residents what they’d like to see at the location of the former “Maryland Hospital for the Negro Insane.” Dana Munro/The Capital Gazette.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online newspaper, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at:

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