More data is coming out about the guns released without background checks over the past year, due to a massive backlog in background check requests and a loophole in Maryland’s gun sale law. Plus: Medicare payments, a look back at the 2014 General Assembly session, a profile of state Attorney General (and Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Doug Gansler, and more.
Guns Released Without Background Checks: More data is coming out about the guns released without background checks over the past year, due to a massive backlog in background check requests and a loophole in Maryland’s gun sale law. The Baltimore Sun reports that some 364 guns were sold in Maryland last year to people who were not allowed to buy them. The weapons went to felons, fugitives, and people with histories of mental illness. The vast majority of the guns have been recovered by a team of undercover police officers – but four of those guns are still out there. Police are looking for them. A surge in gun sales last year pushed the time it takes police to do background checks from a week to several months. But dealers are allowed to release guns to buyers after seven days, regardless of whether those background checks are done – and last year, about 40 percent of guns were handed over before the checks were complete, more than 50-thousand guns in all. Critics of the state police’s background check system say the state should rely on the “National Instant Criminal Background Check Database”, which is less time-consuming than the current system.
We Should Have Higher Expectations From Legislature In Election Year: Maryland’s General Assembly lived up to expectations in its recently-concluded 90-day session. Not necessarily a good thing, says WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith. He comments in his weekly essay.
Boat-Rocker Faces Rough Seas In Quest For Governor’s Mansion: With the General Assembly adjourned, the race for governor takes center stage, with a sprint to the June 24 primary election. Today, WYPR launches a series of candidate close-ups that begins with Karen Hosler’s profile of Democratic hopeful Doug Gansler.
Gansler Endorsed By Business And Clergy Partnership: Doug Gansler’s gubernatorial bid picked up a new endorsement yesterday: from the Business and Clergy Partnership, a new group that has some 300 members in the DC region. The Washington Post notes that this is the Partnership’s first political endorsement. The Partnership’s stated mission is to “bridge… the gap between businesses, churches, and elected officials.”
Medicare Payments: Maryland care providers are receiving a slightly disproportionate share of Medicare payments, according to new data released yesterday. Health care providers in the state received 2.3 percent of the $77-billion the federal healthcare program for seniors paid in 2012. According to the Baltimore Sun, that's slightly more than its share, when based on Maryland's population and the number of seniors who live in the state. The clinical lab Quest Diagnostics made more than any other recipient, accounting for $35.6-million in payments. Quest served nearly 290-thousand patients in 2012, at facilities around the state.
State Spending Transparency: Maryland has received a grade of "B-minus" for its government spending transparency. A new report from the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG) ranks the state 23rd in the nation when it comes to making information available to the public on its finances. Maryland was given a "C" grade in last year's survey. There’s more here from marylandreporter.com.
Strike At Hopkins Hospital Continues: Hundreds of workers are walking the picket line at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Service workers represented by the labor union 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East are in the second day of a three-day strike after rejecting a wage proposal from hospital management. Hospital officials say they are continuing "good faith efforts" to negotiate a contract that is "fair and equitable" to all parties involved. Officials say that the strike is not affecting patient care, with nonunion workers and temporary staff performing the duties of the striking workers; some union workers also chose not to strike and reported to work yesterday. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Baltimore Business Journal.
Baltimore Schools Could Face Budget Deficit: Baltimore City school officials are weighing their options as the district could be facing a hefty budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2015. A first draft of the spending plan revealed the potential for a shortfall of more than $30-million. Although the final budget proposal isn't due until next month, officials say layoffs and de-funding certain contracts could be in the mix if they can't satisfy the deficit by dipping into reserves. More here from the Baltimore Sun.
Groundbreaking For MD Housing Department Headquarters: Construction is underway on a new Maryland Housing Department headquarters after a groundbreaking ceremony in Prince George’s County. It should take a year to build the new facility. Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown were on hand for the event, which marks the start of a larger mass transit-oriented development project in the area. The Washington Post has more.
Kamenetz To Deliver State Of The County Address: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is getting ready to present his State of the County address. Kamenetz will deliver the annual speech and budget message to the County Council on Tuesday morning. The speech will be streamed live online at baltimorecountymd.gov.
“Ozzy” Beer To Be Renamed: Baltimore’s Brewer’s Art is bowing to legal pressure from rock legend Ozzy Osbourne – and renaming its popular “Ozzy” beer. Osborne recently sent the Mount Vernon beer bar a cease and desist letter, telling the Brewer’s Art to stop calling its Belgian strong pale ale “Ozzy,” and the Brewer’s Art says it will rebrand the brew. It’s accepting name suggestions at its North Charles Street location through April 20th. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Baltimore Business Journal.
Baltimore Baseball: Another victory for the Orioles! They beat New York Yankees 5 to 4 last night. The O’s are off today; tomorrow, they’ll be back in Baltimore for a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.