Thu September 26, 2013
MD’s Bond Authorization, Public Defenders At Bail Hearings, “Stop And Frisk,” and Obamacare
Maryland will likely float $1.16-billion in bonds next year. The state’s highest court says public defenders must be available to poor people at bail hearings. The ACLU criticizes Baltimore Police’s decision to call “Stop and Frisk” “Investigative Stops.” Mikulski on Obamacare. And more.
Obamacare And Funding the Federal Government: NPR reported this morning the US Senate is moving forward with legislation that would keep the federal government funded while defunding the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. However, the provision defunding Obamacare will likely be stripped from the measure before the Senate passes it – which watchers say will likely happen no later than Saturday. Senator Barbara Mikulski took to the Senate floor yesterday to defend Obamacare. She called on Republicans in Congress to abandon their attempts to defund it. Meanwhile, WYPR Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith says that President Obama is reaffirming America’s determination to be the world’s ever-ready leader… even as his ability to lead in his own country is challenged. Fraser comments in his weekly essay.
More Bonds Tentatively Authorized: Maryland will likely be allowed to float an extra $75-million worth of bonds next year – raising the state’s total bond authorization to $1.16-billion. The decision was made yesterday by the state’s Capital Debt Affordability Committee, which voted 4 to 1 for the change. The lone vote against the move was from State Comptroller Peter Franchot, who said that the state cannot afford it. Backers of the plan, including State Budget Secretary Eloise Foster, say that the extra bond money would support up to 3-thousand jobs over the next five years. The change in the state’s bond authorization is only a recommendation… but marylandreporter.com notes the governor and the General Assembly usually sign off on that recommendation.
Public Defenders At Bail Hearings: Maryland’s highest court has ruled that poor people must have access to public defenders when their bail is set by court commissioners. The General Assembly had passed a law stating that public defenders are available starting at the next step in the legal process – at which judges review the decisions made by court commissioners. Yesterday’s 4 to 3 ruling by the Court of Appeals says that poor people must be offered a public defender at “any proceeding that could result in the defendant’s incarceration.” The Baltimore Sun reports that there are about 180-thousand bail hearings a year… it’s been estimated that the state would need to hire more than 250 more public defenders to be able to have one at all of them. The state’s public defenders’ office says it will do its best to implement the Court of Appeal’s decision, but notes doing so fully requires resources “well beyond what [they] currently have.”
ACLU Criticizes “Stop And Frisk” Name Change: The Baltimore Police Department's decision to change the name of its "stop and frisk" policy to "investigative stops" isn't sitting with the American Civil Liberties Union. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the ACLU says the name change does nothing to change what it calls the "illegality" of the stops; the civil rights group says it regularly hears complaints from Baltimore residents claiming they were stopped and searched without reasonable suspicion that they had done something wrong. The discussion of “stop and frisk” comes amid calls from Governor Martin O’Malley for Baltimore Police to make more arrests. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has rejected rejected the Governor’s call for more arrests; she tells the Baltimore Sun that the “zero-tolerance” policy used during O’Malley’s tenure as Baltimore Mayor is not a tactic that city police will return to.
BGE Criticized For Plans To Replace Natural Gas Pipeline: Baltimore Gas and Electric is facing criticism for its plan to replace an aging natural gas pipeline that runs through Baltimore’s largest park. To complete the project, the utility tentatively wants to fell a 75-foot-wide swath of trees, up to two miles long, through Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park. The proposal would see between 500 and 2-thousand trees cut down. The Chair of Baltimore’s Forestry Board characterizes the plan as a “stunningly bad idea” – she tells the Baltimore Sun that the move would undercut Baltimore’s efforts to increase its tree canopy. BGE says that the natural gas pipeline needs to be replaced; it’s nearly 65 years old, and has needed to be repaired 38 times over the last 30 years.
Clagett Alleged To Have Broken Electioneering Rules: Frederick’s Board of Supervisors of Elections is pursuing legal action against Delegate Galen Clagett, saying he broke electioneering rules during the city’s September 10th Mayoral Primary. The Board says Delegate Clagett illegally entered polling places and displayed campaign material during the vote. Clagett says nothing he did was illegal, and that his visits to polling places were simply to get turnout figures. He tells the Frederick News Post that he’s done that on election days since 1964. Clagett also says he never refused to leave a polling place when asked, as the Board alleges. Frederick’s code says that illegal electioneering is punishable by a fine between 50 and 500 dollars or up to 60 days in prison, or both. Delegate Clagett lost the Democratic mayoral primary to Alderwoman Karen Young.
AA County Council Passes New Meeting Rules: The Anne Arundel County Council is putting limits on public behavior during its meetings. The Council has approved a ban on yelling, swearing and signs, banners and balloons; people will also have to sign up in advance if they want to speak at a meeting. As WJA reports, people who break the rules and can be removed.
MTA Previews Weekend MARC Schedules: Come December, MARC trains will run on weekends. And yesterday, the Maryland Transit Administration offered preview schedules for the service. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the commuter rail line will make nine round-trips on Saturdays and six more on Sundays. All service will be on the Penn Line, running between Union Station in Washington and Penn Station in Baltimore. Ticket prices will the same as they are on weekdays.
Baltimore Book Festival Closings: Baltimore city transportation officials are warning of street closures and parking restrictions ahead of this weekend's Baltimore Book Festival in Mount Vernon. The festival runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but some of the restrictions are already in place, and some will last through Monday. A complete list of closings is here.
Maryland #1 State For Women: A new report says Maryland is the best state in the country for women. The Center for American Progress report indicates that on matters of economics, leadership and health, women (on average) fare better in Maryland than anywhere else. The Baltimore Sun has more here.
UMD #10 Party School In The US: The University of Maryland is one of the top party schools in the nation. That’s according to Playboy’s annual “top ten party school” list for 2013, a ranking created based on US Census figures, data from the NC-double-A and the National Center for Education Statistics, and feedback from social media. UMD is, in fact, #10. West Virginia University is listed as the #1 party school in the nation. USA Today has more here.
Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles broke a six game losing streak yesterday and beat the Toronto Blue Jays 9 to 5. The two teams play again tonight at Camden Yards; the game starts at 7:05pm.