Tue April 1, 2014
MD’s Health Exchange, Domestic Violence, Marijuana, Speed Cameras, and MD’s Bail Review System
We look at the politics of Maryland’s health exchange. Plus: issues before the General Assembly, including domestic violence, marijuana, speed cameras, MD’s bail review system, and Baltimore’s needle exchange program. Plus: yesterday’s lockdown at Stevenson, a proposed smoking ban in Ocean City, and more…
Open Enrollment Ended But Health Exchange Politics Are Ramping Up: The board of directors for Maryland’s health exchange is meeting this afternoon to decide what to do with the state’s problem-plagued web site. The vote will likely go for replacing the system – possibly using technology from Connecticut, which saw a far more successful rollout. But as WYPR’s Christopher Connelly reports, even though the exchange is likely on its way to the trash heap, it remains a political football in the race for governor.
Domestic Violence Legislation: Both chambers of the General Assembly have now approved legislation that would offer victims of domestic violence stronger protections. The Senate yesterday signed off on the House versions of bills that would make it easier for victims to get protective orders from courts, and expand the circumstances in which these protective orders can be issued. The bills have the backing of Governor Martin O’Malley, who’s expected to sign them into law. O’Malley had backed a third bill, that would increase penalties for people convicted of domestic violence in the presence of children; versions of that bill have passed both chambers, but in order to go to the governor’s desk, either the Senate will have to sign off on the House bill, or vice versa. The Annapolis Capital has more here; there’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Medical Marijuana: Lawmakers are also working to find agreement on a bill that would revise Maryland’s medical marijuana program. Both the House and the Senate have passed medical marijuana bills this session… but so far, lawmakers haven’t been able to agree on how many people should be allowed to grow the drug and whether those growers should be allowed to sell it directly. Baltimore Delegate Peter Hammen tells the Baltimore Sun that a compromise is in the works; he says it would limit the number of growers in the state, and allow some growers to operate dispensaries.
Marijuana Decriminalization: Meanwhile, a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana will get a hearing today in the House Judiciary Committee. That committee’s chairman, Delegate Joe Vallario, appears opposed to the idea. Groups including the ACLU and the NAACP are urging Vallario to call a vote for the bill, which has already passed the State Senate. The Annapolis Capital has more.
MD’s Bail Review System: The State Senate has approved an overhaul of Maryland’s bail review system. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the plan would use a computerized assessment to automatically release people deemed to be a low risk of failing to appear at trial or committing new crimes. People determined to be high risk of either would get an initial hearing before a judge. The measure now goes to the House of Delegates, which has debated a different plan. Leaders of both chambers hope to vote on a compromise bill before the session ends next week.
New Speed Camera Rules: The House of Delegates has advanced a measure that would reform Maryland’s speed camera rules. The bill would place tighter rules on when automatic tickets could be issued and would also make it easier for drivers to appeal citations issued in error. It would also formally forbid the so-called “bounty system” that lets camera contractors get a cut of each ticket issued. The House is expected to give final approval to the bill today. The State Senate has already passed its own version of the legislation. And the Baltimore Sun reports that the two chambers are likely to reach a compromise on the bill before this year’s session ends.
Baltimore’s Needle Exchange Program: The State Senate has approved an expansion of Baltimore’s needle exchange program. It allows intravenous drug users to swap used needles for clean ones. The legislation approved yesterday lifts the current “one for one” restriction, so addicts won’t have to turn in a syringe to get a new one. The Baltimore Sun notes that the House of Delegates has already signed off on the bill, so the measure is now headed to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk.
Monday’s Lockdown At Stevenson University: Two students who decided to hunt in the woods near the Owings Mills campus of Stevenson University prompted a lockdown of the campus that lasted for nearly three hours. WYPR’s Kenneth Burns reports that campus security called police around 2:30 yesterday afternoon after two people in a dorm reported seeing the students with a long gun. That gun turned out to be a BB gun. Baltimore County Police say the two students were shooting ducks and geese. They were released last night after questioning; no charges will be filed against them.
Bill Clinton To Speak At Naval Academy: Former President Bill Clinton is set to speak at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis – a week from today. Clinton will address the Brigade of Midshipmen as part of the Annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference. Two years ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at the gathering. The Annapolis Capital has more.
Smoking Ban At The Beach To Be Considered: Ocean City officials will soon consider banning smoking on the beach. Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan says a smoking ban has been on the resort town's radar for several years but locals have been split on the issue. The Baltimore Sun reports that the town council plans to discuss the proposal when the panel meets again April 16th. The council has already voted to put up signs on the boardwalk urging people to avoid using profanity; but that’s more of a suggestion, and not an enforceable law.
Household Hazardous Waste: Baltimore residents who need to dispose of hazardous household materials can do so this weekend. The city’s monthly collection events return to the residential drop-off site on Sisson Street Friday and Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm. You can get rid of oil-based paint, batteries, pesticides and pool chemicals, just to name a few. Proof of city residency is required.
Baltimore Baseball: It was a victorious Opening Day for the Orioles – who bested the Boston Red Sox 2 to 1 yesterday afternoon. Another home game’s set for tomorrow night, when the O’s will look to beat the Red Sox again.