Headlines
8:26 am
Thu April 3, 2014

The Minimum Wage, Marijuana Decriminalization, “Jake’s Law,” & The State Center Redevelopment

Maryland State House in Annapolis.
Maryland State House in Annapolis.
Credit Christopher Connelly / WYPR

The State Senate advances a bill to raise MD’s minimum wage. The House Judiciary Committee votes to create a task force to study marijuana decriminalization. Plus: “Jake’s Law,” the State Center redevelopment, the PSC examines rate hikes, prayer at Carroll County Commissioners’ meetings, and more.

Maryland’s Minimum Wage: Legislation that would raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour is moving forward in the State Senate. Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee signed off on the measure… but only after delaying the full implementation of the new rate by another year and a half; under the bill, the minimum wage wouldn’t reach $10.10 an hour until July of 2018. The Senate also added a provision that would create a so-called “training wage” – letting employers pay young workers 85% of the minimum wage for their first six months on the job. And the Frederick News Post reports that the bill would also require that state budgets include more money for community service providers licensed by the Developmental Disabilities Administration. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee has to sign off on the legislation before the full Senate can vote. And assuming the measure passes the chamber, its differences from the version the House of Delegates approved in March will have to be ironed out before a bill can go to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk. There’s more here from the Annapolis Capital, more here from the Washington Post, more here from the Baltimore Sun, and more here from the Daily Record.

Marijuana Decriminalization: Legislation that would have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana was approved by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. But only after lawmakers changed the bills so that they would not, in fact, decriminalize the drug; instead, they would create a task force to study the committee. The Washington Post reports that the task force wouldn’t issue recommendations until June of 2016. The Annapolis Capital reports that the bills could be restored to their original form when they go to the House floor. But many political watchers don’t think that’s likely. The State Senate has twice approved legislation to decriminalize marijuana; if the full House approves the Judiciary Committee’s bill, the Senate would have to approve it in order for it to go before the Governor. Meanwhile, as the Baltimore Sun notes, lawmakers from the House and Senate still have reach a compromise over different bills that would revise the state’s medical marijuana law. And the clock is ticking; the General Assembly session ends Monday night.

“Jake’s Law”: Supporters of tougher penalties for distracted drivers are urging Maryland lawmakers to give final approval to what’s being called "Jake's Law.” The bill is named after a five-year-old Baltimore boy who was killed in a crash caused by a driver who was talking on his cell phone. Before the measure can be sent to Governor Martin O'Malley for his signature, a conference committee must work out the differences in bills passed by the House of Delegates and the State Senate. The Senate bill only applies the stronger penalties to drivers who are texting at the time of an accident, while the House bill applies to any use of a hand-held cell phone. The Washington Post has more here.

PSC To Examine Rate Hikes: Maryland’s Public Service Commission will look into whether rate hikes by five energy companies were justified. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the PSC is asking the companies to show why they should not be fined, have their licenses revoked or refund money to their customers. The companies in question are American Partners, Blue Pilot Energy, Major Energy, Maryland Gas and Electric and XOOM Energy. Rates among the five companies dramatically increased during the harsh winter, drawing many complaints from customers. A programming note; we’ll talk about winter energy bills this afternoon at 1 on Midday with Dan Rodricks.

Prayer At Carroll County Commissioners Meetings: The American Humanist Association is asking a judge to hold Carroll County Commissioners in contempt. The group filed a motion after board members allegedly violated an order to stop opening meetings with prayers to Jesus Christ. Last week, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering commissioners to refrain from prayers with references to a specific deity. But lawyers for residents suing the board say the commissioners have twice violated last week’s order; in one instance, a sectarian prayer was delivered by a Commissioner, in another, a prayer was made by the treasurer for another Commissioner’s election campaign. There’s more here from the Carroll County Times and here from the Baltimore Sun.

State Center Project Badly Needed In Baltimore: The state’s high court last week cleared the way for a project that could increase the momentum behind Baltimore’s burst of transformational energy, says WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith. He comments in his weekly essay.

Baltimore County Police Chief To Be Honored At The White House: Baltimore County's police chief is being named a "Champion of Change." As the Baltimore Sun reports, Jim Johnson will be honored along with eight others who will pick up the award today at the White House. Chief Johnson is being recognized for taking steps to reduce gun violence in Baltimore County.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles fell to the Boston Red Sox last night; 6 to 2 was the score. The two teams face off again tonight at Camden Yards; the game starts at 7:05pm.

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