Headlines
8:15 am
Fri April 4, 2014

The Minimum Wage, Marijuana, Speed Cameras, Dog Bite Liability, Stormwater Fees, & Ghana At A Glance

Credit Christopher Connelly / WYPR

A look at bills either approved or under consideration by the General Assembly, on matters from the minimum wage to marijuana decriminalization to speed cameras to dog bite liability to underage casino gambling to stormwater fees. Plus, our series “Ghana At A Glance,” Brown files an election law complaint against Gansler, and the OC Air Show. And more…

MD’s Minimum Wage: A measure to raise Maryland’s minimum wage in is now on its way to a vote in the full State Senate. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee passed it on a 9-3 vote yesterday afternoon. The measure would incrementally increase the minimum wage over the next four years, with the rate reaching $10.10 per hour in July of 2018. The Annapolis Capital reports that the full Senate could start debate on the bill as soon as today, and lawmakers say they expect several amendments will be offered. The Senate is expected to approve some version of the bill; then, its differences from legislation already passed by the House of Delegates will have to ironed out before the General Assembly session closes on Monday night.

Dog Bite Liability: After two years of trying, the General Assembly has approved a measure that assigns liability for dog bites. Lawmakers began debating the matter in 2012, after Maryland’s highest court issued a ruling that classified pit bulls as “inherently dangerous” dogs, and made landlords liable if one of their tenants owned a pit bull that bit someone. The compromise legislation passed yesterday essentially overrules that decision. It’s been described as a “breed-neutral” bill, which makes all Maryland dog owners equally liable for dog bites, but allows them a chance to defend themselves in court. In such cases, a jury would decide whether the owner should have known that the dog was dangerous. The bill now goes to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk; a spokesperson says the Governor will decide whether to sign it into law based on a “customary review of the bill.” There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Capital Gazette.

Domestic Violence: The General Assembly has approved a measure that would increase penalties for people convicted of domestic violence in the presence of children. Under the bill, violators would face an additional 5 years in prison for the offense. The bill was proposed by the O’Malley administration, as were two other bills addressing domestic violence that were approved earlier this week. There’s more here from the Capital Gazette and here from the Baltimore Sun.

MD’s Capital Budget: Maryland's proposed capital budget is headed to a conference committee. The Annapolis Capital reports that the House of Delegates and the State Senate have approved versions of the $1.2-billion spending for capital projects. But the Senate has rejected several amendments that were made in the House. The differences must be worked out by Monday night, which is when the 90-day General Assembly session comes to a close.

Marijuana Decriminalization: Today, the full House is set to vote on a bill dealing with marijuana decriminalization. The version that passed the State Senate earlier in the session would make possession of as much as 10 grams of the drug a civil offense, punishable by a fine. But this week, the House Judiciary Committee amended the bill, so that it would create a task force to study the idea, for possible action in 2016. But when the bill goes to the House floor for a final vote today, supporters of decriminalization tell the Capital Gazette that they’ll try to remove that amendment, and restore the bill to its original form. It’s unclear whether there’s enough support for that to happen. Whatever bill passes the House will need to go back to the Senate for approval.

Speed Cameras: The State Senate has given unanimous approval a bill aimed at reforming Maryland’s speed camera rules. The bill formally bans the so-called “bounty system” that lets speed camera contractors get a cut of each ticket issued; however, the Baltimore Sun notes that that ban only applies to NEW contracts. The measure also requires that jurisdictions with speed cameras hire ombudsmen to “void erroneous tickets” before trials. But the bill does not include a proposed reform that would have required time stamps to be issued with tickets, so that drivers could verify their accuracy. The bill passed the House of Delegates last month; it now heads to Governor Martin O’Malley’s desk.

Underage Casino Gambling: Also headed to the Governor is a bill that would impose fines on underage casino gamblers. The fine for the first offense fine would be $100. A second offense would be $500 and a third offense would bring a $1000 fine and a ticket to a gambling treatment program. The Baltimore Sun has more here.

Stormwater Fees: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about negotiations that might change the state's controversial stormwater law, days before the end of Maryland's General Assembly session. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics. After Fraser and Karen recorded that segment yesterday, Maryland lawmakers did reach an agreement over this most recent stormwater fee dispute. The Baltimore Sun reports that the deal will limit a proposed exemption from the fees to Carroll and Frederick Counties. Under the agreement, those two counties are allowed to come up with alternative ways to pay for cleaning up stormwater runoff.

Ghana At A Glance: More than nine million people in the West African country of Ghana don’t have access to clean drinking water, according to Water Aid America. Most water in Ghana is boiled and filtered, including tap water. But in numerous poor, remote areas, filtering is not affordable and many people drink unsanitary water. WYPR's Gwendolyn Glenn takes us to one such rural area, as part of her series Ghana at a Glance.

Brown Files Election Law Complaint Against Gansler: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown’s gubernatorial campaign has filed a complaint against opponent Doug Gansler. Brown's campaign claims the Attorney General broke the law by organizing fundraisers during the General Assembly session. The Board of Elections tells the Baltimore Sun that a preliminary investigation has been conducted and no violations of the law uncovered.

Yesterday’s School Lockdown: A man spotted carrying camera equipment triggered a lockdown at two Baltimore City charter schools yesterday. KIPP Harmony Academy and KIPP Ujima Village Academy in Northwest Baltimore were locked down yesterday morning after reports of a possible armed intruder on campus. Police Commissioner Anthony Batts said students saw a man with a tripod, thought he had a gun and reported it. Batts also says that the students did the right thing. The Baltimore Sun has more.

Pimlico Opens: Pimlico Racecourse, the home of the Preakness Stakes, is now open for the spring meet. Racing fans were happy to see the horses running again at Old Hilltop yesterday. There will be live racing Thursday through Sunday now through June 7th with the Preakness set for Saturday, May 17th. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.

OC Air Show: The OC Air Show returns to Ocean City this June and military units will be back after being grounded last year due to budget cuts in Washington. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will headline the event. The Baltimore Sun reports the OC Air Show will be one of the only air shows in the country to feature demonstrations from the U.S Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines – all four branches of the Department of Defense.

Pre-Artscape Battle Of The Bands: The Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts is holding a competition next week to determine which local bands will get to play at Artscape this summer. Sound Off Live is being held April 10th and 11th from 5 to 10:15 p.m. at Metro Gallery on Charles Street. A total of 26 bands will play for a live audience and a panel of judges. Winners will be announced in May.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles lost last night’s game against the Boston Red Sox; the score was 4 to 3. The O’s will be in Detroit this afternoon, for a game against the Tigers.

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