Wed March 5, 2014
School Delays, MSA Schedules, MD's Estate Tax, & Proposed Gun Legislation
A look at this morning's public school delays on the Eastern Shore, schedule changes for MSAs, MD's estate tax, gun legislation proposals, a transgender rights bill, Baltimore County schools, the rescheduled Polar Bear Plunge, and more...
School Delays: The lingering effects of Monday’s snowstorm mean Wednesday delays for public school students on the Eastern Shore. One-Hour Delay: Worcester County schools. 90-Minute Delay: Queen Anne’s County schools. Two-Hour Delay: Caroline County schools, Kent County schools, Talbot County schools, and Wicomico County schools.
MSA Schedules: State education officials have given local school systems the flexibility to adjust the days they give the Maryland School Assessments because some districts lost two days of school, thanks to the latest snow storm. The Baltimore Sun reports that the state has extended the 12-day window for the reading and math tests by two more days, until March 14th. Local schools will decide on which four days they will give the tests within the window. MSA science testing will begin March 24th, as scheduled and it will close on April 11th.
Estate Tax Changes Would Make Maryland A Better Place To Die Rich: Death and taxes. They’re two things, as the saying goes, that you just can’t avoid. But the estate tax – what many conservatives call the “death tax” – could soon be something many fewer Marylanders have to pay. WYPR’s Christopher Connelly has the story. Whether to raise the exemption rate for Maryland’s estate tax could become an issue in the Governor’s race. State Attorney General Doug Gansler, who’s running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, has said he’s in favor of the idea. One of his rivals, Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur is opposed. And in a press release sent out today, Mizeur is calling on a third Democrat in the race, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, to oppose the idea publicly.
Gun Legislation: Maryland’s gun laws were a topic of debate in Annapolis yesterday. The Frederick News Post reports that 30 gun related bills went before the House Judiciary Committee. 12 of them were proposed by Delegate Mike Smigiel; the Eastern Shore Republican wants to would roll back the gun laws the General Assembly passed last year. Delegate Smigiel wants to eliminate a requirement for certain people to undergo a training course to renew their handgun permits. Another bill proposed yesterday would allow people who have handgun qualification licenses to get handgun permits. Most political watchers don’t expect that legislation scaling back restrictions on guns will move forward in the Democrat-dominated General Assembly. One bill debated yesterday would expand current gun laws by closing the so-called background check loophole. Democratic Delegate Jon Cardin has proposed a measure that would require that background checks of prospective gun owners be complete before the weapons can be released. Background checks are conducted by state police; they currently take several months because of a large backlog, and gun sellers can currently release guns to buyers after seven days, even if the checks aren’t done. The Baltimore Sun reports that more than 200 guns were released to people last year who later failed background checks. At least one of those weapons was used in a crime. Delegate Smigiel proposed a competing measure, which would let gun sellers check potential buyers eligibility on a federal online database instead of submitting papers to the State Police for a background check. Another gun bill would link Maryland’s gun registry to the state’s criminal database, so that State Police could confiscate guns from people convicted of felonies or violent crimes. Police say they think that there are about 110-thousand Marylanders who own firearms but are now disqualified to do so. There’s more on this proposal here from the Daily Record.
Transgender Rights: Legislation that would protect transgender people from discrimination in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and other areas gained final approval from the State Senate yesterday. The vote was 32 to 15, mostly along party lines. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates, where it’s expected to be approved; the Washington Post notes that a similar measure passed the House in 2011. Laws forbidding discrimination based on gender identity are already in place in several Maryland jurisdictions, including Baltimore City and Baltimore County; similar laws have been passed in at least 17 other states. There’s more here from the Frederick News Post and here from the Annapolis Capital.
Honeymoon Over For Dallas Dance: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Liz Bowie of the Baltimore Sun talk about recent public opposition to decisions made by Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance, and why it may increase support for a bill that makes the school board partially-elected. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
Cell Phone Resale Kiosks Banned In Baltimore County: The Baltimore County Council has approved a ban of the controversial kiosks where people can turn in old cell phones for cash. Critics of the so-called “reverse vending machines,” made by San Diego-based ecoATM, say they may encourage the theft of smartphones, although ecoATM says such allegations are unfounded. However, County Police Chief Jim Johnson tells the Baltimore Sun that his department is aware of several cell phone robberies in which thieves went to the reverse vending machines to get cash. Cell phone robberies have been on the rise in Baltimore County, with more than 350 such incidents last year.
Conway Released: After more than four decades in prison, a former Baltimore Black Panther leader is a free man. Marshall "Eddie" Conway was convicted of killing a Baltimore police officer in 1970, and wounding another officer. Conway was sentenced to life in prison. He’s always maintained that he was innocent. The Baltimore Sun reports that he had been seeking a new trial under a decision made by the state’s highest court in 2012, which said that verdicts from before 1980 were invalid because of faulty jury instructions. Conway has agreed to give up that court fight in exchange for being released on time served.
BoE To Vote On More Spending For Water Meter Overhaul: Baltimore’s Board of Estimates is expected to approve $9.7-million to help pay for an overhaul of the city’s water meter system. The money will be used to pay for oversight of the program. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the move is an effort to put an end to mistakes in water billing that have forced the city to issue millions of dollars in refunds. The BoE has already signed off on spending more than $83-million to have a contractor install meters for a new system that will serve 400-thousand customers.
Confirmation Of DNR Chief Moves Forward: The confirmation of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources acting chief is moving along once again. The process to appoint Joseph Gill stalled in January due to what is described as a miscommunication with the head of the Maryland Watermen's Association on regulatory issues. Despite more than a thousand letters from watermen opposing Gill's nomination, a state Senate committee voted Monday to put the request in front of the full Senate for a final decision. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Rescheduled Polar Bear Plunge Just Around The Corner: Maryland State Police are reminding you that the rescheduled Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics will take place on Saturday at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. The original Plunge date in late January had to be postponed because of bitter cold temperatures, high winds and waves, and ice on the beach. This Saturday looks to be more pleasant, with highs currently forecast to be in the lower 50s.