Thu March 13, 2014
A Windy Thursday, MD’s Budget, Marijuana Legislation, and The Shooting At The Mall In Columbia
A Wind Advisory is in effect for Thursday morning, with gusts up to 50 mph possible. The State Senate gives preliminary approval to a state budget for FY-15. New details on the January shooting at the Mall in Columbia. Plus: college tuition, marijuana legislation, the UMD data breach, the reopened Maryland House, and more.
High Winds For Thursday: The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Advisory through 11am, with wind gusts up to 50 mph possible. After 11, gusts are only (!!) expected to reach 40 mph. Those high winds have been wreaking havoc on the Baltimore area, downing trees and power lines, and possibly leading to a building collapse in Locust Point. No injuries were reported in that incident. You can alert BGE to outages outage by calling 877-778-2222, or by going to bge.com. And you can find BGE’s current outage map here.
State Senate Grants Preliminary Approval To FY-15 Budget Bill: The State Senate yesterday granted preliminary approval to a $38.9-billion dollar budget plan; that’s slightly smaller than the $39.2-billion proposal made by Governor Martin O’Malley. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Senate bill would cut $200-million from the state’s contribution to the state workers’ retirement system… doubling a $100-million cut proposed by the governor. State Senate President Mike Miller says the lower contribution will allow state workers to get 2 percent cost of living raises. And Miller adds that lawmakers remain committed to a long-term plan for keeping the pension system solvent. The Senate budget bill also contains no new taxes. Once the full senate approves a budget for FY-2015, the measure will move to the House of Delegates, which is expected to make more changes. There’s more here from the Annapolis Capital.
Brown Proposes Cap On Tuition Increases: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown says that if he’s elected governor, he’ll cap tuition increases at Maryland’s colleges at 3 percent a year. Brown says that he’d use tax dollars, if necessary, to prevent tuition from rising any faster. Brown is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, facing candidates including state Attorney General Doug Gansler and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur; the primary election is June 24th. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Washington Post.
Marijuana Legislation: The State Senate could vote as soon as today on a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana; the bill would make possession of up to 10 grams of the drug, or about a third of an ounce, a civil offense; the Annapolis Capital reports that it would punishable by a fine of up to $25 for the first offense and up to $100 for subsequent offenses. A similar bill passed the State Senate last year, but died in the House. A rally calling for changes to Maryland’s marijuana laws is scheduled for this morning at Lawyers Mall in Annapolis, where speakers will include representatives of groups from the ACLU to the NAACP. Delegate Mizeur will also speak at the rally; she’s made legalization of marijuana a plank in her gubernatorial platform. Following the rally, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the measures to reform the state's marijuana laws.
Maryland House is Back, With a Whole New Look: The Maryland House had been a respite for travelers on Interstate 95 since 1963. But it closed for remodeling more than a year ago, forcing desperate road warriors to go a little farther for that “break.” The Maryland House re-opened recently and WYPR’s Melody Simmons went to check it out.
Mall Shooter Planned For Year Before Attack: Howard County police have released more details in the investigation of the January shooting at the Mall in Columbia. WYPR’s Kenneth Burns reports that they say the shooter had been planning the attack for a year.
Hurray For Harris For Demanding Accountability: Now would be a good time re-visit the idea of sunshine – also known as transparency – in government, says WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith. He comments in his weekly essay.
Raskin Confirmed For Treasury Post: A Marylander now holds the number two post at the Treasury Department. The Senate confirmed Sarah Bloom Raskin as U.S. Deputy Treasurer. Raskin has been a Federal Reserve governor and previously served as Maryland commissioner of financial regulation; she’s married to Democratic State Senator Jamie Raskin. US Senator Ben Cardin is applauding Raskin’s confirmation to the Treasury post. In a statement, Cardin says he's "proud to have a fellow Marylander among the fiscal leaders that are guiding our economy toward future growth and stability." There’s more here from the Washington Post.
“Jake’s Law” Heads To Full House of Delegates: A bill that would stiffen penalties on drivers who cause fatal car accidents while using hand-held cell phones is headed for a vote in the full House of Delegates. Last night, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would let judges impose jail terms of up to one year on drivers who kill someone while distracted by a hand-held phone. The bill also requires drivers to provide police information about their phones and service plans, if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the driver were using smartphones at the time of an accident. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
UMD Database Breach: A cyber breach at the University of Maryland affected fewer people than originally thought. University officials first reported that the personal information of more than 300-thousand students, staff and alumni had been compromised, but that has been revised downward by about 21,500. The database that was breached contained names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and university identification numbers. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Barbot Steps Down: Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot is stepping down; she plans to leave city government next month, for a job in the Health Department of New York City. The Baltimore Sun notes that Barbot has been Baltimore’s top health officer since 2010.