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Friday, February 19, 2010:

The Agenda

Me in dots.jpgThis might sound familiar...

It's rare that completely new ideas rise to the top of the Annapolis agenda. But this session, lawmakers seem to be serving up an unusual number of leftovers.

Last year, you'll recall, the General Assembly passed a ban on writing text messages while driving. On Thursday, senators heard testimony on bill that would ban reading them as well. It is among several distracted-driving bills that are getting attention again this year and could get committee votes in coming days.

O'Malley closeup.jpgGov. Martin O'Malley (D) was among those who voiced support Thursday of the texting bill. Speaking to reporters, the governor also said he would sign legislation, if it gets to him, that would require drunk drivers to install ignition locking systems in their vehicles to prevent them from driving if they've had too much to drink. A similar bill failed last year.

Before this year's 90-day session ends, lawmakers will also revisit one of the most controversial bills of last year's session: one that significantly tightened the evidence standards in death penalty cases. Under that new law, prosecutors can only pursue capital cases if they have biological or DNA evidence, a videotaped confession or a videotape linking the defendant to the crime.

Miller mug.jpgA bill co-sponsored by nearly one third of the Senate -- including President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) -- would loosen those standards somewhat. The legislation, scheduled for a hearing next month, expands the acceptable evidence to include fingerprints and photographs.

Two other issues that drew attention Thursday were firmly rooted in debates of past years: energy regulation and slots.

Last year, an O'Malley-backed bill that would have "re-regulated" electricity providers passed the Senate but died in the House during the closing days of the session. On Thursday, two key lawmakers, including the chairman of the House committee that killed the bill, touted an alternative.

Dereck Davis mug.jpgThe measure, backed by House Economic Matters Committee Chairman Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George's) and Sen. Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore), would require state utility regulators to let consumers know more about the potentially cheaper electricity choices they already have. The pair of lawmakers promoted the bill at a well-attended press conference.

The storyline on slots continues to gain new twists and turns. As reported Thursday, it is looking increasingly likely that opponents of the planned Arundel Mills casino will collect enough signatures to force a public vote on the facility's zoning.

That would be the latest unexpected fallout from legislation passed in 2007 that authorized five slots sites in Maryland, breaking a years-long stalemate over the issue.

A slew of bills attempting to alter the state's slots program in other ways -- including some that would allow table games -- will get a hearing in coming weeks.

It might feel like a rerun, but it's probably worth staying tuned.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Sources: Dead teacher at Md. juvenile facility likely bludgeoned
"An educator at a state-run juvenile detention center in Prince George's County was found dead on the facility's grounds Thursday, and her death is being investigated as a homicide, police said," reports The Post's Matt Zapotosky. "Maryland State Police identified the woman as Hannah E. Wheeling, 65, of the 200 block of Portland Place in Bel Air in Harford County. Another employee at the Cheltenham Youth Facility found Wheeling's partially clothed body about 7:45 a.m. in a secluded area just outside the Murphy Cottage -- a building beyond the facility's fence that houses 20 boys deemed not dangerous to themselves or others, police said. Wheeling taught general studies at the cottage, police said. Two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said Wheeling appeared to have been sexually assaulted and bludgeoned."

O'Malley backs ignition lock for drunk drivers
o'malley-serious.JPG"Gov. Martin O'Malley said Thursday he would support requiring first-time drunk drivers to install ignition locking systems in their vehicles, so they couldn't drive them if they've had too much to drink," writes The AP's Brian Witte. "The ignition lock measure would require drunk drivers to pay for the costs of putting the systems in their vehicles, if they are convicted of drunken driving or given probation after being charged. ... A drunken driver would have to participate in the program for six months on a first violation, a year for a second violation and three years for a third or subsequent violation."
In related news: O'Malley said Thursday that Maryland drivers are off to a surprisingly safe start in 2010, with the number of traffic deaths down a reported 52 percent compared with a year ago, writes The Sun's Michael Dresser. "O'Malley said that according to state police reports he checks each day, 32 people had died since Jan. 1 on Maryland roads as of Thursday morning, compared with 66 during the same period last year."

O'Malley, business at standstill over unemployment insurance
"Maryland businesses have left Gov. Martin O'Malley with two options: accept the stinging loss of one of his top legislative priorities, or make a bold power play to essentially tell business groups, 'Thanks for playing,'" writes The Baltimore Business Journal's Scott Dance. "That's because business groups made a gutsy political move of their own Feb. 17 by rejecting O'Malley's proposals to overhaul the state's unemployment insurance system and lower their taxes. Business has securely held the upper hand in negotiations over the bill. The unwavering business opposition is poised to derail efforts by O'Malley and the General Assembly to offer them relief. That would leave them without valuable campaign fodder as they prepare to run for re-election, unless they choose to pass the bill regardless of business opposition or to craft a new plan in the legislative session's remaining seven weeks."


Quotables

heller.jpgIt's time to bring Maryland "into the enlightened world of other states such as West Virginia and Arkansas" that prohibit unions of first cousins.
-- Del. Henry Heller (D-Montgomery County) on Thursday on a bill he introduced to ban marriages between first cousins and stop playing what he called "genetic roulette" with their offspring. ... Heller's bill makes an exception for people who are over age 65 or infertile. He said he has "no problem" with those couples if they want the companionship.

"We're here today with the kids in tow to urge the General Assembly to pass a bill to phase out this chemical from children's products in the state."
-- New mother and MaryPIRG Director Johanna Neuman on Thursday backing a bill that would ban the sale of products that contain BPA in Maryland.

mike miller-happy.JPG"We haven't even gotten the slots issue off of the ground yet, and we are way behind the curve ... Hundreds of millions of dollars are building schools in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Those are Maryland dollars that we need to keep within the state."
--Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. speaking in support of legalizing poker and other table games in Maryland.

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Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each weekday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of the day's top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And Look Ahead, Unspun, News Makers, and Week in Review keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  February 19, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
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Next: Md. Senate delays vote on transportation secretary at Muse's request

Comments

It's time to bring Maryland "into the enlightened world of other states such as West Virginia and Arkansas" that prohibit unions of first cousins.
-- Del. Henry Heller

That man just cracks me up. Plus, he's right. This is why people keep voting for him. Well, aside from the fact that he's one of the few people alive who can remain conscious through all of the budget committee hearings and work sessions.

But you know, considering how inbred it has been legally possible to be in Maryland, probably it might make sense to also ban marriages between second cousins. Or heck, between Marylanders in general.

I used to think that the DC people were just kidding when they referred to Marylanders as "inbreds agitating outside of the Beltway". But it turns out that they were being serious!

what an embarassment. Thx Del Heller for taking steps to fix this.

Posted by: thardman | February 21, 2010 2:40 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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