First Click, Maryland -- Could scrap bill be junked?
Your morning download of Maryland political news
Tuesday, March 30, 2010:
Get ready. Get Set. Now keep your eye on the incredible, disappearing bill.
For those who read yesterday's First Click about a popular open-government bill getting bottled up in committee, think of this as nearly the opposite. Sometimes it's the bills right out in the open - the ones under your nose that appear to be moving smoothly toward passage - that are secretly in the most trouble in the final days of session in Annapolis
There may be no better example of that than SB99 -- and its twin, HB1174. The measures are popular with most police departments in the state and seem aimed at the clear public good of cracking down on illegal scrap metal sales, including those of sawed-off catalytic converters, indoor plumbing pipes, stadium bleachers, guard rails, manhole covers and more, which have disappeared with increasing regularity during the recession.
Yet, each of the last two years, the bills have died mysterious deaths in the final hours before the General Assembly adjourned. In 2008, a similar scrap metal bill was nullified after it was signed by the wrong lawmaker. And last year, after the kinks appeared to be worked out in a conference committee, the bill never resurfaced on the last night for a final vote.
Near to the controversy in 2008, and to an extent again last year, was Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's). Exum's employer in 2008 was Joseph Smith and Sons, which runs several scrap metal businesses across the state. Exum worked to secure an exemption from the law for his employer. And last year, proponents blamed him and counterparts in the House again, alleging he worked behind the scenes to help scuttle the bill.
This year, the calculus has changed somewhat because in the absence of state legislation the past two years, Baltimore City and Baltimore County have since passed strict ordinances mandating better reporting and record-keeping by scrap metal dealers within their borders. Exum and his perceived cohorts have voted for the bill. And Smith, which owns a facility in Baltimore might work out better at that location under the statewide regulation because it would be less strict than that passed by Baltimore.
But machinations over the last 72 hours, however, have left proponents concerned about the bills' fate for a third straight year. Amendments doing away with a statewide standard have been added to the bills so that Baltimore can leave its tougher restrictions in place, and with those changes, the bills again appear headed for the same kind of conference committee from which they never re-emerged last year.
SB99 will be just one of several bills to keep an eye on before the General Assembly adjourns on April 12. An overhaul to child support guidelines, ignition interlock, gang bills and even some of the most controversial changes to sex offender laws remain in play and have powerful lobbyists and/or skeptical lawmakers working subtly to make changes or kill the measures all together.
Do you know of other bills in which lawmakers have personal interests? Or ones that are under increased pressure down the final stretch? Send us an e-mail or write a comment below to let us know. Thanks.
News You Should Know
Luxury spending sparks more criticism of Steele
"The Republican National Committee and its chairman, Michael S. Steele, were engulfed in controversy again Monday after new financial reports showed that the party used tens of thousands of donor dollars for luxe hotels, private jets and other questionable expenditures," writes The Post's Dan Eggen, in a story about the former Maryland lieutenant governor. "The disclosures, some of which stem from Steele's travels to California in January and a subsequent RNC retreat to Hawaii, reignited criticism from fellow Republicans who are troubled by the chairman's financial stewardship of the GOP's main committee since he took over more than a year ago."
Bill to end Circuit Court elections short-circuited
"A group of black lawmakers appears to have blocked Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's effort to end voters' ability to choose Circuit Court judges," writes The Sun's Julie Bykowicz. "Gansler's proposal, which aimed to replace contested elections with retention elections every 10 years, is languishing in key committees in the House of Delegates and the Senate. The chairmen of both said Monday that the Legislative Black Caucus' strong opposition has doomed Gansler's bill."
Bureaucratic delays impacting Prince George's AIDS services
"A bureaucratic bottleneck holding up federal funds in Prince George's County has forced some local medical clinics and nonprofit groups to delay or cancel services for people with AIDS," writes The Post's Sandhya Somashekhar. "Donald Shell, health officer for the Prince George's Health Department, said he is aware of the difficulties experienced by some of the groups. He said the delays were the result of the county's lengthy, exhaustive contract review process."
Maryland noncommittal on closing Metro budget gap
"The District and Maryland will be hard-pressed to provide additional funding to help Metro close a sizable budget gap and avoid deep service cuts, officials said Monday," writes The Post's Ann Scott Tyson. " 'We are not at this time committing to any additional funding' for Metro, said Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation. Maryland will increase its subsidy to Metro in 2011 by about 4 percent, or $8.7 million, to help cover the increase in the number of people who use the MetroAccess service for the elderly and disabled. Maryland riders account for about 65 percent of MetroAccess users."
"MARYLAND'S GENERAL Assembly, which has coddled drunk drivers for decades, is once again busy gutting legislation that would end the policy of forgiveness for those who get sloshed before getting behind the wheel."
-- a Washington Post editorial critical of amendments to an ignition interlock bill
"I think more and more people are thinking the Constitution should be amended for term limits."
-- Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County), who is pledging to leave by 2023 if elected to Congress this year
"I'm out there. I'm credible."
-- Political newcomer Brian Murphy, who is pledging to stay in the Republican primary for governor regardless of whether former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) runs
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.
Aaron C. Davis
March 30, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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