First Click, Maryland -- Session roundup
Your morning download of Maryland political news
Tuesday, April 13, 2010:
It took almost every hour of this year's session of the Maryland General Assembly, but up against a midnight deadline, lawmakers late Monday approved bills to combat gangs and tighten restrictions on sex offenders in response to the tragic deaths last year of two Maryland children.
Following what police say was the killing in December of an 11-year-old Eastern Shore girl at the hands of one of Maryland's high-risk sex offenders, lawmakers voted to require lifetime supervision of sexual predators, update its online sex-offender registry, triple mandatory minimum sentences for rapes and assaults of young children and make it harder for repeat offenders to get out of jail.
Advocates for victims of sexual assaults said that taken together, the bills would significantly tighten the web of laws designed to keep sex offenders in Maryland under wraps.
And to prevent a repeat of the kind of violence between school-age gang members that culminated in last year's beating death of a 14-year-old Crofton boy, lawmakers passed a first-of-its kind measure to require schools and police to share information about students and set the stage for classroom interventions with those that teachers believe to be heading toward gang involvement.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) who sponsored the bill, called it a collaborative success that would make Maryland schools safer places.
The legislature also reached a compromise on the first overhaul of the state's child-support guidelines in 20 years, voted to require utilities to buy more solar power and finalized the last portion of the state's budget.
Under the capital spending plan, the state will borrow an additional $250 million for school construction and set aside almost $17 million to purchase open space, over the objections of Republicans who said Maryland is going too far into debt.
News You Should Know
A roundup of key Sine Die decisions:
Child support payment guidelines will be changed for the first time in more than 20 years. The guidelines, which will go into effect in October, will raise the scale for payments based on combined monthly income between parents from $10,000 under current law to $15,000
Mediation between borrowers facing foreclosures and their mortgage lenders will be required by law, if the borrower asks for mediation. Legislation includes a $300 filing fee from lenders filing a foreclosure action to help pay for mediations.
Legislation to make it easier to prosecute gang members and stiffen penalties against them was approved, in a move to close loopholes in the Gang Prosecution Act of 2007. The current law has resulted in only one guilty plea and not one conviction by a jury in nearly three years. The bill adds crimes that would make gang members eligible for stronger penalties, including witness intimidation and second-degree assault.
Gangs in schools:
Maryland educators and law enforcement will be required to report to school personnel the arrests of students for certain offenses to increase awareness about students committing crimes that could indicate gang membership. The measure was brought forward after a 14-year-old Crofton boy was beaten to death last year in an allegedly gang-related incident.
Maryland utilities will have to increase the amount of solar energy they buy and pay fees for not complying. The General Assembly scaled back amounts of solar energy required to be purchased and the amount of fees initially approved. It's estimated the law will increase residential electricity bills by 5 cents per month next year and 66 cents per month for the average commercial ratepayer. The amount goes up each year, resulting in an increase of 77 cents per month for residents and $9.57 for commercial ratepayers in 2016.
Lawmakers have approved legislation to require lifetime supervision of some people convicted of the most severe sex crimes. Legislators also decided on a mandatory 15-year prison sentence for people who commit more serious sex offenses or rape against a child, instead of a five-year sentence under current law. A law passed by the General Assembly would also bring Maryland into compliance with the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, which creates minimum standards for sex offender registration. And lawmakers approved a bill to reform the state's Sexual Offender Advisory Board to ensure its members have skills needed to certify programs has been approved.
Maryland lawmakers endorsed changing the state's slots machine policy to entice a bidder to a western Maryland location. It would give any bidders for an Allegany County slots license 35.5 percent of the gaming revenues for five years, instead of 33 percent, if they agree to buy the troubled Rocky Gap Lodge and Resort.
Lawmakers did not approve a bill that would have let voters decide whether to allow poker, black jack and other Las Vegas-style card games at Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County. After the bill died in the House, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said he believed Rosecroft would close.
Sixteen-year-olds will be able to register to vote when they get their driver's license or at another registration location. Youth still won't be able to vote in a general or special election until they are 18-years-old
Sources: The Washington Post, The Associated Press
Tenure changes approved with eye toward 'Race to the Top'
"Maryland teachers will have to wait three years before they earn tenure and some will receive additional mentoring during their probation period under a bill approved Monday night in the state legislature," writes The Post's Michael Birnbaum. "The measure is intended to strengthen Maryland's application for as much as $250 million in federal education stimulus money under President Obama's 'Race to the Top' competition. "The bill is a compromise between Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and the state's powerful teachers unions."
As 2010 session wanes, Ehrlich targets 2007 tax increase
"Hours before the curtain closed on the 2010 session of the Maryland General Assembly, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) emailed a fundraising solicitation to supporters -- targeting a tax increased passed in 2007," reports The Post's John Wagner. "'With your help, we'll get Maryland back on the right track, and #1 on my list of priorities is repealing Governor Martin O'Malley's 20 percent increase in the sales tax, which disproportionately hurts low and middle-income Marylanders and small business owners who are already grappling with a recession,' Ehrlich says in the solicitation.
"I feel very good about this session. This might have been an occasion for gridlock."
-- Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), speaking on Monday night to reporters about an election-year session in which he said he saw less partisanship than expected
"As Confetti Falls on Sine Die, House Republicans Assess the Damage"
-- A headline line on a news released issued early Tuesday morning by the House Republicans
"Bad News. The House referred my Legislative Voting Sunshine Act to 'summer study,' effectively killing it for a year."
-- Del. Saqib Ali (D-Montgomery), in a Facebook posting Monday night
"HOUSE MOVES FORWARD ON OPEN GOVERNMENT REFORM EFFORTS"
-- A headline on a news release issued Monday by the office Of House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D), in which he praised the work of Ali and other delegates
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Aaron C. Davis
April 13, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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