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Potential Issues For The 2013 General Assembly Session: Gun Access and Confiscation, The Death Penalty, and Transportation Funding
January 3, 2013
A Maryland task force charged with studying access to firearms by the mentally ill has issued some recommendations to state lawmakers. The group recommended that police be given the power to temporarily seize weapons from anyone deemed a "credible threat" to themselves of others. It's unclear whether the General Assembly will act on the recommendations; lawmakers are already planning to vote on other gun-related proposals, including a statewide ban on assualt weapons, and limits on the size of magazine clips (via our wire service, the Baltimore Sun, and the Washington Post). Meanwhile, some gun dealers in Frederick County are reporting a significant uptick in gun sales; the Maryland State Police say that gun purchase applications have increased more than 30 percent between 2011 and 2012 (via the Gazette).
Another issue that could be debated in this year's session is the death penalty -- and whether to repeal it. State Senate President Mike Miller says he would ensure that his chamber will a vote on a bill eliminating capital punishment if Governor Martin O'Malley secures enough votes for passage (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
A third issue likely to be debated in this year's session is how to pay for new transportation funding. State analysts project that by 2018, Maryland's entire transportation budget will be needed to maintain current roads -- and that there'll be no cash left over for new projects. Yesterday, Senate President Miller advocated a regional approach; he says people in urban counties, where mass transit is most used, should pay higher taxes than rural counties (via the Baltimore Sun).
Senate President Miller is already the longest-serving Senate president in the nation... and he says he wants to serve for a little longer; Miller announced yesterday that he plans to run for re-election in 2014 (via the Baltimore Sun).
In reaching a deal to avert the so-called "fiscal cliff," WYPR Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith says Congress and the President have found yet another temporary fix for a long-term problem. Fraser comments in his weekly essay.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued its annual "State of the Bay" report yesterday; it says that the estuary's health is improving. Of the 13 bay health indicators, only underwater grasses declined; five showed improvements -- including dissolved oxygen, resource lands, oysters and crabs. While the Bay's overall grade is that of "D+," CBF President William Baker says he's "cautiously optimistic" now that a federal/state partnership for cleaning up the estuary is in place and is beginning to work (with reporting from WYPR News Director Joel McCord; more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Daily Times).
The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has reported the Maryland's second hypothermia-related death of the winter (via our wire service and the Washington Post).
Baltimore City reported more homicides in 2012 than in 2011... but the murder rate in Baltimore County's went down last year. County police say the 23 homicides they investigated in 2012 were down from 30 in 2011 (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
Baltimore City recorded a record low number of fire-related deaths last year. 12 people died as a result of fires in 2012... the year before, there were 17. City Fire Chief James Clack attributed the drop to the hard work of firefighters and EMS workers, and a citywide initiative to provide free smoke detectors (via the Baltimore Sun). The city has already recorded its first two fire-related deaths of 2013, after a 2-alarm blaze at a house in northeast Baltimore last night (via the Baltimore Sun).
The Frederick County School Board yesterday heard recommendations for what to do with the 74-year-old Frederick High School; a feasability study says that tearing it down and rebuilding it nearby would be the best option. The board will vote in February on the building's future after a public hearing January 23rd (via the Frederick News Post).
And in sports: Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis says he is retiring after this season. The 37-year-old Lewis has been out since Week Six with a torn triceps, but is expected to play in Sunday's AFC Wild Card Game against the Indianapolis Colts.
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