The Background Check Backlog, Medical Marijuana, and Maryland’s Minimum Wage | WYPR

The Background Check Backlog, Medical Marijuana, and Maryland’s Minimum Wage

Sep 13, 2013

20 law enforcement officers from around the state are tasked with clearing a backlog of gun purchase background checks. Commissioners are appointed for MD’s medical marijuana program. Plus: a go-date for Gansler’s gubernatorial bid, the push to raise the minimum wage, and more.

The Backlog On Gun Purchase Background Checks: The Maryland State Police are getting more law enforcement help in dealing with the backlog of firearm purchase background checks.  The Baltimore Sun reports that 20 police officers from around the state have been tasked with the job – officers coming from the Department of Natural Resources, the Maryland Transit Administration, and the State Capitol Police. There are tens of thousands of gun purchase background checks waiting processing. The process used to take only a week, but a surge in gun sales has stretched out the process for months. Maryland law says that gun dealers can release firearms to buyers after seven days, even if the background check isn’t complete, and about half of the state’s gun dealers have stopped waiting. Because of this, at least 45 guns have been released to people who aren’t allowed to have them – all those guns have been recovered. Governor Martin O’Malley has vowed to have the backlog cleared before the month is over, which is when Maryland’s new gun laws kick in, measures forbidding the sale of certain guns classified as assault weapons, and requiring handgun buyers to get new licenses. A week ago, civilian employees from five state agencies started entering data on the purchase applications into electronic forms, in order to make it easier for police to get the checks done. That has been controversial – because the workers are not certified law enforcement officers. The Gazette reports that State Senator Nancy Jacobs is calling for a federal investigation into whether state officials broke any laws in allowing the civilians to enter the data.

Gansler To Get In Governor’s Race On September 24: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler is getting ready to officially launch his bid for Governor. Yesterday, Gansler’s aides told the Washington Post that the AG will formally enter the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on September 24th… when he’ll begin a seven-day tour of the state. Already in the race on the Democratic side are Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur. Republicans in the race include Harford County Executive David Craig, Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George, and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar. The Baltimore Sun has more here. Meanwhile, the Brown campaign tells WYPR that it will file the official candidacy paperwork with the Maryland State Board of Elections today; the move will make Brown and his running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the first 2014 gubernatorial candidates to take all the legal steps necessary to enter the race. When the paperwork is filed, the State Board of Elections will note it here.

Medical Marijuana Commissioners Appointed: Maryland’s medical marijuana program is a step closer to distributing the drug to patients… but that’s still years away. The Baltimore Sun reports that Governor Martin O'Malley appointed eleven people to the new commission which will oversee the program, including a police chief, a prosecutor, lawyers and health care professionals. The panel is tasked with setting rules as to how marijuana may be grown and distributed. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a law allowing patients with specific medical issues to receive marijuana distributed by academic medical centers – but the Washington Post notes that none of those centers are expected to be operational until the year 2016, at the earliest.

Does Minimum Wage Talk Now Build Momentum For January? WYPR's Fraser Smith and Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital talk about the renewed talk among Maryland Democrats to raise the minimum wage. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.

Feldman Appointed To District 15 State Senate Seat: Delegate Brian Feldman has been appointed to fill a vacant State Senate seat. Feldman replaces fellow Democrat Rob Garagiola, who announced his retirement from the District 15 seat in June. The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee had voted unanimously that Feldman be chosen as the replacement; the Washington Post reports that Governor O’Malley appointed Feldman to the job yesterday. O'Malley also met yesterday with Republican Delegates Steve Hershey and Michael Smigiel to decide which of the two should fill the vacant District 36 Senate seat. The Baltimore Sun has more here.

Rick Perry Comes To Maryland: Texas Governor Rick Perry is coming to Maryland next week in an effort to lure businesses and residents to his state. As the Baltimore Sun reports, Perry has launched a half-million-dollar radio and TV ad campaign in Maryland, attacking our state’s business climate. Governor O’Malley has dismissive of the ads, and note that Maryland fares better than Texas in many statistics, including poverty rates and median income. O’Malley told the Washington Post yesterday that Perry will be treated with “great Maryland hospitality” during his visit… but added that he looks forward to “send [Perry] packing.”

“Very Loud Sound” Prompts Closures, Evacuation: Something happened outside the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse in downtown Baltimore yesterday. But it’s not clear what. At around 2:30 in the afternoon, a loud, booming sound apparently came out of a trash can outside the courthouse. The Daily Record reports that it was initially thought to be an explosion. Authorities evacuated the building and shut down the streets; they then brought a robot to search for an explosive device in the trash can. But none was found. Police are now using the phrase “very loud sound” to describe what happened, not “explosion”… and they tell the Baltimore Sun that, so far, they have very little information about what it was.

Lightning Strike Shuts Down BWI: BWI Airport was shut down for about two and a half hours yesterday – after the facility’s air traffic control tower was hit by lightning. The Baltimore Sun reports that an air traffic controller was shocked by the lightning strike; the controller was taken to an area hospital for treatment, and has since been released. The controller was apparently switching on a generator that powers backup runway lights at the time of the lightning strike. The Capital Gazette has more here.

Fort McHenry Tunnel Closures: This Sunday is the annual Fort McHenry Tunnel 5K Run and Walk. Because of the event, the tunnel's northbound right tube will be closed from 7 p.m. Saturday to noon on Sunday. The ramp from northbound I-95 to Keith Avenue, which is exit 56, will also be closed during the event.  The Tunnel 5K raises money for Maryland’s Special Olympics. The Baltimore Sun has more here.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles fell 6 to 5 to the New York Yankees last night. The loss puts the O’s two and a half games out of a playoff spot. The Orioles will be in Canada tonight, for a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Baltimore Football: the Ravens take on the Cleveland Browns in Sunday’s home opener; that game will start at 1 in the afternoon. The Ravens haven’t lost to the Browns since 2007.