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Outlook: Maryland General Assembly’s 90 Day 2014 Session

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The Maryland General Assembly reports to work today to start off a 90 day legislative session for 2014. Democratic leaders are hoping to raise the minimum wage, legalize marijuana, and spend more money on school construction and other projects. Republican leaders are hoping to cut taxes, including the highly controversial “Rain Tax”, and will also take major issue with Maryland’s fumbled Healthcare Exchange and website. Below are some expanded highlights of what we can expect in the upcoming session.

Minimum Wage
Currently the minimum wage in Maryland is $7.25. There have been some proposals to raise it over $10 per hour. Gov. Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have all stated that they would like to make this a priority for this year. Despite Republican opposition this will be likely to pass, the question is will it effect the whole state, and how much will it go up.

Rain Tax
There are possible changes to the “Rain Tax” storm water management fees in this session. Republicans plan to bring this issue to light given angry backlash from in some parts of Maryland. Republicans will likely call for a full repeal. Most likely there will only be small tweaks to the law, and they will likely only help non-profits. Will the citizens in the most effected counties make this a big issue for the Democrats?

There is already a sort of moratorium on “fracking” in Maryland, which is the process of using hydraulics to fracture the ground deep below the surface to mine for natural gas. Governor O’Malley already has ordered an environmental study of the relatively new technique. Pennsylvania and other nearby states are already working hard on fracking, but environmental groups are expected to try to get legislation passed barring fracking in this state.

Legalizing Pot
Senate President Miller is likely to support marijuana legislation to keep up with Colorado and Washington’s new legalization. Hopefully they will follow House Speaker Busch’s suggestion to wait and see how the new laws effect Colorado and Washington.

Early Education
From the campaign trail, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown has been pushing for pre-Kindergarten in Maryland. You can expect to see some legislation toward creating a pre-K program that may be voluntary and would be half day.

Other Issues
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the Assembly may also debate increased school new construction and building a new jail in Baltimore to replace the current scandal plague detention center.

NSA/FBI Collecting and Storing Internet Usage

Friday, June 7th, 2013

The Federal Govt. is spying on your email, video, chat, pictures, Skype sessions, internet usage. The NSA and FBI are collecting ALL of your information, and have been for 3 years. They are copying the data and storing it. This includes Google, Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Skype, Gmail, AOL, YouTube, and that is just what we know so far. It is a damn shame that this is allowed to happen. This must not continue!

Basically all of the tech giants are allowing direct access to user’s data. Direct access means that they are asking for the data, they aren’t getting a court order, it means that they get real-time access to the data for everyone. The government is then copying the data to their own servers so that they can monitor and assess the records for every citizen in the United States. The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. is reporting that the secret government program is called PRISM.

Source: Guardian (U.K.)

Audit: Baltimore & PG Schools Wildly Misspent Funds

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General issued an audit of Maryland’s use of federal money given as part of the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” The audit covered from April 2009 through June 2010, but was expanded through May 2011 after uncovering prohibited expenses.

The report found $362,939 in unallowable and $346,861 in unsupported expenditures. The troubling expenditures included travel, entertainment events, utility bills, awards, giveaway items, food, and items for personal use.

The audit also found that Maryland Dept. of Education did not monitor any of the Recovery Act expenditures until after the audit period.

Breakdown of some of the most outrageous expenses, all of which are prohibited uses of federal grant money:
$2,413 for a fried chicken dinner at a PTA meeting for 25 adults ($99/parent)
$4,352 for two Baltimore Inner Harbor dinner cruises for parents and teachers
$1,336 for 30 people for dinner, dancing, and a performance by a “local singer” at a theater in Baltimore
$500 for food at a Parent/Student makeover day
PG County even paid $222 for an electric pencil sharpener

Sources: US DOE Office of Inspector General
Baltimore Sun for original story

Two New Scandals at a Second Maryland Prison

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Bloods Gang/Drug Activity Run Partially From Baltimore Prison

18 suspected members of the Bloods gang have been indicted by a federal grand jury for racketeering, drug related crimes. The case revolves around an investigation that began with a separate federal indictment of Michael Dominique Johnson, who is from Columbia, MD in Howard County.

The investigators began to monitor his communications from the Chesapeake Detention Center. The federally owned prison is run by the State of Maryland, and just happens to be located across the street from the Baltimore City Detention Center that had 13 correctional officers indicted in a major scandal in April.

This story is developing.

In other news at the Chesapeake Detention Center, a male correctional officer, Sgt. Nathan Colbert, has been charged of sexually assaulting a female inmate in front of two witnesses. A review of the court documents shows that the alleged assault occurred on July 7, 2012. Sgt. Colbert, 49, has been charged with 2nd degree assault, a 4th degree sex offense, and a correctional inmate sex offense. The trial is set for July 15, 2013.

FoxBaltimore reports that Sgt. Colbert placed his hand under her shorts and assaulted her, and she immediately pushed him away.

Sources: District Court of Maryland

Baltimore Prisoner Impregnates 4 Prison Guards; 13 Guards Indicted

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

13 correctional officers were among 25 Black Guerilla Family gang members indicted on federal racketeering charges. The officers with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services helped gang members smuggle in cell phones, drugs, and launder money. Four of the female guards were impregnated by Tavon White, the leader of the Black Guerilla Family game according to the FBI press release.

Tavon White (Source: Anne Arundel County Police Department)

Roughly 170 federal agents and state and local police officers were involved in the arrests of 25 people allegedly involved. Of the 25, 7 were inmates, 13 were female correction officers, and the remaining 5 were “outside suppliers.” Tavon White allegedly had long-term sexual relationships with four of the guards, and all four became pregnant at least once. Two of the guards tattooed “Tavon” on their neck and wrist. White allegedly gave gifts to the correctional officers including diamond rings and luxury cars.

Gary D. Maynard, who is Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services reportedly helped bring in over 30 known ‘clean’ correctional officers to conduct a cell by cell raid of the Baltimore City Detention Center. FBI Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt was quoted in the FBI release as saying “Such corruption causes the FBI to divert crucial investigative resources away from addressing violence on the streets of Baltimore. In this case, the inmates literally took over ‘the asylum,’ and the detention centers became safe havens for the BGF. Such a situation cannot be tolerated. Law enforcement should not have to concern itself with criminal subjects who have already been arrested and relegated to detention centers.”

Sources: FBI Press Release: Thirteen Correctional Officers Among 25 Black Guerilla Family Gang Members and Associates Indicted on Federal Racketeering Charges
Maryland Dept. of Public Safety and Correctional Services

2016 Elections

Primary - 4/5/2016
General - 11/8/2016

Races to Watch

U.S. Senate

Barbara Mikulski (D) is retiring.

Top (D) Candidates
Donna Edwards
Chris Van Hollen

All 8 House Seats are up for election.

Current Representatives
1st - Andy Harris (R)

2nd - Dutch Reppersberger (D)

3rd - John Sarbanes (D)
Top candidates Dr. Mark Plaster (R).

4th - Donna Edwards (D) - running for Senate
Top candidates Anthony Brown (D), Glenn Ivey (D), George McDermott (?)

5th - Steny Hoyer (D)

6th - John Delaney (D) - may run for Senate
Top (R) candidates David Vogt (R), Kathy Afzali (R), Neil Parrott (R), Mike McKay (R).

7th - Elijah Cummings (D) - may run for Senate
Top candidates Calvin Ball (D), Corrogan Vaughn (R).

8th - Chris Van Hollen (D) - running for Senate
Top (D) candidates Kumar Barve, Valerie Ervin, Kathleen Mattews, Jamie Raskin
Top (R) candidates Frank Howard - potential