One year in, agriculture law initiative looks to the future

A legal support network for Maryland farmers began promoting a section of law often overlooked by law students and the bar during its first year. The Agriculture Law Initiative, founded by state lawmakers in 2012, started a first-ever agriculture law class at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law and published easy-to-understand brochures on the legal issues farmers often face. Formed in 2012 with a $250,000 budget, the initiative is different from the environmental law clinic at the Maryland law school, but it is starting to look at how farmers and the legal system interact. (Daily Times)

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Maryland House approves fines on underage casino gamblers

A bill that will create penalties for underage gamblers who are caught inside any of Maryland’s casinos is close to becoming law. The Maryland House passed its version of the legislation unanimously, without discussion or debate, on Wednesday — two weeks after a similar bill was unanimously approved by the Maryland Senate. One of the two chambers will have to pass the other one’s bill before it reaches Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk. (Wash. Post)

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House passes speed camera reform bill

The House of Delegates on Wednesday approved a speed camera reform bill intended to give drivers new protections against erroneous tickets and to impose higher standards on the vendors who operate the programs. After considering almost a dozen proposed speed camera bills, a House committee recommended one sponsored by Del. James Malone, a Baltimore County Democrat. Delegates passed it Wednesday, 116-19, with no debate. The measure, which in part responds to problems with Baltimore's speed camera program, now goes to the Senate. (Balt. Sun)

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Baltimore health commissioner announces her resignation

One of the few remaining members of Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s original cabinet, Dr. Oxis Barbot, is leaving as commissioner of the city health department, effective April 26. Barbot will return to New York City to become first deputy commissioner of health. Jacquelyn Duval-Harvey, who joined the city as a deputy health commissioner, will serve as interim director when Dr. Barbot departs next month. (Brew)

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New city police policy says public has right to film officers

The Baltimore Police Department has instituted a new policy that prohibits officers from stopping people from taping or photographing police actions, the agency said Wednesday. The new rules were unveiled as the city agreed to pay $250,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who says police seized his cellphone and deleted the video of an arrest at the Preakness Stakes in 2010. (Balt. Sun)

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Mayor, Batts attend west-side town hall meeting

For Raymond Kelly, fixing the issue of crime in his Sandtown Winchester neighborhood seems simple enough — make sure police and community leaders are visible. "Drug dealers on the corner don't want to be seen," the community organizer said. "We want to be seen." Kelly and his wife, Melissa, have run "No Boundaries," a seven-neighborhood community improvement coalition, for about six years. On Wednesday night, Kelly petitioned Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts to join them at their monthly meeting and discuss how police could help their cause. (Balt. Sun)

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Hearing on plan to sell Baltimore's public housing draws concerns

The Baltimore Housing Authority's plan to sell 22 of its 28 apartment and townhouse complexes drew dozens of concerned tenants and workers Wednesday to a City Council committee hearing. Floyd Vines, a resident at J. Van Story Branch high-rise, one of the properties to be sold, said Maryland leaders should petition Congress to restore its investment in the public housing, rather than turn to private developers to provide a cash infusion. Under the plan announced last week, the Housing Authority will sell nearly 40 percent of its properties to private developers as a way to raise more than $300 million in renovations and upgrades to the aging complexes that need new elevators, heating and cooling systems and modern kitchens and bathrooms. Rent for the apartments and townhouses will remain low. (Balt. Sun)

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City relaunching Operation Ceasefire

Baltimore City is prepared to roll out a community-based approach to combating crime, the aptly named Operation Ceasefire. The idea is to dissuade repeat criminal offenders with the threat of heavy jail time or offering them a way out of the “life,” which is an over-simplification of the program. The plan’s architect Prof. David Kennedy, of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, has been in Baltimore this week to get the operation on its feet. (WMAR-TV)

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