Gene Policinski: Let’s keep a civil tongue in our head

The First Amendment protects our freedom to say and write just about anything we want — but that doesn’t mean we ought to, particularly in public life. The difference rests between “can” and “should.” (Daily Record)

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Kyle Scott: Tea party lessons

What makes the tea party movement so effective at mobilizing voters and winning elections is the same thing that may limit its effectiveness in the future: its decentralized nature. The tea party movement is politics guerrilla-style. (Balt. Sun)

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Dr. Martin Wasserman: A new era of testing

Staffers passing by a room in the U.S. House of Representatives office building earlier this month did double takes. Whom they saw inside were no ordinary Capitol Hill briefing attendees: rats, mice, guinea pigs and rabbits. The presence of these animals in the halls of Congress evidences a paradigm shift that could forever change how we protect public health in America. It's one of many developments this month that signal progress toward a safer future. (Balt. Sun)

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Affordable Care Act is, unfortunately, still a work in progress

IT IS a fitting, if unwelcome, coda to the Affordable Care Act’s opening act. On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced that this Monday’s hard deadline for people to enroll in health-care insurance plans will be a little softer than advertised. If people encounter problems completing applications over the next few days, they will be able to claim some extra time to apply next month, officials said. The reason: The administration isn’t sure its Web site can handle a last-minute explosion in enrollment. (Wash. Post)

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March 27 // Getting out of jail free

A favorable Senate committee vote this week for the amended Senate Bill 973, which would solve a state public defender problem and offer some measure of bail reform, was a step in the right direction that should be repeated by the rest of the legislature. The bill would prevent court commissioners from making decisions in the pretrial release process — negating the need for public defenders to be there, as a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling requires — and instead use a computerized risk assessment tool to determine which arrestees can be set free sans bail. (Balt. Sun)

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Snowed in

For the first time in recent memory, this year's exceptionally harsh winter may require some tweaking of Maryland's 180-day school calendar. State School Superintendent Lillian Lowery says she may grant waivers of up to five days to school districts that have exceeded the number of scheduled snow days because Mother Nature didn't cooperate with their plans. Without the waivers, she said, some schools would have to stay open until the last week in June to satisfy a state law that requires students to receive at least 180 days of instruction a year. (Balt. Sun)

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Legislators have a nice deal on salaries

The words “like a well-oiled machine” and “General Assembly” don't often appear in the same sentence. But there is a small area in which, courtesy of provisions that have been in the Maryland Constitution since the 1970s, things work out with enviable smoothness. Starting next year, the re-elected legislators – 70 percent or 80 percent of the current ones, if trends from past elections hold – will be getting 4 percent annual raises for four years. Also, the allowance for in-district travel will be increased 50 percent – from $500 to $750 – because of increased gasoline prices. The really nice thing is that the legislators don't have to vote for it. At all. (Capital)

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Open warrants and tax refunds

Last year, Anne Arundel County instituted a novel approach to handling outstanding warrants. Due to the success of the program, separate bills currently under consideration in Annapolis would authorize the same program in Baltimore and in Washington County. A third would make the innovation available statewide. Nothing succeeds like success, and that’s what Anne Arundel County has experienced with this program, which links state tax refunds to outstanding warrants. Serving warrants is an ongoing chore for law enforcement — involving time, expense and the potential for trouble. This new approach reduces all those negatives substantially. (News-Post)

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