Maryland lawmakers vote to increase penalties for drivers using cellphones

The Maryland General Assembly approved legislation Monday that will stiffen penalties for drivers who cause fatal or serious crashes while talking on a cellphone or texting. The legislation now goes to the governor to be signed. The Maryland House of Delegates and Senate had passed different versions of the legislation, but in a compromise reached on the last day of the session, lawmakers agreed to these conditions: The law would apply to drivers using a cellphone in a variety of ways, not just texting. Those found guilty would face up to one year in jail and a fine of as much as $5,000. And prosecutors could charge drivers with this law in addition to other laws. (Wash. Post) 

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O’Malley: Not convinced on wind turbine moratorium

Gov. Martin O’Malley says he still has misgivings about a bill to set a 13-month moratorium on the development of tall wind turbines within 56 miles of the U.S. Naval Air Station Patuxent River base in southern Maryland. O’Malley wouldn’t say Monday if he would veto legislation that has been sent to his desk. But the governor, who is a strong supporter of wind energy, says, “I have yet to conclude that windmills are quite the threat to Naval air radar that those advocating for this ban have concluded.” (AP)

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Maryland Gov. O’Malley will sign marijuana decriminalization bill, he says

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said Monday that he will sign a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. On a 34-to-8 vote, the Senate gave final approval to the legislation Monday afternoon. The bill would impose only civil fines, rather than criminal sanctions, on those caught with less than 10 grams of the drug. (Wash. Post)

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$10M solution ends wrangling on bail bills

The General Assembly has reached a $10 million resolution of a forthcoming Court of Appeals mandate that state-sponsored attorneys be available for arrested individuals at initial bail hearings before district court commissioners. The money, which will come from the Maryland Judiciary’s budget, falls far short of the $30 million that Maryland Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe said would be necessary to have attorneys on call at the 177,000 initial bail hearings held statewide each year. (Daily Record)

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President Barack Obama: 'Maryland Legislature did the right thing' by hiking minimum wage

President Barack Obama issued a statement on Monday in response to the Maryland General Assembly's passage of legislation to hike the minimum wage. "The Maryland Legislature did the right thing for its workers today by increasing the state minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Maryland’s important action is a reminder that many states, cities and counties – as well as a majority of the American people – are way ahead of Washington on this crucial issue. I applaud Governor O’Malley and the state legislature for leading by example and giving more Maryland workers the raise they deserve." (Capital) 

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Annapolis residents question new mayor's inaugural budget

Sam Brice, a senior engineer who works for the city of Annapolis, told the mayor and city council Monday that residents expect a high level of service from local government. That, he said, requires employees who cost money. "Your employees are your most valuable asset," Brice said. "You have to cherish them and take care of them." His comment came at a hearing on the first budget proposed by the new mayor, Mike Pantelides — a $96.6 million operating plan that proposes 13 layoffs, eliminates 20 vacant positions and imposes furloughs for all employees. (Balt. Sun) 

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Md. legislature’s 2014 accomplishments

Take a look at the key bills in the 2014 Maryland General Assembly session which include: minimum wage increase, marijuana decriminalization, domestic violence in front of a minor, "Jake's Law", film production tax credit, transgender protections, alcohol content, and pre-K expansion (Wash. Post)

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Maryland General Assembly revises medical marijuana law to ease patient access to drug

Maryland’s General Assembly on Monday voted to revise its relatively new but flawed medical marijuana law to make the program workable and ease access to the drug for patients who need it. The measure – sponsored by Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery), Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore) and others – is intended to allow specially certified private physicians to help their patients obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes through a state-approved distribution network. (Wash. Post)

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