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Legislators OK bills to rename Maryland’s 2 appeals courts; voters could decide question in 2022 referendum

Persistent public confusion over the name of Maryland’s highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals, is prompting lawmakers to pursue putting a constitutional amendment before voters that would rebrand the centuries-old institution as the Supreme Court of Maryland. The ballot measure would also redub the arguably equally confusing Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which considers appeals from circuit courts around the state, as the Appellate Court of Maryland. And it would give members of the newly renamed state supreme court the title of justice, rather than judge.

Read More: Baltimore Sun
Senator Stalls Nominees to Alcohol Commission He Helped Create

When the General Assembly concluded months of contentious debate by voting in 2019 to transfer regulation of alcohol and tobacco from the state comptroller’s office to a new entity in the governor’s office, state Sen. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery) was at the center of the effort. Kramer, who regularly warns of the public health impacts of alcohol abuse, was a vocal foe of efforts by Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) to boost Maryland’s craft brewers, warning that special favors for the fledgling industry would only lead to more drunk driving and a greater health and safety crisis.

Leaders tour SE Baltimore site to promote Hispanic vaccine equity

Maryland state officials are marking the progress at one of its vaccination sites in southeast Baltimore. It’s in the heart of a community with mostly Hispanic people who were hit hard by the coronavirus. “What we are seeing here, today, when we pulled up, we saw a line out the door,” Senate President Bill Ferguson said. Touting progress at Sacred Heart Church in Highlandtown sits in a community of mostly Hispanic people hit hard by the pandemic.

Read More: WBAL
Marilyn Mosby Makes First Public Appearance Since Federal Investigation Into Finances, Acting U.S. Attorney Defends Integrity Of His Office
At her first public appearance since the revelation of a federal investigation, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby declined comment on the U.S. Attorney’s probe into her finances and those of her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby. “I’m not going to discuss that matter. I will refer you to my attorney,” Mosby said. Her remarks came at a press conference where Mosby announced she would stop prosecuting low-level drug and sex offenses and focus on violent crimes.
Read More: WJZ
Bill would limit use of DNA databases to solve crimes in Maryland

A first-in-the-nation bill, which would limit when law enforcement can search consumer genealogical databases in connection with a crime, unanimously passed in the Maryland House last week. House Bill 240 would ensure that databases storing genetic information of individuals, like GEDmatch, provide notice to their consumers that their DNA could be utilized for this purpose and obtain consent from them. GEDmatch is a service that compares DNA data files from different testing companies, notably used by law enforcement to arrest a man, later determined to be a rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer, in 2018.

Senate Unanimously Approves $51 Billion Budget Plan

Maryland’s Senate gave unanimous approval Thursday to a nearly $51 billion budget plan, and final negotiations with House lawmakers could begin as early as Friday. The budget has grown steadily during the legislative session thanks to federal stimulus funding and higher-than-anticipated revenue estimates. Sen. George C. Edwards (R-Garrett), a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee, said he was worried throughout the legislative session about additional funding considerations and supplemental budgets continually flowing into the committee.

Governor Hogan Hopes For Normalcy By Memorial Day; Baltimore COVID-19 Cases Doubled In Past Month

With Maryland reporting a surge in new COVID-19 infections, Governor Larry Hogan is eager to get more people vaccinated. “We’re going to put needles in everybody’s arms—wherever we can find them,” the governor said. Hogan spoke Thursday afternoon following his tour of the new mass vaccination site in Hagerstown, and he made this prediction: “I’m hopeful that we can get a huge portion of the population vaccinated in the months of April and May. I know the President said he’d like to see the return to some sort of normalcy by the Fourth of July, but I’d like to see it done by Memorial Day,” Hogan said.

Read More: WJZ
Investigation into Baltimore’s Mosbys includes their charitable donations. When can those prompt federal tax scrutiny?

The federal investigation into the personal finances of two of Baltimore’s top elected officials has shined a spotlight on a familiar type of tax deduction, making charitable donations to churches or religious organizations. As part of a criminal investigation of Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI have sought tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, loan documents and canceled checks. They also have subpoenaed Marilyn Mosby’s campaign treasurer and requested records tracing back to 2014, some related to the Mosbys’ private travel and consulting businesses.

Read More: Baltimore Sun
Chris Van Hollen, Other Lawmakers Want To Block Permanent Capitol Fencing

The United States Capitol has been surrounded by fencing since just after the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the building, but Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen and other lawmakers want to make sure the barriers do not become permanent. “We can achieve security here without building a wall,” Van Hollen, a Democrat, said at a press conference just outside the Capitol. He and Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, along with Democratic Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, have introduced bills that would prohibit the construction of permanent fencing around the United States Capitol complex.

Read More: WJZ
Clippinger: Juveniles engaged in sexting do not belong in the criminal justice system

Del. Luke Clippinger (D-Baltimore County) emphasized his support for legislation that would in certain circumstances provide an alternative to criminal penalties for juveniles who are close in age and who send sexually explicit images of themselves via text. It is a felony to possess or distribute sexually explicit images of minors. And doing so can land anyone, even teenagers sharing such images between themselves-on the sex offender registry or in jail.

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