March 12, 2011

Bethesda Spring

Forgive me, Mark, for only posting this now, though my blog has been behind for a while. But oh do I Iove flowers and dear friends who share them!

March 11, 2011

Maryland House kills same-sex marriage bill for this year

The Maryland House of Delegates has voted to effectively kill for this year a bill that would have allowed same-sex marriage in the state. The House approved on voice vote a motion to send the bill back to the Judiciary Committee, an acknowledgment by supporters that it did not have sufficient votes to pass on the floor.

The bill cleared the Senate two weeks ago on a 25-to-21 vote, and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) had pledged to sign it.

Advocates for the bill had hoped Maryland would join five other states and the District in allowing same-sex marriages. The bill had significant momentum coming out of the Senate but ran into resistance in the Democratic-led House from African-American lawmakers from Prince George's County, who cited religious opposition in their districts, and conservative Democrats in Southern Maryland and the Baltimore suburbs.

O'Malley said he's "disappointed" by the decision. He said he expected the issue to ultimately be decided by voters and had hoped it would move forward to that end Friday. SOURCE: Washington Post

Facing $300M shortfall, schools & county continue to fight

Less than a year after pledging to improve communication, Montgomery County's Board of Education and its funding authority, the County Council, are fighting again over education spending. Last week, the school board asked the state to step in to protect its $2.1 billion budget. And on Thursday, Council President Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring sent the board a letter asking it to withdraw the state petition and concede that the council has the authority to cut education spending.

"The council will vigorously defend its authority and responsibility under the Charter to balance the county operating budget equitably between the public schools and other vital services," Ervin said in the letter to Board of Education President Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park.

Last year, the school board threatened to sue the county over possible cuts to its budget, using the same legal argument it cited in its March 2 memo to the state Board of Education.

In that memo, attorneys for the county school board requested that the state board advise the County Council that it cannot fund the school system below a state-imposed standard — the maintenance of effort. The county board also requests that the state board force the council to approve the level of school funding included in County Executive Isiah Leggett's (D) budget, which he will release Tuesday.

Leggett has said the county cannot afford to fund the school system at maintenance-of-effort levels in his proposed fiscal 2012 budget. Montgomery County is facing a $300 million budget shortfall. Maintenance of effort requires counties to fund their public schools at the same per-pupil level as the previous year, in order to receive increases in state aid for those schools.

"It's not helpful when one agency in effect sues another," said Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, comparing the school board's recent petition to last year's lawsuit. SOURCE: Gazette

Weaton Couple given 45 years in murder

Their plan was as twisted as it was tragic: I'll invite my ex-boyfriend over for sex; you jump out from behind a tree with an ice pick. The killing - delivered with five blows to the back, eight to the chest - led a Montgomery County judge on Thursday to sentence a husband and wife each to 45 years in prison.

"Let me ask you a question, if I can," Judge Joseph Dugan said to the husband, Moises Rodriguez, probing for some kind of explanation. "How did you get past the fact that you were going to take the life of a good, hardworking man that had a little girl that needed a daddy? When you were hiding behind that tree, about to do what you did, did you not think of any of that stuff?"

Rodriguez, who turns 21 Friday, told the judge he was manipulated by his wife, 23, and that he wanted only to hurt the ex-boyfriend, not kill him. If so, Dugan asked, why not stop after the first strike? "You could have gone, 'My God, I just put an ice pick in this guy,' " the judge said. SOURCE: Washington Post

Leggett spends $160k for longtime political ally

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett's office is spending nearly $160,000 annually on salary and benefits for a longtime political ally and former County Council member to head a commission that meets four times a year.

Budget documents reviewed by The Washington Examiner show that the county is doling out $158,464 in compensation to Michael Subin, executive director of the county's Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission, which is tasked with "coordinating communication" among Montgomery's law enforcement agencies. Subin sat on the County Council with Leggett 25 years ago and has remained a steadfast supporter of the suburb's top elected official since leaving the body after two decades.

Leggett has rejected calls to eliminate the position even though the panel is not required to issue a single report in a given year and although the post formerly was filled by county workers with other responsibilities -- and the county faces a gaping hole in next fiscal year's budget.

"The additional loss of another position would further compromise my staff's ability to fulfill the mission of the county executive's office," Leggett wrote in a memo. "The executive director position must be a high-level, appointed position, directly representing the county executive." SOURCE: Washington Examiner

March 6, 2011

Vote delayed on panhandling

Montgomery County's delegation in Annapolis delayed a vote today on legislation that would allow the county to require panhandlers and others to have a permit to solicit money at intersections. The delegation is expected to vote on the bill March 11.

At issue is whether the delegation will include an amendment allowing the council to implement either the permitting system or an outright ban on roadside solicitation. The County Council favors a ban, while County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) is seeking a permitting system for beggars and those who sell items or raise money for charity through roadside solicitation. Both have said the practice is unsafe.

Del. C. William Frick (D-Dist. 16) of Bethesda proposed the delay, known as "special ordering" the bill, saying that he wanted to wait for Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville before taking a vote. SOURCE: Gazette