Rules for Lawyers Mall may need to be litigated

"The right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances" is part of the single sentence that makes up the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, coming right after the guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press. And one of the state's foremost showcases for this right, the scene of perhaps 50 rallies every General Assembly session, is Lawyers Mall outside the State House — "the soapbox of Annapolis," we called it in a headline last month. But even the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights are not interpreted by the courts or government as absolutes. (Capital)

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February 19 // Defending bay programs from wrongheaded moves

The latest assessments by environmental groups depict a Chesapeake Bay that is gradually on the mend. And this progress must owe something to the federal-state partnership of the Chesapeake Bay Program, and also to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's mandating of pollution-reduction goals for bay watershed states. Yet, just as these policies pay off, Maryland's representatives have to fight efforts to not only gut the Chesapeake Bay Program but to bar the EPA from enforcing the Clean Water Act. While it's unfortunate this effort is necessary at all, we're glad it's being made — not just by the congressional delegation but by Gov. Larry Hogan. (Capital)

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Benjamin Ross: Maryland needs more rail, not more toll lanes

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has proposed an immense program of highway building, with motorists tapped as the main source of funds. He seeks to add "Lexus lanes" — toll lanes in the center of congested highways — to the Beltway, Interstate 270, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and a stretch of Interstate 95 north of Baltimore. Beyond that, he wants to build a third bridge crossing over the Chesapeake Bay and a four-lane bridge across the Potomac on U.S. 301. The governor promises that tolls will pay for all of this. That means driving won't be cheap. (Wash. Post)

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Ken Decker: Annapolis should keep hands off local pensions

About a year ago, I wrote an essay for MarylandReporter.com suggesting the state legislature look to local governments for ideas on how to successfully manage pension systems. Naturally, the opposite has happened. Del. Mary Ann Lisanti of Harford County is pushing HB 971, legislation that would require local government pensions to provide a potentially budget-breaking disability benefit for some public safety employees. Del. Lisanti’s bill is a response to a line-of-duty injury suffered by a police officer in one of Harford County’s municipalities. There’s no question that it is a situation that tugs at heart strings. It’s also the perfect example of the old legal adage: Hard cases make bad laws. (Md. Reporter)

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Diana Morris: Bad apples have spoiled the Baltimore Police barrel

Reacting last week to the jury trial conviction of two officers in the Baltimore Police Department's Gun Trace Task Force — on top of guilty pleas from six others — many city leaders returned to the familiar "few bad apples" narrative to minimize the significance. Perhaps these leaders have forgotten the rest of the idiom: "One bad apple spoils the barrel." (Balt. Sun)

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Jimmy DeButts: Meandering along Maryland's gerrymandered 3rd District

It looks like X-rayed lungs on a Rorschach test. No, it’s a smashed spider with broken legs. It’s just ridiculous. There’s no consensus on what Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District resembles. There’s no singular policy or priority that unites a district carved out of four counties and Baltimore City. On a Wednesday journey that included stops in each municipality, it was easy to find shock and disgust among the electorate. Some folks were unaware of the district’s meandering borders and reckless design. (Capital)

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Opioid bill could give Maryland family drug addiction interventions some teeth

 

Nobody aspires for their sons and daughters to grow up and become addicted to opioids or other substances. Nonetheless, the United States is in the grip of an addiction crisis like nothing it's seen before. Opioids are considered responsible for 63,600 of the 146,571 accidental deaths in our country in 2016. That's about 43 percent. Life expectancy is dropping, partly as a result of this crisis. Heroin, oxycontin and now more deadly cousins like fentanyl and carfentanil are taking a toll. Delmarva is not immune, and the death toll is the tip of the iceberg. (Daily Times)

 

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Interesting approach to solving wage gap

One of the more persistent problems facing society is the disparity in pay between men and women who are doing the same or comparable work. It is a problem that has been acknowledged for decades and has been the target of numerous pieces of legislation at the state and federal level. Yet the "wage gap" remains, somewhat reduced but still significant. Census data from 2015 showed Maryland women earned 83 cents for each dollar that men earn, according to a News-Post analysis. Now, a Frederick County legislator has introduced a bill in the General Assembly that could help chip away at the problem. It is an interesting idea, though we have some concerns about details of the bill. (News-Post)

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