Archive for January, 2010

Bill Would Require Webcasts of Committee Hearings

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

ANNAPOLIS – Maryland lawmakers hope to demystify state proceedings with legislation aimed at increasing the transparency of the Board of Public Works and the General Assembly.

The Maryland Open Government Act, introduced in the House of Delegates Wednesday, calls for live webcasting of Board of Public Works meetings and General Assembly committee hearings.

Among its other provisions is a guarantee that the public won’t have to pay fees for services available on the General Assembly website, including subscriptions to “Up-to-the-Minute” legislative updates, currently available for $800 per year.

The bill would also require General Assembly committees to post hearing agendas at least a day in advance. People who want to testify at the hearings would be able to sign up over the Internet.

These measures are designed to prevent witnesses from having to wait long hours without knowing when they would be called to testify.

In addition to webcasting Board of Public Works proceedings, the bill calls for the board to publish proposed budget actions on its website at least two weeks in advance of its meetings.

The two-week period would allow the public to comment on the proposals before the board meets.

At a press conference Thursday, Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, the lead House sponsor of the bill, praised the level of openness of the state government but said there was room for improvement.

“The Maryland Open Government Act is the next step,” Mizeur said. “Why not allow anyone, anywhere in the state, to see what’s happening in our committees in real time?”

- By the Capital News Service’s Daniel Leaderman.

A Much-anticipated State of the Union

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Spending freezes. Immigration reform. Energy policies. Health care reform. Social Security. National security. Haiti relief. And most pertinently, the economy.

These topics – and more – hang in the air as President Obama takes center stage at the Capitol for his State of the Union address.

The twitter world is already buzzing with anticipation about how Obama will address the American people at a time when a record number of young people remain jobless and health care reform is in peril.

Gov. Martin O’Malley said last October that health care was the biggest expense in Maryland’s budget, and that a reform bill’s passage would be vital in recovering from a $2 billion deficit.

Capital News Service’s twitter page will have constant updates throughout the president’s address and reaction afterward.

from Maryland Newsline’s Zettler Clay

Fetch Breaks Monotony Inside Md. State House

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

ANNAPOLIS – Before the State House filled up with legislators, staffers and media Friday, the silence of the main lobby was broken by the echoing sounds of toenails skittering on slick tile as Hunter chased his ball.

Hunter, a 5-year-old chocolate Labrador, was burning off some energy in the hall between the House and Senate chambers after his daily grind of checking the building for bombs. His handler, State Trooper Derrick Bernard, described the activity as “motivational.”

“It’s just to break the monotony. He gets bored doing the same sweep day after day,” Bernard said as Hunter waited at his side, tail whipping back and worth, preparing to explode off in the direction of the thrown ball.

By 8:45 a.m., it was time to clear out. A woman who was afraid of dogs had arrived at work.

by Capital News Service’s Brady Holt

Haiti Earthquake Hits Home for Senator’s Family

Thursday, January 14th, 2010
Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, has a relative missing after Haiti's earthquake.

Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, has a relative missing after Haiti's earthquake. (Photo courtesy Maryland State Archives)

The earthquake that devastated Haiti Tuesday has struck close to home for many Maryland residents with family living in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

The quake’s effects reached the State House Wednesday morning as Sen. Delores Kelley, D-Baltimore County, told her colleagues during the session that her daughter-in-law’s parents were among the missing in Port-au-Prince.

The father, Emmanuel Louisdor, has since been accounted for and suffered only minor injuries, Kelley said in an interview a few hours later. She and her daughter-in-law, Violette Kelley, still had heard nothing about Violette’s mother as of 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“[Violette] is really upset about her homeland and all the devastation and everything her parents have worked for,” Sen. Kelley said. “The mom had been here visiting and had just gone back [to Haiti] about two weeks ago. It was just mind-boggling,”

Violette heard about her father — who operates Shell gas stations — through one of his business associates, but has not been able to reach him directly, Sen. Kelley said, acknowledging that many other Marylanders will have an even harder time finding out about their loved ones.

“It’s just very, very hard. Obviously, I guess you just reach out to anybody who might have some sort of connection,” Sen. Kelley said.

Haiti, one of the world’s poorest nations, was still recovering from hurricane and tropical storm damage when the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck its capital city. Sen. Kelley called upon Americans to “reach out and do what we can” by donating to reputable relief organizations such as the International Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders.

- By Capital News Service’s Brady Holt.