Archive for December, 2010

DREAM Act Supporters Encouraged By House Passage, Senate Delay

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

Far from being discouraged by the Senate’s decision Thursday to postpone a DREAM Act vote until next week, the immigration bill’s supporters are optimistic that the step will help keep the bill alive and give them time to secure the 60-vote minimum needed to proceed.

“This is good,” said Roberto Juarez, co-founder of the Maryland DREAM Youth Committee. “We have more time now. The Senate is doing this because this is the best chance it has to pass.”

Juarez sat in the House chamber Wednesday night and watched as six of Maryland’s eight U.S. representatives voted for the legislation, which provides a conditional path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the country as children and attend college or serve in the military for two years.

Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore; Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington; John Sarbanes, D-Towson; Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville; and Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington voted for the bill, which passed by a 216-198 vote. Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, was the only Maryland Democrat to vote against the bill.

The DREAM Act’s House victory is a testament to the legislation’s building momentum that could push its passage in the Senate, Juarez said.

Leading up to the House vote, Juarez and his group’s members targeted Kratovil by “getting as many calls as we could to his office,” Juarez said.

We were hoping that Congressman Kratovil would vote for the bill,” Juarez said.

But Juarez was expecting the “no” vote from Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, who opposes the DREAM Act, arguing that it is tantamount to mass amnesty that encourages illegal behavior.

“But we have a lot of support in Maryland,” Juarez said. “Congressman Kratovil and Congressman Bartlett are going to be the only ones in Maryland to vote against it.”
Kratovil’s vote against the DREAM Act was not unexpected. Last year, Kratovil supported the Coast Guard Reauthorization Act to strengthen penalties for unauthorized immigration.

“Rep. Kratovil did not like that this immigration bill didn’t include any provisions to improve enforcement” and did not include improvements to the work visa system, said Kratovil spokesman Kevin Lawlor.

By Capital News Service’s Michaelle Bond

Should Johnson Take the Oath?

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Should Prince George’s County Council member-elect Leslie Johnson take the oath of office Monday?

Some local elected officials are urging her not to, because of her arrest Nov. 12 in a federal corruption probe.

–From Maryland Newsline’s Marie Lindberg

Groups Support Offshore Wind Effort Along the Atlantic Coast

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

CHEVERLY — A report released by the National Wildlife Federation Wednesday found that the Atlantic coast could produce enough wind energy to power about 1.5 million homes annually — equivalent to about five coal burning power plants.

The findings were released a week after Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a “Smart from the Start” initiative designed to speed up permitting of wind energy projects along the Atlantic coast.

Offshore wind projects could generate $200 billion to revive economies and create more than 43,000 permanent jobs, the report said.

In Maryland alone, offshore wind could offset more than half of the state’s electricity needs.

Offshore wind projects are supported by 35 environmental and labor groups on the Atlantic coast, including Environment Maryland and the United Steelworkers, who were present at the report’s release at the site of a wind turbine under construction in Cheverly.

The 70-foot turbine in Cheverly will generate enough electricity to offset half of the Public Works Department’s power usage.

The turbine is the first wind tower in Prince George’s County and will be running within a week if weather permits, said Cheverly Mayor Michael Callahan.

By Capital News Service’s Nicole Dao

Two More Not Guilty Pleas Entered in County Corruption Probe

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

GREENBELT, Md. – Two more of the nine charged Nov. 15 in a sweeping corruption probe in Prince George’s County pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court on Wednesday morning.

Amir Miljkovic, 39, and Mirza Kujundzic, 30, who were named in separate indictments involving smuggling alcohol, tobacco and drugs through Maryland and Virginia, entered their pleas to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jillyn K. Schulze.

Miljkovic’s trial date has been set for Jan. 18. Dates for Kujundzic’s next court appearances were not established.

Miljkovic is accused of taking part in a scheme to transport and distribute untaxed alcohol and cigarettes from Virginia and Maryland — a plan in which prosecutors allege a prominent Langley Park liquor store owner and his wife paid off Prince George’s County police officers to assist in the illegal operation.

The store owner and his wife, Amrik Singh Melhi, 51, and Ravinder Kaur Melhi, 49, pleaded not guilty to the same charges on Tuesday.

Prosecutors allege that Kujundzic, along with Prince George’s County Police Officer Sinisa Simic, 25, planned to transport and distribute cocaine and obtained firearms to further the trafficking of drugs.

Simic is scheduled to enter a plea on Thursday.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Justin Karp