News Briefs from Around the State - Southern Maryland Headline News

News Briefs from Around the State

No Symbolic Vote for Benson

ANNAPOLIS - Senate President Mike Miller on Friday declined to give Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George's, the only member of the upper chamber who missed Thursday's final vote on same-sex marriage, the opportunity to cast what would have amounted to a symbolic vote on the issue.

Benson, one of 11 Senate Democrats who voted against the bill Wednesday when the chamber gave it preliminary approval, asked the Senate to grant her the opportunity to vote a day late because the issue carried personal meaning for her (Benson opposes the bill because of her religious beliefs).

Benson explained she missed Thursday's final vote because she was in Prince George's County giving a speech to 400 high school students. She returned to Annapolis after the Senate passed the same-sex marriage bill 25-21.

Miller was OK with letting Benson cast a symbolic vote, one that would be recorded in the Senate record. But the idea ran into trouble when Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, asked if the Senate would extend the same courtesy to Sen. J.B. Jennings, R-Harford, who is expected to miss parts of the session after being called to active duty in the Air National Guard.

Miller didn't appear interested and quickly quashed the issue.

"If it's not unanimous we'll leave it at 25-21," he said.

- By Capital New Service's David Saleh Rauf

Pr. George's 20th Homicide Victim Identified

Prince George's County police have identified a Laurel, Md., man who was killed Feb. 17.

Aaron Patrick Brown, 24, was found dead in the 13000 block of Laurel Bowie Road in Laurel, near Deerfield Run Elementary School, at about 6:15 p.m., police Cpl. Evan Baxter said.

Brown was the county's 20th homicide victim in 2011. Of those 20, 19 are being investigated as criminal homicides. The other was ruled self defense.

Baxter said police were still investigating the county's most recent slaying and that no suspects had yet been identified.

Police are increasingly looking to the community to help solve the county's homicides this year, the first of which occurred New Year's Day. On Tuesday, Prince George's County police teamed with a local radio conglomerate in Lanham, Md., taking phone calls from listeners and doing on-air interviews with radio personalities.

Police co-hosted the radio-thon with Radio One, which owns and operates five stations in the area, as a way to encourage listeners to provide information on crimes. A police spokeswoman said police hoped they would receive calls about information that could be used to help close some of those homicide cases, but calls from listeners were limited to community crime issues.

"The reaction has been very good," Lt. Tammy Sparkman said. "Most of the calls are ... citizens calling in to let us know about criminal activity in their neighborhood."

Eight phone lines were manned by a team of 12 Prince George's police officers, working in shifts, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Radio One stations WKYS 93.9 FM, WYCB 1340 AM, WOL 1450 AM, WMMJ 102.3 FM, and Praise 104.1 FM all participated.

-By Maryland Newsline's Alexander Pyles

Md. Environmental Group to Develop Baltimore Harbor Report Card

A University of Maryland environmental research group is developing a "report card" to assess the health of the Baltimore Harbor.

The Baltimore Harbor Report Card will help track water quality levels as property owners and city officials work to clean up the polluted harbor over the next decade.

The report card, which is being developed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, is being modeled after a similar tool the group created to score Chesapeake Bay water quality.

Research by UMCES' Heath Kelsey, who is helping to design the report card, found that Baltimore Harbor water is safe for swimmers only 21 percent of the time because of high concentrations of bacteria.

Development of the report card is in the early stages, Kelsey said. He expected it to be released in 2012.

The report card will measure specific indicators of water health like levels of nitrogen, phosphorous and toxic contaminants.

UMCES, in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's Chesapeake Bay Program, developed the first report card program for the Chesapeake Bay, EcoCheck, in 2007.

-By Maryland Newsline's Madhu Rajaraman

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