News Briefs from Around the State - Southern Maryland Headline News

News Briefs from Around the State

O'Malley to Assembly: Send Me Same-Sex Marriage Bill

ANNAPOLIS - Gov. Martin O'Malley reinforced his support Thursday for a same-sex marriage proposal that has been stalled this week in a House committee.

O'Malley, speaking to reporters outside of a committee hearing where he testified in support of an offshore wind farm proposal, sent a clear message to the House: Get over the infighting and send the same-sex marriage bill to my desk.

"I hope the House comes together. I hope they pass the bill that passed the Senate," O'Malley said. "And I hope they send it to my desk."

The bill, which sailed out of the Senate last week, has been held up in the House Judiciary Committee because two delegates failed to show up for a vote Tuesday. Delegate Jill Carter, D-Baltimore, and Delegate Tiffany Alston, D-Prince George's, have said they are now ready to vote. It's unclear when that vote could happen, though House Judiciary Chairman Joseph Vallario said the committee will vote on the bill either Thursday evening or Friday.

One thing is clear: The bill is losing momentum daily. Delegate Don Dwyer, R-Anne Arundel, a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage, reiterated this to reporters Tuesday.

The longer the committee takes to vote on the bill, "the more time we have to influence the public," Dwyer said.

During his chat with reporters, O'Malley touched on the same-sex marriage proposal for roughly one minute before addressing other questions. His comments didn't reflect anything new (O'Malley has said he would sign the bill if it gets to his desk).

But maybe the most telling exchange came when O'Malley was asked if he's lobbied House members to move the bill beyond its current impasse.

"I think I just did," O'Malley responded.

— By Capital News Service's David Saleh Rauf

Legislators Still Grappling with Juvenile Justice Equality Bill

ANNAPOLIS - The Department of Juvenile Services and legislators are trying to wiggle their way out of a $2 million price tag on a bill mandating equal services for girls.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin and Delegate Kathleen Dumais, Democrats from Montgomery, requires that the department "provide females a range and quality of services substantially equivalent to those offered to males." A fiscal analysis of the bill estimated the cost at $2 million for new programs and facilities.

But supporters say the department can do it within the current budget.

Advocates for the bill, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the Maryland Association of Resources for Families and Youth and the attorney general's Juvenile Justice Monitoring Unit, argue that the department can extend programs using existing resources and a little creativity.

"To do what we need to do does not require a new building," Dumais said.

The department has vocational, recreational and educational programs for some boys in detention, like traveling basketball teams, wood shop, swimming pools and wilderness adventure programs. For boys in Baltimore, there is an evening reporting center, where kids receive help with homework, mentoring and a place to be during peak trouble-making hours.

No such programs exist for girls. According to advocates, this is a violation of the state's equal rights amendment.

A night in an evening reporting center costs the state $50 for each child, while a day in detention at the only state-run, all-girls facility, Thomas J.S. Waxter Children's Center, costs the state $572.

Supporters of the bill understand that in a tough fiscal year, the bill can't pass with a $2 million price tag. Advocates are working closely with the department and bill sponsors to draft an amendment that will make clear the department's requirement to use existing resources.

One suggested amendment would list the services that need to be opened up to girls, like the vocational training and evening reporting classes. Sonia Kumar of the Maryland ACLU worries that a list could leave out some needs.

"Enumerating the services implies that other services need not be substantially equivalent," said Kumar. "We are trying to provide the department with maximum flexibility to meet the requirements of the law."

The legislative wrangling comes as the department gets new leadership in acting secretary Sam Abed, after the November resignation of Donald DeVore.

Many advocates, in both the lobby and the legislature, say they are encouraged by Abed's willingness to work with them on necessary reforms in the troubled department.

O'Malley appointed Abed, who spent five years in Virginia's juvenile justice agency, less than a month ago. He has not been confirmed.

— By Capital News Service's Holly Nunn

Hoyer Jump Starts Senate 'Make It In America' Hearings

WASHINGTON - House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, delivered opening remarks to the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Wednesday on the state of domestic manufacturing.

"Today, manufacturing is leading our economic recovery," Hoyer said. "In fact, that sector has grown every month for 19 straight months."

Hoyer was the first speaker in a series of planned Senate hearings on manufacturing in the United States, said Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV, the committee's chairman.

"This is sort of our theme for the year," Rockefeller said of the Democrats' manufacturing agenda.

The agenda's name, "Make It In America," has a dual-meaning: An increase in the amount of domestic manufacturing should also buoy American workers' ability to financially thrive, Hoyer said.

"It's time to recommit ourselves to manufacturing, to our middle class and to the pride Americans have always taken in making things," Hoyer said, emphasizing that the federal government must partner with the private sector when investing in the development of U.S. manufacturing.

There are about 3,680 manufacturing establishments — that employ more than 127,000 workers — in Maryland, according to the 2007 Economic Census, a U.S. Census Bureau survey that was released in April 2010. Gary Locke, secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, also addressed the committee's first hearing in the "Make It In America" series. The U.S., Locke said, is on track to achieve the president's goal of doubling exports over the next five years.

— By Capital News Service's Steve Kilar

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