State Digest


October 19, 2007

Legislators may raise non-budget issues

Gov. Martin O'Malley has called a special session of the General Assembly to focus on passing a large legislative package to close a $1.7 billion budget gap. But legislators can have minds of their own.

Maryland legislators have filed requests for bills unrelated to the budget to be drafted for consideration during the special session - scheduled to begin Oct. 29 - which O'Malley, a Democrat, and legislative leaders plan to wrap up in a matter of weeks. The regular legislative session begins in January.

It's not clear whether any non-budget bills will get much attention. Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, sent a note to delegates this week saying that any legislation outside the scope of O'Malley's executive order calling for the special session would be referred to the Rules Committee. Bills often languish in that committee.

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., an Anne Arundel County Republican, said the legislature should consider bills beyond the budget. He might file legislation calling for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions, an issue that came to the forefront in September when the Maryland Court of Appeals upheld the state's 34-year-old statute defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Laura Smitherman


: Annapolis

Mother calls for health coverage

Bonnie Frost is following in the steps of her 12-year-old son, Graeme Frost, who recently delivered the weekly radio address on behalf of national Democrats to push for an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

The Baltimore mother takes to the airwaves in Maryland next week to push for legislation in the General Assembly that would expand Medicaid coverage for uninsured residents. The Frosts not only have become the face of advocacy for the uninsured, but also have come under scrutiny and criticism from opponents of government-funded health care.

Gov. Martin O'Malley has called for a special session of the assembly beginning this month to tackle a looming $1.7 billion budget deficit, and he has said a legislative package would include more money for health care. The $50,000 radio ad buy, purchased by the Healthy Maryland Coalition and Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, runs through next week and urges listeners to call their state senator to express support for the legislation.

"Both my husband and I work hard to provide for our children," Frost says in the ad. "But our jobs don't provide health insurance. If, God forbid, something happened to one of us, we could lose everything."

Laura Smitherman


Two named to top prison jobs

John Michael Stouffer has been tapped to manage Maryland's prisons, and Howard Ray Jr. has been named to head the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, officials said yesterday. Both have been serving as acting commissioners in charge of their respective agencies for the past several months.

Stouffer oversees a division of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services that has more than 6,600 employees and a budget of $752 million. The Division of Correction manages 26 prisons and pre-release facilities throughout Maryland that house more than 20,000 inmates.

Ray manages a division responsible for booking, processing and managing the care, custody and control of those arrested in Baltimore City who have not yet gone to trial. The division has a staff of 1,600, a budget of more than $143 million and manages about 4,000 detainees on any given day, officials said.

Stouffer began his career in the Maryland Division of Correction in 1980 as a correctional officer. Ray began his career as a probation and parole officer in Oklahoma in 1975.

Greg Garland


Court rules against weightlifter

A weightlifter whose face was smashed by a 530-pound bar during a bench press competition cannot sue event organizers over the incident, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled.

The state's highest court said Tuesday that Christopher Cotillo took on the risk of such an injury when he attempted the record-setting bench press, rejecting his contention that the high school-age spotters at the event were improperly trained.

"My injury was a direct result of the spotters being told to do the wrong thing," Cotillo said Wednesday.

Samuel Shapiro, attorney for the American Powerlifting Association, said the spotters saved Cotillo's life. Though they were not able to stop the bar from hitting him, "they slowed it enough so that he wasn't killed," Shapiro said.

Capital News Service

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