City / County Digest

CITY / COUNTY DIGEST

May 10, 2008

Maryland

Legislation

Catholic group urges veto of marriage bills

The Maryland Catholic Conference called on Gov. Martin O'Malley yesterday to veto two bills the group contends would undermine the legal status of marriage in Maryland.

The bills would grant couples who declare themselves domestic partners, which can include same-sex partners, some of the rights of married couples. One bill would exempt domestic partners from paying transfer taxes when adding each other to home property deeds to create joint ownership, a right that married couples have. Another would allow them hospital visitation and medical decision-making rights. The Catholic Conference contends that the domestic partnerships can be too easily entered into and dissolved.

O'Malley, a Democrat, has indicated that he plans to sign both of the bills.

Laura Smitherman

Parents urge veto of 'alcopops' bill

Parents of teenagers killed in underage drinking incidents hand-delivered a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley's Baltimore office yesterday urging him to veto legislation that would ensure that fruity alcoholic drinks known as "alcopops" continue to be taxed and distributed the same way as beer.

Under pressure from public health and safety advocates to veto the bill, O'Malley said this week that he is still weighing the issue. The bill, approved during this year's General Assembly session, overrules an opinion from Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler classifying the drinks such as Mike's Hard Lemonade as liquor, which is taxed at a higher rate than beer and subject to more limited distribution.

The parents argued in their veto request that the fruity drinks are marketed to teens, an allegation that manufacturers deny. "We ask that you help prevent more deaths and injuries by standing up to the alcohol lobby," the parents wrote.

Laura Smitherman

Baltimore

Education

Polytechnic is 7th in robotics contest

A robotics team from Polytechnic Institute placed seventh in a worldwide competition held last week in California.

The Baltimore school system sent 36 students from eight high schools to the VEX Robotics World Championship at the University of California at Northridge on May 2-3. A team from Western High School won the award for enthusiasm and team spirit.

City school system officials say no other school district had as many teams in the competition, which drew students from as far as China and Brazil. Polytechnic and Western sent two teams each. Other Baltimore teams were from W.E.B. DuBois High, Carver Vocational-Technical High, Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High and Homeland Security Academy. There was a combined team from Dunbar High and Patterson High.

Each team had to control a robot it built to place tennis balls on different sections of a bridge platform.

The city school system's robotics program enrolls about 130 students from nine high schools.

Sara Neufeld

Harford County

Edgewood

2nd man charged in kidnapping

Harford County Sheriff's deputies have issued a warrant for a 23-year-old Baltimore man in connection with an April 28 armed robbery and kidnapping in Edgewood, authorities said.

Brandon Evans Hart, who was identified as the second suspect in connection with the kidnapping, is also charged with carjacking, assault and felony theft, authorities said.

Javan P. Moore, 21, of Aberdeen has been charged with the same crimes and is being held without bail at the Harford County Detention Center.

Harford County Crime Solvers is offering a reward of up to $1,000 for information leading to Hart's arrest. Call the 24-hour tip line, 888-540-TIPS. Callers do not have to give their name or appear in court. All information will be kept confidential.

MARC station plans speed up

After intensely lobbying state transportation officials, a Harford County councilman has helped put the $4.2 million MARC train station in Edgewood back on track.

Councilman Dion F. Guthrie said yesterday he received a letter from state Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari saying construction will begin next year on the train station as originally scheduled. Earlier this year, planners had considered delaying the project until 2011.

"I think I finally convinced them of the immediate need for this station," Guthrie said.

Guthrie, whose district includes Edgewood, has repeatedly stressed the critical need for a modernized station, as the first wave of workers with the nationwide military realignment known as BRAC begins arriving at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Transportation officials anticipate an increase in train ridership as some 10,000 new jobs come to the Army post. Despite the current limited hours of operation and destinations, about 360 passengers take a train each day from Edgewood, the highest ridership of any station north of Baltimore, officials said.

Mary Gail Hare

Howard County

Ellicott City

Mount Hebron High renovation approved

The Howard County Council tentatively decided yesterday to go forward with a hotly contested plan to renovate Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City rather than build a new school.

Four of the five council members agreed in a straw vote during a school budget review to approve the first $27 million in construction funding for the $57.3 million project as part of the fiscal 2009 budget. A new building would cost more than $80 million.

County Executive Ken Ulman had put the $27 million for the first year's construction in a contingency fund, pending resolution of the dispute. The county school board has approved the renovation plan, which involves demolishing part of the existing building. Some parents and teachers at the school have vigorously protested, arguing that a new building is the best way to eliminate various problems in the 1960's structure.

"I'm pleased at the straw vote," said school board chairman Frank Aquino.

Larry Carson

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