Legislative Digest

LEGISLATIVE DIGEST

General Assembly 2009

April 08, 2009

State song hangs on, but change is in the air

"Maryland, My Maryland" will retain its place as official state song, for now. State lawmakers rejected an attempt this year to change the Confederate-era poem, but key senators recently vowed to revisit the issue when the legislative session ends next week. Among those who have changed their tune is Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a history buff who previously defended the song for its historical value. "It was a great war song. The words were just stunning, but of course offensive to a great many people," the Democrat from Calvert County said Tuesday, adding that "it certainly needs to be modified." He suggested keeping the first half of James Ryder Randall's poem and rewriting the final verse or two (a reference therein to "Northern scum" is considered the most offensive). That way, Miller said, laughing, "people could sing whatever stanza they'd like."

Julie Bykowicz

Bill to require reports on SWAT teams OK'd

State lawmakers have approved a plan to require police departments to report back to them on SWAT team activities - legislation that came after the mayor of a Prince George's County town had his home raided last summer. Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and an Ellicott City woman were among those who testified in favor of greater reporting on SWAT teams. In both raids, which were part of drug investigations, police shot and killed the homeowners' dogs. Police erroneously thought Calvo's wife was involved in drug trafficking. Karen Thomas' son, who was not home during the Ellicott City raid, was later arrested on charges of selling a gram of marijuana to an undercover officer. The Senate voted unanimously Monday night to send the measure - approved by the House of Delegates - to the governor's desk for signature.

Julie Bykowicz

Domestic partner tax exemption gains

The Maryland Senate voted Tuesday to exempt domestic partners who jointly own homes from inheritance taxes after one of them dies. The chamber voted 28-19 to approve the legislation, which has been sought by the gay rights community but failed to gain passage last year. Proponents say the bill would provide gay and lesbian couples a benefit they have been denied because of their sexual orientation, but also could be more broadly applied to other kinds of relationships. The House of Delegates has not acted on the bill. Republicans objected, calling the bill another step toward same-sex marriage.

Laura Smitherman

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