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Annapolis Digest

By Annapolis Digest
Friday, January 23, 2009

O'Malley to Propose Controls on Greenhouse Gases

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) will call for legislation today to mandate controls on carbon dioxide emissions in Maryland that are believed to contribute to global warming.

The Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009 would require carbon dioxide emissions to be reduced statewide by 25 percent by 2020. About half of the targets could be met through existing environmental laws, including regulations for power-plant emissions and for cleaner-burning cars.

The legislation is weaker than a global warming bill that was proposed last year by advocates and rejected by the legislature. That bill would have mandated a 90 percent reduction by 2050 and included caps on emissions by manufacturers and other industries.

To address the concerns of manufacturing and labor interests, who killed the bill, the governor's legislation will exempt manufacturers until 2016 or later.

Supporters hope that by 2016, manufacturers will have come under federal regulation or have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a consortium of states, including Maryland, working to reduce carbon emissions from power plants and allow them to trade emissions permits.

-- Lisa Rein

State Police Classified Gay Rights Group as 'Threat'

Equality Maryland, the state's largest gay rights group, was among the peaceful protest groups to be classified as terrorists in a Maryland State Police database.

The group was designated a "security threat" by the Homeland Security and Intelligence Division, which also kept dossiers on dozens of activists and at least a dozen groups. Police kept files on Equality Maryland's plans to hold rallies outside the State House in Annapolis to press for legislation reversing the state's ban on same-sex marriage. Police plan to purge the files.

The files were revealed yesterday at a news conference, where a dozen Democratic lawmakers announced plans to introduce legislation to prevent future surveillance of nonviolent groups.

Police would need "reasonable articulated suspicion of actual criminal activity" before they could conduct surveillance, the legislation's sponsors said.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) also plans to call for a similar bill. The measure also would prevent police from keeping files on citizens, unless the information is part of a legitimate criminal investigation.

-- Lisa Rein

Medevac System Needs No Overhaul, Police Say

Top Maryland State Police officials told a Senate committee yesterday that the state's medical evacuation helicopter system does not need comprehensive reform, and formally opposed separating the police fleet's medical mission from its police and homeland security functions.

Dividing the missions is at the core of proposals to overhaul the system that have been advanced by Sens. John C. Astle (D-Anne Arundel) and E.J. Pipkin (R-Queen Anne's).

The state police operate the country's only public air ambulance system, a fleet of 11 helicopters that are also used in surveillance, air rescue and other homeland security missions. A 12th helicopter crashed in September, killing three rescue workers and a teenage car accident victim being flown to a hospital.

The General Assembly has agreed to replace the fleet's aging helicopters, replacing two aircraft a year for up to $20 million each.

Major A.J. McAndrew, commander of the State Police Aviation Command, told the Senate's budget committee that he supports some proposals by Pipkin and Astle, including seeking a national accreditation that would require increasing the number of medics on helicopters from one to two, and a suggestion to add a second pilot.

But he said new helicopters are needed to upgrade the fleet.

He also cited examples of times when the state police's ability to use their helicopters for multiple missions have saved lives, including a recent rescue of three motorists stranded on River Road in Montgomery after a water main burst and flooded the roadway.

-- Rosalind S. Helderman

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