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Gun advocates and control supporters rally in Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS — Even a casual observer who visited the House of Delegates’ offices Tuesday could easy deduce the issue of the day by taking notice of the sartorial sameness displayed in the long lines of activists waiting to testify – gun control.

The corridor outside the House Judiciary Committee’s chamber, was packed full of redshirted advocates, gun lobbyists and other Marylanders seeking to add their voice to the debate, whether it was for or against more gun legislation. While last month’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida provided new momentum to a longstanding push for more gun control laws, those in attendance at Tuesday’s public hearing came not to take part in the ongoing national debate on guns, but rather to weigh in gun issues closer to home in Maryland.

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Kagan accuses lobbyist of inappropriate touching

Cheryl Kagan (left) and Gil Genn (right).  COURTESY PHOTOSCheryl Kagan (left) and Gil Genn (right). COURTESY PHOTOS  State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-17) alleges that a lobbyist inappropriately touched her during a legislative event on March 1.

“Last night, former legislator and current Annapolis lobbyist, Gil Genn, put his hand on my back and then slid it down…This was not the first time he had touched me inappropriately,” Kagan said in a March 2 statement she released through her state senate office.

Kagan alleges the incident occurred during Legislative Karaoke Night at Castlebay Irish Pub in Annapolis on March 1. Kagan said she thought it was appropriate to call out Genn by name because it is important to call out men who still do not respect women’s boundaries. She said she would “remain silent no more.”

Genn, a former Montgomery County delegate who represented District 16 and is now a lobbyist, denies Kagan’s claim that he touched her in an inappropriate way. Genn released his own statement on March 5 denying Kagan’s account of the incident.

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Gubernatorial candidates talk issues in Takoma Park

39622882705 9d7f4463a1 kGubernatorial candidates gather in Takoma Park COURTESY PHOTO BY EDWARD M. KIMMEL TAKOMA PARK — Six of the eight Democrats hoping to replace incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R) made their case to voters Sunday evening at Piney Branch Elementary School, during a candidate forum hosted by Progressive Neighbors.

The candidates in attendance – former NAACP president Ben Jealous, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, State Senator Rich Madaleno, attorney Jim Shea and former Obama administration officials Alec Ross and Krishanti Vignarajah – took questions from a moderator, Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart, as well as County residents, with subjects ranging from immigration, racial equity, housing and economic development to their ability to defeat incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and perennial candidate Ralph Jaffe did not attend.

While there was little disagreement on policy matters among the candidates, there was an overarching theme for the event, which Madaleno summed up during his opening statement when he declared: “We are trying to bring back smart Democratic governance to the state of Maryland.”

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Gun control legislation to be reconsidered

Maryland FlagThe mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people last week has brought new attention to state bills on gun control and school security as legislators and citizens alike look for answers after a recent wave of horrific mass shootings. 

The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where a former student walked into the school and killed 17 people with an AR-15 style assault rifle, is the latest mass shooting in the past year which has prompted law makers in the state to introduce a series of gun control measures. 

“Until our national government, Congress and the president make some reforms that affect all states, we can have the strongest laws on the book, people still can get guns legally because there are states with other laws,” said Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-15).

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Gubernatorial candidates Madaleno, Ross pick running mates

Maryland FlagTwo of the Democrats who are vying for the chance to unseat Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in this year’s general election announced Lieutenant Governor picks this week in hopes of balancing ties to Montgomery County with the rest of the state in order to present an appealing choice to voters across Maryland.

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Controversial state song may finally change

Flag of MarylandMaryland’s controversial state song – “Maryland, My Maryland” – could soon go the way of eight-track tapes and cassettes if a number of state legislators get their way.

The Civil War-era battle hymn, which makes reference to “Northern scum,” takes its lyrics from a poem written in the early days of the conflict by James Ryder Randall, and with verses like “Thou wilt not cower in the dust, Maryland! Thy beaming sword shall never rust,” gained popularity with Confederate troops before being adopted as the official state song.

One proposal for changing the song is SB0790, sponsored by State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D) of District 17. Kagan has been pushing to change the state song since 2016, and introduced her bill to “repeal and replace” the current song, which she called “embarrassing and dated and racist,” last week.

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Independent Neal Simon to challenge Cardin in U.S. Senate race

Potomac businessman Neal Simon, an independent, announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate race Tuesday, challenging incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin (D).  PHOTO BY GLYNIS KAZANJIANIndependent candidate Neal Simon announces his bid for the U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin (D).          PHOTO BY GLYNIS KAZANJIAN  A Potomac businessman fed up with partisan politics and a divided country entered the U.S. Senate race this week, backed by a national independent grassroots organization determined to break up the gridlock in Washington by robbing both political parties of their majority.

Bronfman Rothschild CEO and Principal Neal Simon announced his candidacy, after a short exploratory period, in a boutique hotel Tuesday in downtown Rockville, surrounded by about 50 of his friends, family and supporters.

“I’m here today because I believe we should have elected officials who put the best interests of their country ahead of the best interests of their political party,” Simon said. “We are forced to watch as our parties selfishly chip away at our sense of community to drag us deeper into debt without addressing our society’s key economic and social problems.

“Our leaders have stopped working together, stopped listening to each other and they’ve stopped listening to the concerns of working people,” Simon said. “We have a country where Congress works on behalf of special interests while failing to invest in the future of our children.

“This has to change, but it won’t change, it will never change, if we keep electing the same people from the same two parties year after year, over and over again,” Simon said to applause.

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Parents of slain pregnant woman fight to change law

Wallen Family 2aLaura Wallen's family with Sen. Justin Ready and Del. Trent Kittleman in Annapolis. PHOTO BY GLYNIS KAZANJIANWhen the father of a slain Olney woman found out the man accused of killing his pregnant daughter would only be charged with one count of murder, instead of two, he said he was shocked.

“It wasn’t going to count,” Mark Wallen said of his daughter Laura’s unborn child’s death. “Justice was not going to be done for my grandson. The law now says the life of my grandson doesn’t even exist.”

Under current state law, charges of murder or manslaughter for an unborn child can only be brought against a person if a fetus is considered “viable” outside of the mother’s womb. 

Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy charged Laura Wallen’s on-again, off-again boyfriend, Tyler Tessier, 33, of Damascus, with one count of murder last October. Wallen was 14 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, according to the state’s chief medical examiner who conducted an autopsy. She was having a boy, whom she planned to name “Reid.”

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Hogan proposes term limits for Maryland General Assembly

Maryland FlagMaryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) hopes a term limits bill he proposed last week will end the Democratic Party’s “corruption” and control of the General Assembly by limiting delegates and state senators to two four-year terms.

“Our founding fathers never envisioned professional politicians who spend their entire careers in office; what they intended was citizen legislators who would represent their constituents and then return back home to their real jobs,” Hogan said during a press conference in Annapolis last week. “The rise of professional politicians has led to out-of-control partisanship, the stifling of honest debate and fresh ideas, rampant gerrymandering, one-party monopolies, and an increased potential for the type of corruption that our administration has been fighting to root out,” said the governor.

Hogan’s proposed bill, the Government Accountability Act of 2018, would limit state delegates and senators to two consecutive four-year terms. If passed, the proposal would put state legislatures in line with the governor, who is currently limited to two four-year terms.

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Democrats and politicians weigh in on Manning run for Senate

Chelsea ManningChelsea Manning           FILE PHOTO  Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking a trove of classified information to WikiLeaks in 2010, has filed for candidacy as a Democrat in the U.S. Senate race in Maryland.

Manning filed paperwork on Jan. 11 at 3:02 p.m. under the committee name, “Chelsea Manning for U.S. Senate,” according to the Federal Election Commission. She will face two-term incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin in the June 26 primary election.

A controversial figure who leaked classified information to WikiLeaks, Manning was arrested in 2010 on numerous counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917. She served seven years of a 35-year sentence in a military prison before being granted clemency by then-President Barack Obama as one of the final acts of his presidency before the end of his term in January 2017.

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