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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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2018 Maryland Legislative Preview

Sen. Craig Zucker (D14)

D14 Craig ZuckerSen. Craig Zucker COURTESY PHOTOZucker said he is wary of potential federal cuts that could impact the state -- including cuts to programs for keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean. The General Assembly should be aware of such cuts during the budget process, Zucker said, adding that the Trump administration has created new expectations for the state. 

“We have to be proactive in our budgeting,” Zucker said.

In addition to funding for the Chesapeake Bay, Zucker emphasized that state funding for Montgomery County Public Schools is as key an issue for the County's delegation to Annapolis as it is for local elected leaders.

“I think it's important to make sure to meet our commitment on our education spending and on the capital side to make sure we are investing in our school construction,” he said.

Zucker said he plans to introduce a bill that would reverse a state law about serving alcohol to people with developmental disabilities. Currently in Maryland bars and restaurants can deny serving alcohol to of age adults with developmental disabilities. Zucker said his bill would make that illegal.

“That is not fair; it’s an equity thing,” he said.

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Maryland joins lawsuit against EPA

Maryland has joined seven other states in filing a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for refusing to follow act on a request to curb air pollution from other states.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, states the EPA is not enforcing part of the Clean Air Act because it has not added several “upwind” states, whose pollution blows eastward toward the East Coast to a group of East Coast states that work together to curb pollution.

“Their continuing policy favors businesses over the health of people who breathe polluted air,” said Christine Tobar, a spokesperson for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

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New smoke alarm law takes effect

A new Maryland law requiring homeowners to update smoke alarms in their homes went into effect Jan. 1.

The law, originally passed in 2013, requires homeowners replace battery-operated smoke alarms with either new battery sealed-in smoke alarms with a “silence or hush” feature or hardwired smoke alarms with a battery back-up.

“The main benefit that we think is that they are worry-free and that they work,” said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services Spokesperson Pete Piringer.

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Ross makes bid to take governorship from Hogan

Alec RossAlec Ross. FILE PHOTOWhen deciding who should be their standard-bearer against Governor Larry Hogan (R), Maryland Democrats who are weary after a year of resistance to President Trump might be wary of another newcomer to politics who has never held elected office.

But 46-year-old Alec Ross – a bestselling author, entrepreneur, and former advisor to then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton – says he’s not that kind of newcomer.

“I’ve been in government, but I’m not a creature of government,” Ross said during an interview with the Sentinel last month.

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State will consider terminating parental rights for rapists

Maryland FlagAmong the first items on the legislative agenda in Annapolis next year will be a bill to allow rape survivors the right to terminate the parental rights of their rapist.

The Rape Survivor Family Protection Act – which failed to pass in last year’s legislative session when time ran out – will be the first bill on the docket in the House of Delegates and the second bill on the docket in the Senate.

“I’ve been working on this bill with many others for about 10 years,” said Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-15), the lead sponsor of the bill.

The bill would allow rape survivors who become pregnant by their attacker to petition the state to remove his parental rights. Current law requires a felony rape conviction to terminate a rapist’s parental rights.

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Candidates make their case against Hogan

NORTH BETHESDA – The eight Democratic candidates vying to replace Gov. Larry Hogan (R) got a chance on Thursday to “schmooze” with local politicians and in a limited rapid-fire format, make the case to voters that each of them should be the choice to replace a Republican governor in an election that pundits will surely see as a referendum on President Donald Trump.

The already-crowded Democratic field includes Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, former president and CEO of the NAACP Ben Jealous, State Senator Richard Madaleno, former State Department advisor and entrepreneur Alec Ross, former Michelle Obama policy director Krishanti Vignarajah, consultant Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and attorney James Shea, took to the stage in a gubernatorial forum hosted by Maryland Matters. The forum served as an opportunity for candidates to take turns teeing off on the current governor, as each tried to demonstrate why County resident should opt for someone else in 2018. 

Moderator Josh Kurtz from Maryland Matters said Hogan was invited, but decline the invitation to join.

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Lt. governor candidate says 2018 will be ‘banner year’

turnbullSusie Turnbull - Courtesy PhotoAs the number of candidates for governor of Maryland keeps growing, so far, only one person has declared for the lieutenant governor position, and that is Susie Turnbull of Bethesda, who will be running with gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, a former national president and CEO of the NAACP.

“My campaign is about building a movement of working families to get Maryland back to doing big things again, and I can't think of a more dedicated and proven partner in this effort than Susie Turnbull,” Jealous said. “She has devoted her life to elevating the voices of working families and fighting for progressive policies and candidates with the courage to move our state and country forward.”

Turnbull has been active in the Democratic Party on the County, state and national level for 40 years.

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