MDE to Go on Trial for Septic Pollution at Lake Bonnie?

After losing her campground business to decades of raw sewage contamination, the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled 4-3 that Gail Litz of Goldsboro can finally sue Maryland Department of the Environment for not enforcing a consent order that could have saved it.

“This is a major decision as it relates to the duties and liabilities of state and local government to take responsibility for their actions, and their inactions, when they are so obligated by the rule of law,” said a statement from Chestertown attorney, Phil Hoon, who has represented Litz in her six-year struggle to get a jury trial. “Ms. Litz will finally have her day in court. The matter will now proceed to a jury trial in the Caroline County Circuit Court.”

Hoon hopes a victory for his client at trial can set a precedent that mandates MDE to enforce its consent orders.

“How can the State effectively enforce environmental laws and regulation against farmers, industry and other property owners if it cannot diligently and effectively pursue its own enforcement actions against well-known sources of municipal pollution,” Hoon said in statement in 2010 before the case was initially thrown out of Caroline County Circuit Court.bonnielake flier

Litz is seeking $7 million in damages for the loss of her 140-acre campground after MDE and the Town of Goldsboro failed to execute a 1996 consent order to stop failing septic systems in the town from dumping into Lake Bonnie, a 28-acre lake on the campground that was the center of activity, and Litz’s livelihood, since the 1950s.

Lake Bonnie empties into the Choptank River, considered one of the most polluted rivers on the Chesapeake Bay.

The 1996 consent order, 20 years ago, came a year after the Caroline County Health Department closed Lake Bonnie for swimming – and it remains closed today due to the high levels of fecal coliform (human waste).

Under the consent order MDE ordered the
 Town of Goldsboro to approve a plan and start construction of a public sewer system by 1997.
 But no sewer system was built and MDE failed to take any enforcement action against Goldsboro, which included a $100 per day fine for non-compliance. By now fines would have exceeded $700,000, Hoon said in a brief interview with the Spy.

In the 29-page decision on Jan. 22, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in Gail B. Litz v. Maryland Department of the Environment that Litz’s claim of inverse condemnation, the taking of her property by the government without adequate compensation, has merit and can now go to trial in Caroline County Circuit Court on constitutional grounds, which means MDE cannot seek protection under government immunity.

“Maryland Constitution does not provide sovereign immunity to state or local governments for an unconstitutional taking,” the opinion said.

The Town of Goldsboro will also be a defendant in the case.lake bonnie no swimming

Litz put full faith in MDE to enforce the consent order against Goldsboro that would have restored her lake and saved her business, Hoon said. “She trusted the government to do what it said it was going to do [and] she lost everything.”

The campground went to foreclosure in 2010, 14 years after MDE ordered the Town of Goldsboro to take immediate measures stop the septic runoff.

Since it was initially dismissed by Caroline County Circuit Court in 2010, Litz’s case has been twice before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals (the lower court) and the Maryland Court of Appeals (the higher court) before it was remanded back to Caroline County Circuit Court for trial in the recent ruling. Hoon said it was extremely rare for the Maryland Court of Appeals to hear a case twice.

The case is groundbreaking in Maryland because it challenges the government’s “inaction” rather than the intentional “action” in condemning, or taking, of a property.

Normally inverse condemnation occurs when the government uses an official act or regulatory action that takes (condemns) private property without compensation, giving cause for the property owner to sue. In 2010 MDE successfully argued this in motions before the Caroline Circuit Court that the condemnation of Litz’s property was not from an official or regulatory act by MDE to take her property. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals later sided with the Circuit Court that “discretionary inaction” did not rise to the level of an inverse condemnation claim; the Maryland Court of Appeals struck down this argument in their latest ruling.

In hearing the case for a second time, both the majority and dissenting opinions in the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed that a claim of “taking” of property due to “inaction” is outside the historical lane of inverse condemnation claims. The court then looked at cases in California, Florida, and Minnesota for precedent and found cases applicable in Maryland law. The court found that an inverse condemnation claim had merit when a government entity failed “in the face of an affirmative duty to act.”

“…It is not frivolous to hypothesize that state, county, and municipal agencies may have duties to step in to protect the public health, as illustrated by the execution of the 1996 Consent Order,” the opinion said.

The Appeals Court found persuasive the history of “inaction” by MDE as a cause of action to sue. The septic pollution had been known to health officials since 1973 and in 1985 Caroline County Health Department said “immediate action was necessary,” the opinion said.

By 1988 the health department reported they were “elevated levels of fecal coliform” in shallow drinking wells.

In 1995 the health department reported that the “use of the stormwater management system in the Town as a sewage system has gotten to crisis proportions.”

That same year MDE acknowledged there were “actual water quality impacts on Lake Bonnie… It now appears that the situation has deteriorated and created environmental concerns that will need to be addressed.”

Nine months later in 1996 MDE signed a consent order with the Town of Goldsboro, requiring the town to draw up plans and begin construction of a sewer system – clearly stating that fines would be assessed for non-compliance.

In 2004, with no sewer system in place, the health department warned against issuing more septic permits in areas with known problems and lamented that MDE and the town were ignoring the consent order.

“The Town has failed to comply with any of the material terms of the Consent Order and MDE has enforced no part of it,” the health department wrote.

Dan Menefee is the publisher of the Kent Guardian

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Missing WC Student was Bullied, Asked to Resign from Student Government

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Washington College President Sheila Bair wants Jacob Marberger home “with the people who love him.”

After two days of wide speculation and rumors about a missing and allegedly armed Washington College student, local police and college officials finally gave details to a story that closed the college indefinitely, possibly through the Thanksgiving holiday.

It turns out a missing student, sophomore Jacob Marberger, may have been a victim of bullying on campus, said officials in a press conference held on campus at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

The campus closed Monday after Marberger’s parents reported to college officials that their son, a respected speaker of the student senate, had gone home to Pennsylvania to retrieve a gun. He has not been seen since but Chestertown Police Chief Adrian Baker believes Marberger is still in Pennsylvania.

In the video below Washington College President Sheila Bair insists Marberger was never a threat to anyone and explains her decision to close the college until further notice.

Still only classified as a missing person, Baker issued a warrant for Marbeger’s arrest, charging him with having a dangerous weapon on school property, possession of a firearm by a minor, and possession of a handgun on his person. Marberger is 19 and the charges are all misdemeanors.

The gun was an unloaded antique .22 rifle revolver, Baker said.

Back on Oct. 7 Marberger was subject to a prank where a bucket of water was placed over the door of his room in a manner to make it douse him when the door swung open.

“He felt very hurt by that,” said the college’s director of public safety, Jerry Roderick at Tuesday’s press conference. “He thought people were [trying] to ridicule him in some way.”

The bullying may have been ongoing.

“Speaking with Jacob he did feel persecuted by several students on campus,” Roderick said.

Roderick insisted there was never any report of Marberger threatening or retaliating against anyone, nor did any student ever feel threatened.

“Investigators never once found any actions with the weapon that were overt acts of violence or threats,” Roderick said. He said Marberger simply displayed the gun as a kind of showpiece.

Washington College President Sheila Bair, standing with a cadre of law enforcement officials, echoed Roderick that Marberger never threatened anyone.

“I would like to emphasize…that the gun was unloaded, he was not pointing at anybody, he wasn’t threatening anybody [and] it sounds like he was bragging about it as an antique,” Bair said.

It is against school policy to have a gun on campus and it wasn’t reported to college officials until Oct. 23, two weeks after Marberger displayed it.

A search of his room in Cecil Hall revealed no weapon but the investigation remained opened but inactive because reports had been vague, Roderick said.

Roderick said more credible information came to the public safety office on Oct. 27 and by Oct. 29 they were able to recover the antique gun from an off-campus residence, at which time Marberger was placed on temporary suspension and forced to undergo a psychological evaluation.

“This is when we took immediate steps to look at the safety of our campus, the safety of our students and the safety of Mr. Marberger,” Roderick said. “A decision was made that Mr. Marberger had to separate from the campus at the time to allow public safety to continue its investigation and to have Mr. Marberger evaluated professionally.” Roderick said it was needed to determine if Marberger could return to campus.

Marberger returned to campus on Nov. 9 after he had passed his evaluation, Bair said.

Bair said that Marberger still faced possible suspension or expulsion by the college’s honor board after his return and that that process had not yet played out.

On Sunday, Nov. 15 Marberger participated in a local Rail Trail cleanup in Chestertown with other students and local residents and later that evening was asked by a fellow member of student government to resign. Marberger complied.

Marberger returned to his Pennsylvania home in the early morning hours of Nov. 16 where he allegedly retrieved the gun.

He remains missing and is described as 5’4 weighing 135 pounds. He has brown wavy hair.

Dan Menefee is a contributing writer to the Chestertown Spy. He is the publisher of the Kent Guardian.

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Marijuana Decriminalization Clears House, Smigiel Joins Dems in Passage

On Saturday Maryland became the 16th state in the US to pass legislation decriminalizing marijuana. The bill needs a signature from Gov. Martin O’Malley who expressed grave reservations about decriminalization and legalization when the session began in January.

A Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County passed the House of Delegates in a 78-55 vote after amendments offered by opponents were rejected during two hours of intense debate.

Lawmakers in both chambers have lauded the efforts of Del. Keiffer Mitchell and the Legislative Black Caucus for resuscitating the bill after Del. Joe Vallario, the powerful chair of the judiciary, tried to kill it with a task force study over the next two years.

House Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario
House Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario, D-Prince George’s
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Del. Keiffer Mitchell, D-Baltimore City

Vallario, D-Prince George’s, has been historically opposed to decriminalization.

But a wave of Democrats revolted against Vallario knowing there were ample votes for passage. On Friday morning Mitchell led with a floor amendment to kill the task force idea and bring Zirkin’s original bill to a vote—citing a long history of racial disparity in enforcement of the marijuana laws.

“It is my belief and others that we in good conscious cannot allow a task force to take place for two years while there is racial disparity,” Mitchell, D-Baltimore City, told his colleagues on Friday. “We believe it is not something that should be continued to be studied…as the facts continue to stare us in the face.

The bill was then sent back to the judiciary where the task force idea was scrapped and only minor changes were made to Zirkin’s original bill.

If signed into law by O’Malley, possession of 10 grams or less would become a fineable civil offense with no jail time. The measure also provides privacy protections that shield civil citations from public inspection and prohibit publication on the Maryland Judiciary website.

The law would take effective Oct. 1 and require mandatory court hearings and treatment for violators under the age of 21. Anyone over 21 would only have to appear on the third offense and be subject to a drug treatment program.  First, second and third offenses would carry fines of up to $100, $250 and $500 respectively.

Anyone under 18 would be referred to the juvenile system in a manner similar to under age drinking.

Del. Heather Mizeur

Del. Heather Mizeur

A source in the Senate told the Spy “there are no foreseeable issues with the House amendments. It will most likely pass.”

The changes mirror the recommendations in an ACLU report last year.

The report said that 88 percent of all drug arrests in the US from 2001 to 2010, over seven million arrests, were for possession. In 2010 alone the states spent $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws.

Maryland’s marijuana possession laws have been blamed for kludging the legal and law enforcement systems. An analysis from the Maryland Department of Legislative Services cited 19,828 arrests in 2013 for amounts of 10 grams or less–and resulted 3,099 cases of fines and incarceration.The report also said that blacks were nearly four times more likely to get arrested than whites “who use marijuana at similar rates.”

Del. Mike Smigiel, R-Cecil

Del. Heather Mizeur, whose running a distant third in Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, said the bill had the support of 90 percent of Marylanders and would remove a barrier to housing and employment.

“Every year that we lack the courage to move forward on this issue means that 23,000 more people are dragged through our criminal justice system,” Mizeur, D-Montgomery, said during floor debate on Saturday. “[These are] people who have real consequences on whether they can find employment, keep housing and get access to their scholarships.”

Del. Mike Smigiel, a lawyer on the judiciary, and the legislature’s most staunch libertarian, told opponents that Maryland’s marijuana laws had failed and that moving enforcement to civil court would not cause an increase in marijuana use.

“It isn’t going to stop all the problems because we say you’re not going to go to jail,” Smigiel said. “Everyone of the states that has either legalized, or went to decriminalization, has had no increase, there’s been no problems.”

“This is going to be an opportunity to stop taking people who make a mistake and turning them into criminals for using something and doing something that isn’t harming another,” He said. “We stand up here all the time…and rally about getting government out of our lives, and to let us live our lives, and now we’re getting government out of your life.”

He said that many police officers testified before committees this session in favor of decriminalization. Smigiel was one of only three Republicans in the House and the only Eastern Shore legislator in either chamber to support the bill.

In the audio at right, Del. Herb McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, spoke in support of decriminalization and said people should’t go to jail for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

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Mitchell Calls For Decriminalization Now To End Racial Disparities in Marijuana Arrests

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Del. Keiffer Mitchell, D- Baltimore

Updated 2:30 p.m.–Del. Keiffer Mitchell, D-Baltimore City, offered a floor amendment today in the House of Delegates to strike another amendment that would put a marijuana decriminalization bill on hold for two years with the creation of a task force to further study the issue.

He said the racial disparities in marijuana arrests can’t wait another two years.

“It is my belief and others that we in good conscious cannot allow a task force to take place for two years while there is racial disparity regarding the possession of marijuana and the [number] of arrests. We believe it is not something that should be continued to be studied…as the facts continue to stare us in the face,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell’s amendment leaves the Senate bill passed in March in its original form–with only a minor change that moves the effective date of the legislation from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1, 2015. The bill would make possession of 10 grams or less a fineable civil offense of up to $100.

The bill was special ordered until Saturday’s session to allow time to negotiate with House Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario, an opponent of decriminalization who authored the two-year task force amendment in committee on Wednesday.

Mitchell offered the amendment with Del. Nathaniel Oaks, D-Baltimore City.

“It puts the bill back in a posture of the Senate bill as it came over [to the House],” Mitchell said.

This Morning’s Story: MD Democrats Seek GOP Help to Pass Pot Decriminalization in 11th Hour

There’s still hope that marijuana decriminalization could pass in Maryland this year if the House of Delegates today can kill a new amendment passed by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that appoints a task force to study the issue for two years — essentially kicking the can down the road.

Del. Mike Smigiel, R-Cecil

The original bill that passed the Senate overwhelmingly in March would make possession of 10 grams or less a fineable civil offense.  But Del. Joe Vallario, the powerful chair of the House Judiciary Committee would not allow his committee to vote on the original Senate bill.

Committee member, Del. Michael Smigiel, R-Cecil, told the Spy on Friday that the original Senate bill would probably pass the House if brought to a vote.

““There will be a fight, the Democrats are “whipping” really hard on the floor to get Republicans to join,” Smigiel said moments before Friday’s session. “I will vote for decriminalization, [enforcement] has been a waste of time, money and manpower. We could be focused on much more important things.”

Smigiel told the Spy in a taped interview in February that law enforcement officials have spent their entire careers fighting a “lost war.”

He said decriminalizing marijuana would open up jail space for the most violent offenders.

“Take away the criminal aspect,” Smigiel said in the interview. “You can open up those jail cells for people who are rapists, murders and arsonists.”

Chestertown Police Chief Adrian Baker said “arrests for 10 grams or less are more common than arrests for amounts over 10 grams in Chestertown.”

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Updated: Pot Decriminalization Hanging By Thread But Not Likely This Session

Updated Apr. 3, 9 p.m. — The House Judiciary Committee killed a marijuana decriminalization bill yesterday by giving it to a task force to study for two years. Del. Joe Vallario, the powerfull chair of the judiciary, would not bring the bill to a vote.

This is the second straight year that a decriminalization bill sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin, D-Baltimore, passed overwhelmingly in the Senate—only to die in Vallario’s committee in the House.

Vallario has long been an opponent of decriminalization.

Under the task force measure, several marijuana bills, including one aimed at legalizing recreational use, was bundled for study by a task force that will report back to the governor by December 2015.

The task force plan must pass both chambers to go into effect–and is likely to see contentious floor debate in the House on Friday, Apr. 4.

Zirkin’s chief of staff, Ryan Lhotsky, said there was still a chance the bill could be revived in the conference committee before the session ends—but if not—would be reintroduced next year.

“We’re not giving up hope on this bill yet,” Lhotsky told the Spy in a brief phone call on Thursday. “The senator has said that if decriminalization doesn’t go through this year it will be the first of his priorities next session.”

The bill would have made possession of 10 grams or less a civil offense with a fine of up to $100 dollars on the first two offenses. A third offense would have allowed judges to order drug treatment.

Affordable Care Act is Working Need to Get More Enrolled, Cardin Says

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) held a roundtable discussion with group of health care professionals, administrators and advocates at the Shore Medical Pavilion in Queen Anne’s County on Friday on the progress of the Affordable Care Act and the need to increase enrollment to make the system more cost effective.

“Put me down on the side that is glad Congress passed the ACA,” Cardin said. “I’m proud that millions of Americans have been able to be helped by it.”

<em>In the video below, Cardin discusses the benefits of the ACA and the need for greater enrollment as a vehicle to make the system more efficient.</em>

<iframe width=”860″ height=”620″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/RXAmL9NnZRA” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Cardin said he’s received hundreds of letters from constituents who’ve benefitted from the law since it was enacted four years ago.

“[These] are people who no longer have to worry about pre-existing conditions,” Cardin said. “The pre-existing conditions could have been the fact that you’re a woman, could have been the fact that you gave birth, could have been the fact that you’re victim of spousal abuse, could have been that you had asthma. All those were pre-existing conditions, and you didn’t have full coverage.”

<em>In the video below, Cardin reads a letter from Kelly, a Maryland resident who after many years was finally able to afford insurance and manage her health care with “dignity.”</em>

<iframe width=”860″ height=”620″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/NbMil-eC9QY” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Cardin said medical bills would no longer be cause of financial hardship.

“Medical bills were the leading cause of bankruptcy and that’s going to become a thing of the past,” Cardin said. “We now have affordable options. People can now afford to buy health insurance and you’re getting a quality product.”

Cardin also said the culture of preventative care is changing American health care from a “sick” system to a “heal care” system that “keeps people healthy.”

Medicare has been extended by over a decade under the ACA with the elimination of the “donut whole,” Cardin said.  “So many seniors had to decide whether they could literally afford their prescriptions or had to cut a pill in half because they couldn’t afford it.”

Many of the benefits of the law are not controversial when you talk to people one-on-one, like parents who want to keep their adult age children insured until they’re 26 and the elimination the lifetime cap on coverage when you get sick, Cardin said.

He acknowledged the problems with the rollout of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange but said enrollment so far of six million nationally had approached the March 31 target of seven million.

“The rollout of the exchanges was a disaster, I acknowledge that, it was terrible, no excuse for it,” he said. “We had an objective to get seven million enrolled in private insurance by the end of March [and] we’re at six million. We’re moving along and we’re getting people enrolled nationwide.”

He said while Medicaid enrollees had reached 250,000 in Maryland but only 50,000 Marylanders had been enrolled in private insurance.

“We can do a lot better,” Cardin said. “When we say we’re not doing well, we’re sorry that we’re not going to have more people insured.”

“The system is going to work, it’s going to work a lot better than it did in the past, and next year we’ll have a lot more people in the system, and we will get to that point where the overwhelming majority are in the system and we can restructure the healthcare system and make it more cost effective.”

Affordable Care Act is Working And More Need to Enroll, Cardin Says

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) held a roundtable discussion with group of health care professionals, administrators and advocates at the Shore Medical Pavilion in Queen Anne’s County on Friday on the progress of the Affordable Care Act and the need to increase enrollment to make the system more cost effective.

“Put me down on the side that is glad Congress passed the ACA,” Cardin said. “I’m proud that millions of Americans have been able to be helped by it.”

In the video below, Cardin discusses the benefits of the ACA and the need for greater enrollment as a vehicle to make the system more efficient.

Cardin said he’s received hundreds of letters from constituents who’ve benefitted from the law since it was enacted four years ago.

“[These] are people who no longer have to worry about pre-existing conditions,” Cardin said. “The pre-existing conditions could have been the fact that you’re a woman, could have been the fact that you gave birth, could have been the fact that you’re victim of spousal abuse, could have been that you had asthma. All those were pre-existing conditions, and you didn’t have full coverage.”

In the video below, Cardin reads a letter from Kelly, a Maryland resident who after many years was finally able to afford insurance and manage her health care with “dignity.”

Cardin said medical bills would no longer be the cause of financial hardship.

“Medical bills were the leading cause of bankruptcy and that’s going to become a thing of the past,” Cardin said. “We now have affordable options. People can now afford to buy health insurance and you’re getting a quality product.”

Cardin also said the culture of preventative care is changing American health care from a “sick” system to a “health care” system that “keeps people healthy.”

Medicare has been extended by over a decade under the ACA with the elimination of the “donut whole,” Cardin said.  “Many seniors had to decide whether they could literally afford their prescriptions or [they] had to cut a pill in half because they couldn’t afford it.”

Many of the benefits of the law are not controversial when you talk to people one-on-one, like parents who want to keep their adult age children insured until they’re 26 and the elimination the lifetime cap on coverage when you get sick, Cardin said.

He acknowledged the problems with the rollout of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange but said enrollment so far of six million nationally had approached the March 31 target of seven million.

“The rollout of the exchanges was a disaster, I acknowledge that, it was terrible, no excuse for it,” he said. “We had an objective to get seven million enrolled in private insurance by the end of March [and] we’re at six million. We’re moving along and we’re getting people enrolled nationwide.”

He said while Medicaid enrollees had reached 250,000 in Maryland only 50,000 Marylanders had been enrolled in private insurance.

“We can do a lot better,” Cardin said. “When we say we’re not doing well, we’re sorry that we’re not going to have more people insured.”

“The system is going to work, it’s going to work a lot better than it did in the past, and next year we’ll have a lot more people in the system, and we will get to that point where the overwhelming majority are in the system and we can restructure the healthcare system and make it more cost effective.”

Members of 36th Oppose 16 Percent Raises for Legislators

Sen. Steve Hershey and two delegates from the 36th District have signed onto a joint resolution to block a 16 percent pay hike for lawmakers that will automatically take effect unless the legislature votes to stop it.

“The majority party would rather not vote on this,” Hershey, R-Queen Anne’s, said in an email to the Spy. “The [Republican] caucus may consider a means to petition the bill out of Rules, but that will be met with resistance.”

The joint resolution, signed by 31 delegates and 12 senators, is languishing in the rules committees of both chambers and there is growing doubt that either chamber will see a floor vote in the Democrat controlled legislature by the time the curtain falls on the session on April 7.

The Maryland General Assembly Compensation Commission recommended increases of $6,830 phased in over the next four years, from $43,500 to $50,330. The increase would cost nearly $1.2 million by 2018, according the fiscal note.

The compensation commission makes salary recommendations every four years that take effect unless the legislature votes to modify or reject them. Legislators took an increase in 2006 but rejected an increase in 2010.

“Citizens of the state, and especially in my district, have been struggling just to pay their bills since the economic downturn began, and small businesses in the 36th are struggling to meet payrolls,” said Del. Jay Jacobs, R-Kent.  “Additionally, the Maryland Comptroller has written down revenue estimates in the state by nearly $240 million. For all of these reasons I stand on my position to freeze the current salaries in the legislature.”

“To take a pay raise, when the taxpayers are once again seeing additional fees and taxes…would only add to this on going problem in our state,” said Del. Steve Arentz, R-Queen Anne’s. “Our budget has increased by over $9 billion in the last eight years.  If you divide that by homes owned in the state, it is over $4,500 per home, per year. That is a staggering amount.”

Del. Mike Smigiel, R-Cecil, is the only member of the 36th Delegation not sign onto the joint resolution. He did not respond to request from the Spy to state his position on the salary increase by the time this story ran.

Second Male Suspect In Kingstown Robbery Extradited From Mississippi

The second male suspect in the armed robbery of the Back 50 Tavern in Kingstown on Oct. 27 is now in custody in Queen Anne’s County after extradition from Rankin County Mississippi.

Montrail Cortezy Montgomery, 37, originally of Worton, is being held on a $2.5 million bond at the Queen Anne’s County Detention Center and is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on April 21 in Queen Anne’s County District Court.

Montgomery was located in Mississippi with the help of US Marshals on or about March 11, said TFC William Abey, the lead investigator in the robbery with the Maryland State Police Criminal Enforcement Division Upper Shore.

Montgomery was charged with multiple counts that include armed robbery and assault. He is alleged to have participated in the Back 50 robbery with Vontaye Lamont Gilbert, 33, of Chestertown.  The Back 50 is the former Howard’s Tavern.

Gilbert was picked up by Dover City Police on Dec. 19 and is currently held in Smyrna at the James T. Vaughn Detention Center for his alleged participation in a string of armed robberies in Delaware and the Maryland Eastern Shore between October and December of last year.

Chronology of Upper Shore robberies last fall:

Oct. 26 – Back 50 in Kingstown

Nov. 6 – Domino’s Chestertown

Nov. 11 – Farm Stores Chestertown

Nov. 18 – Domino’s Centreville

Nov. 25 – 7-11 Easton

Nov. 25 – 7-11 Centreville

Nov. 28 – Domino’s Easton

MD Ban on Extreme Grain Alcohols Likely in July

Jacobs

Del. Jay Jaccobs, R-Kent, among a small number of Republicans to support the grain alcohol ban. “There’s no other purpose for grain alcohols except to get really drunk.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to sign a bill that bans the sale of 190-proof grain alcohols in Maryland beginning July 1.

Both chambers in Annapolis have overwhelming passed a bill in an effort to stem the tide of epidemic alcohol abuse on college campuses in the state. A source close to the legislation said O’Malley is likely to sign the bill.

Similar bills in 2009 and 2010 passed the Senate but failed to clear the House.

The bill was heavily lobbied for this session by a newly formed collaborative of 10 Maryland colleges and universities that claim an epidemic of sexual assaults and deaths on college campuses is significantly tied to overdoses of “Jungle Juice” — a concoction of 190-proof grain alcohol and fruit juices that has become a quick and cheap way for students to get high.

“They fill a garbage can with a whole bunch of different flavored liquids and grain alcohol,” said Dr. David Jernigan of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Many times they end up sleeping with someone they didn’t plan to [or] they need a hospital transport for acute alcohol poisoning. In the acute phase the brain basically shuts down.”

The University of Maryland Diamondback recently reported that 100 students so far this year have required ambulatory transports related to alcohol.

The bill is aimed at grain alcohols like Gem Clear, EverClear and Golden Grain, which are 95 percent alcohol by volume — odorless and tasteless — and easily concealed with juice mixes or sodas.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 11.17.25 AM

Ever Clear on the shelf at a local liquor store in Chestertown

Jernigan said that many students know the punch is spiked but they don’t realize that these products are more than twice as potent as straight vodka — until it’s too late.

In their appearances before House and Senate committees last month, university officials from the collaborative cited statistics from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that claim high potency grain alcohols play a major roll in over 1,800 deaths and 97,000 sexual assaults on college campuses annually.

The law will carry penalties of up to $1,000 for anyone selling 190-proof alcohol — but it will not prohibit anyone of legal drinking age in Maryland from possessing it.

Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia and 13 other states have also banned or restricted the sale of 190-proof grain alcohols.

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