- Homeland security debacle.
As the legislative session in Annapolis grinds on, it looks less and less likely that anything will be done to alter what has become a national embarassment: the fact that Maryland has become one of the easiest states in the country when it comes to permitting illegal aliens to obtain driver's licenses.
We oppose permitting the federal government to micromanage the issuing of driver's licenses, which is clearly a state responsibility. But if we have learned anything from September 11, it is the ease with which the hijackers were able to obtain driver's licenses and use them as a form of identification. America is only as strong as its weakest link. And among the 50 states, Maryland has one of the worst records when it comes to protecting the integrity of its licenses.
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But in 2003, the General Assembly passed and Gov. Robert Ehrlich signed into law what was supposed to have been a compromise package aimed at overhauling the system for issuing driver's licenses. Before the bill was passed, however, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, the very shrewd Del. Joseph Vallario [Del.Vallario], a Prince George's County Democrat who is very accomodating toward illegals, managed to insert into the legislation a poison bill: language that effectively stripped out a requirement that Maryland driver's license applicants present a valid Social Security number.
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- Crossing Cultural Divide in Pr. George's; Latino Group, Police Air Issues.
Langley Park resident Maynor Corea wanted to know whether it's legal when police stop him on the street and take his picture. He knows that with his youthful look, brown skin and baggy jeans, cops suspect he's a gang banger.
"It happens to people all the time," Corea, 22, told a group of Prince George's police officers and residents yesterday at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville.
Corea and about 400 other residents crammed into the school for a police forum in District I, the most populous, and in some ways the most troubled, of Prince George's six police districts. District I, which has about 200,000 residents, includes border communities such as Chillum and Hyattsville, the sites of many homicides last year, as well as Langley Park, the hub of the county's gang [PG.Gangs] activity.
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Police Chief Melvin C. High [Melvin.High] and his command staff were at the meeting, explaining the strides they've made in crime fighting and improving their relationship with the community.
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Several miles away from the forum, another anti-crime meeting was held yesterday at Riverdale Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, sponsored by Clergy United, which is headed by the Rev. C. Anthony Muse.
About 500 people attended that meeting, the second in a series, with some participants admonishing the county's elected officials for not doing more to fight crime.
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- Laws on illegals under debate; Immigration battles heating up in Md.
. . . "We're at a stalemate right now," said Del. Victor R. Ramirez [Del.Ramirez], a Democrat from Prince George's County who sponsored a bill that would help students such as Salina-Aguilar by allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to Maryland universities. "It's a sensitive issue right now. We just need to refocus and re-strategize how we turn this around." . . .
- Md. Lawmakers Sharpen Pencils For Ehrlich Budget; Democrats' Edit of Governor's Plan Will Target Public Construction Funds.
Democratic leaders in the General Assembly are quietly preparing a major rewrite of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s capital budget, exerting legislative power at a new level and setting up a debate over how to spend state dollars for the construction of public schools, courthouses and university buildings.
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"We're not chopped liver; we're not potted plants. We have a role to play," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. [Sen.Miller] (D-Calvert).
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Fawell said the governor and his budget writers had no role in selecting individual projects. But Democrats see disparities. Students in Allegany County, for instance, make up 1.1 percent of statewide school enrollment. The school system received almost 5 percent of the money, in part to help build the county's first new high school in decades. In Prince George's, students account for 15 percent of statewide enrollment, and the school district received 9.8 percent of the money.
To boost overall spending for school construction to $281 million, the Ehrlich administration said it had to delay other projects. Left out of the capital budget for fiscal 2007 was money to build and renovate courthouses, including a $57 million project in Rockville that was delayed two years.
"We were very, very surprised," said Ben C. Clyburn, chief judge of the District Court of Maryland. "I had no indication whatsoever that there was a problem."
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- Ehrlich's free-spending budget; Governor disregards GOP-sponsored affordability guidelines.