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Minimum Wage Hike Among O’Malley’s Top Legislative Priorities

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Gov. Martin O’Malley wants to advance efforts to create a unified communications network for first responders across Maryland as part of a legislative package released Monday that includes measures to help prevent domestic violence and a proposal to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016.

O’Malley, a Democrat, wants to index the minimum wage to keep up with inflation in 2017. His proposal would increase the cash wage rate for tipped workers from 50 percent to 70 percent of the minimum wage.

“When workers earn more money, businesses will have more customers, and we’ll grow Maryland’s economy from the middle out,” O’Malley said.

The governor also is backing legislation to create a board to oversee the final development and management of a program to create a public safety communications network for first responders to enable them to better communicate during emergency and extreme weather events.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown will push for expanded protections for domestic violence victims. The first changes the standard of proof for a final protective order from “clear and convincing evidence” to a “preponderance of the evidence” standard, a lesser standard of proof. Maryland is the only state that has the standard of clear and convincing as a standard for a final protective order.

A second initiative would require the court to issue a permanent final protective order against an individual who is convicted and sentenced to serve a prison term of at least five years for certain acts of abuse. The measure also will add the crime of second-degree assault to the list of crimes, which subjects a person to the issuance of a permanent final protective order.

A third measure addressing domestic violence increases the penalties for certain crimes of violence that are committed in the presence of a minor.

O’Malley also is proposing legislation to designate new wild land areas on state lands, including state parks, state forests and wildlife management areas.

In addition to the initiatives against domestic violence, Brown also will be leading the administration’s initial move to expand prekindergarten to 1,600 children from families up to 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.

O’Malley has included a variety of measures to improve safety and security at the state’s correctional facilities. He included $4.1 million in the state budget to hire 100 new correctional officers. He also included $637,000 for a correctional officer training program. The budget includes $788,000 for security cameras.

O’Malley also has boosted an internal investigations unit by adding 12 new positions, including eight new detectives and four new intelligence analysts.

The budget includes $7.2 million to install technology to make contraband cellphones unable to work at Baltimore detention facilities. A contraband conspiracy involving drugs and cellphones at the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center last year resulted in federal indictments of 44 people, including Black Guerrilla Family gang members and 27 correctional officers.

O’Malley is proposing some changes to the Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights in the aftermath of the contraband conspiracy. The proposal would allow internal investigators to bring charges against a correctional officer if a criminal investigation takes longer than 90 days. The measure will also exempt probationary officers from the protections of the Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights and from being eligible to serve on hearing boards.

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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