ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. Martin O'Malley is asking for $4.6 million in his supplemental budget to create a "Gun Center" that would help police implement new gun restrictions expected to pass the legislature as soon as Wednesday.
The Gun Center would hire nine new state troopers and 20 office clerks to help implement O'Malley's sweeping gun control bill, which would require permits and finger printing for all new handgun purchases.
The measure would impose some of the strictest restrictions on gun ownership in the country, including a ban on assault weapons and large ammunition magazines and a prohibition on firearm ownership for the mentally ill. The House is expected to vote on it Wednesday.
The Maryland State Police already has tripled its workforce to deal with a spike in gun sales sparked by debate over gun restrictions. State police are facing such a backlog of background checks that it's taking about three weeks to process them -- three times longer that usual.
Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Eastern Shore, worried that the money might not be enough to help deal with the backlog. He requested assurance from the legislature's nonpartisan analytical arm that the $4.6 million figure would address that backlog and wasn't just a rough estimate of how much was needed.
"For me, it'd be hard to put a figure on it," Colburn said. "We want to make sure there aren't going to be delays."
The supplemental budget also sets aside $10 million to help Maryland deal with the effects of the federal across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester. That's in addition to about $900 million set aside in the budget passed by the Senate in March.
O'Malley's supplemental budget also includes $300,000 to save the Towson University baseball team for another year while the school works on fundraising.
Also included is $125,000 to start up a medical marijuana program at participating academic medical centers. The House has passed a bill that would allow teaching hospitals that opt in to dispense medical marijuana and research its effects on patients. The bill is awaiting a vote in a Senate committee. The proposed appropriation signals O'Malley's willingness to sign the bill into law.
The supplemental budget will be introduced as an amendment and will be handed to a conference committee of the House and Senate as they work out differences between the versions of the budget that each chamber passed.