February 24, 2010

State Roundup Feb. 24, 2010

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Today we have lots of coverage of the Republicans’ presentation of their proposed budget cuts to legislative leaders, the state-run workers’ compensation insurance wants its independence, and the developer of slots at Arundel Mills mall is suing the county Board of Elections.

BUDGET SHOWDOWN: Republican lawmakers presented their ideas for solutions to the state’s budget problems yesterday, the Associated Press reports. The proposals, one by House party leaders and the other by Sens. David Brinkley and E.J. Pipkin, were unveiled at a hearing scheduled by Democratic leaders after complaints that Republicans are shut out of the decision-making process.

A major provision in the Senators’ plan is a shift of half of teacher pension costs onto local governments, Hayley Peterson reports in the Washington Examiner. House Republicans cut everything from education to chefs at the governor’s mansion, Len Lazarick writes at MarylandReporter.com.

House Speaker Mike Busch said some of the ideas would likely be incorporated into the final version of the budget, but declined to specify which, Annie Linskey reports in The Baltimore Sun. Democrats were particularly turned off by all of the cuts in education seen in the proposals, Aaron Davis writes in The Washington Post.

The Senators’ proposal has drawn the ire of fellow Western Maryland Republicans because of a provision cutting funding for the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown by half, Erin Julius reports for The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail. David Collins has video for WBAL-TV, and John Rydell reports for WBFF. Robert Lang has audio for WBAL Radio.

And an editorial in The Sun lauds Brinkley and Pipkin for coming up with a concrete proposal instead of simply grandstanding.

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE: A legislative audit accuses St. Mary’s College of Maryland of improperly purchasing a tract of land near its campus from a person affiliated with the college, in a matter that has been referred to the criminal division of the Office of the Attorney General, Andy Rosen reports for MarylandReporter.com. St. Mary’s disputes the findings, arguing that the purchase was negotiated using a lawyer from the attorney general’s office, Childs Walker writes for The Sun.

STUDENTS’ RIGHTS: Erin Julius has the scoop for The Herald-Mail on a bill that would protect students’ rights of free speech in private colleges and universities that receive state aid. The proposal, introduced by House Minority Whip Christopher Shank, is supported by the ACLU and both the College Republicans and College Democrats.

IWIF INDEPENDENCE: The CEO of the Injured Workers’ Insurance Fund asked lawmakers to convert the state-run workers’ compensation insurer into a nonprofit mutual insurance company, Gary Haber writes in the Baltimore Business Journal.

SEX OFFENDERS: State lawmakers are pushing for broad changes in law and sentencing for sex offenders, but opponents said the changes would unfairly stigmatize young people, who are often victims of abuse themselves, Julie Bykowicz reports for The Sun. Advocates argue that the legislation compromises civil liberties while failing to actually address the risk factors that lead to these crimes, Shauna Miller writes for Capital News Service. And Keith Daniels has a video overview of the range of sex offender-related bills in the General Assembly this session.

SLOTS REFERENDUM: Cordish Cos., the developer of the state’s largest slots parlor, filed suit against the Anne Arundel County Board of Supervisors of Elections, saying the board failed to check for fraud and other irregularities in signatures submitted for a ballot referendum on slots at Arundel Mills mall, Nicole Fuller writes in The Sun. A lawyer for the elections board said he doesn’t think there is any merit to the claim, John Wagner reports in The Post. Steve Fermier has an audio report for WBAL Radio.

DISABILITY ASSISTANCE: Hundreds of people with developmental disabilities and advocates plan to march on the State House this week, pushing for more funding and a hike in the state alcohol tax, Natalie Neumann reports for MarylandReporter.com. Neumann takes a look through the eyes of Jason Avara, a Glen Burnie resident with cerebral palsy who is on the waiting list for more state assistance.

IN VITRO PASSES: The Senate passed a provision narrowly expanding the mandated coverage of in vitro fertilization by health insurers, just a week after a tie vote by the body left the bill in limbo, Erich Wagner writes for MarylandReporter.com.

ICC DELAYS: This winter’s record snowstorms and last year’s rain have pushed the construction of the Intercounty Connecter months behind schedule, Katherine Shaver reports in The Post. But officials say they still plan to open the highway’s first segment this fall.

ENERGY GRANTS: Four Maryland energy companies will split almost $1.3 million in stimulus money awarded through the Maryland Energy Administration in the first round of the state’s Clean Energy Economic Development Initiative, Jeff Clabaugh reports in the Washington Business Journal.

DRUNK DRIVING: Opponents of drunk driving are drumming up support for a bill requiring ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers, Michael Dresser writes in his blog for The Sun. The bill faces strong opposition by the alcohol industry, which argues the devices, which prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking, are better for repeat offenders.

DRIVER IMPROVEMENT: A bill to be heard this week would allow drivers to have points removed from their licenses after completing a drivers’ improvement program, Adam Bednar reports in the Carroll County Times.