March 29, 2010

State Roundup March 29, 2010

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Today is “crossover day,” and lawmakers have to get bills out of the chamber where they were introduced. We also have a roundup from the busy weekend in the House, which is getting ready to finish its budget.

WORK TO DO: Hayley Peterson with The Washington Examiner writes that today is “crossover day,” when bills have to clear the chamber in which they were introduced in order to move across the hall without a whole lot of extra maneuvering. Rob Lang of WBAL radio writes about the crossover in his weekly preview, and points out that there’s work to do on the budget and sex offender bills this week.

Liam Farrell with The (Annapolis) Capital compares the close of the General Assembly session to the end of a college semester. At the end, everybody wakes up and realizes there’s a lot of work to do, “but instead of tests and research papers, the General Assembly still has to finish dealing with the economy, teacher pensions, sex offenders and gangs.”

Also, Len Lazarick and Andy Rosen of MarylandReporter.com sat down with Nick Sohr of The Daily Record for our weekly podcast to talk about some of the key issues left to be resolved.

HOUSE BUDGET: The House budget proposal apparently will not include a shift of teacher pension costs to county governments, as Andy Rosen first reported for MarylandReporter.com on Saturday.  The Senate had proposed the move, which would eventually save the state more than $330 million. Annie Linskey in The Baltimore Sun writes that delegates want to study the issue more before they do anything.as

The House Appropriations Committee voted Friday to eliminate the legislature’s scholarship program, dedicating $11.5 million to need-based grants that would have otherwise been handed out to constituents by individual lawmakers. Len Lazarick has the story for MarylandReporter.com.

EFFICIENCY OR BILL ASSISTANCE: The House and Senate are at odds over whether it’s best to use greenhouse gas tax proceeds to help residents pay their energy bills by sending direct aid, or by offering cash to help make homes more efficient. Erich Wagner has the story for MarylandReporter.com.

TRANSIT HIKES: Legislative analysts are calling for the state to raise fares for the Maryland Transit Administration, Michael Dresser reports for The Sun, but the agency is resisting.

TEACHER BOARD: Teachers would be able to take labor disputes beyond the respective boards of education that control their salaries, under a controversial bill gaining speed in both the House and Senate, Nick Dimarco writes for MarylandReporter.com.

HEALTH DEBATE: The House will take a final vote soon on a bill that would allow the state to participate in a $5 billion, temporary federal program that makes insurance available to people without health coverage, The Associated Press reports.  But the debate over the measure proved a high-profile venue for the House GOP to propose a rejection of coverage mandates in the new federal health care bill, Aaron Davis writes for The Washington Post. That part of the proposal was rejected.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Same-sex marriage advocates are biding their time in Annapolis, in light of the recent opinion by Attorney General Doug Gansler that the state should recognize gay unions performed in other states. Shauna Miller has the story for Capital News Service.

EHRLICH: Julie Bykowicz at The Sun has a profile of former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, who appears ready to take on Gov. Martin O’Malley again. He explains what he’s been doing as “rainmaker” at a law firm in Baltimore, and says he misses being part of the action. WMAR in Baltimore has video. Without a decision by Ehrlich, John Wagner at The Post writes that the Maryland GOP has yet to field any formidable candidates for statewide office. Other blue states are seeing more activity.

CHICKEN: David Fahrenthold at the Post has a story about the legislative proposals to scrutinize the University of Maryland law clinic, as lawmakers criticize a suit against chicken farmers on the Eastern Shore. Len Lazarick with MarylandReporter.com covered the debate last week. A Sun editorial calls the chicken move “not only misguided but potentially harmful to the school.” Jenny Hopkinson at The (Salisbury) Daily Times writes about a state fine levied on the chicken farm in question.

STORMWATER: Developers would be able to get waivers from controversial new restrictions on stormwater runoff that counties have to put in place by May, under a bill approved by the House, according to Nick DiMarco of MarylandReporter.com.

FRANCHOT CHALLENGE: The first declared Republican candidate to announce a challenge to Democratic incumbent Peter Franchot is an 18-year-old from Baltimore County, according to the Associated Press.

COUNTING INMATES: Rural legislators battled more urban lawmakers over where the Census should count Maryland’s 22,000 prison inmates — at home or in the jails they occupy, Andy Rosen writes in MarylandReporter.com

CHILD SUPPORT: The House also passed a bill that would reform child support payment guidelines for the first time in more than 20 years. The measure differs from a Senate-passed version, Aaron Davis writes for the Post.

SHANK VS. MUNSON: Sen. Don Munson and Del. Chris Shank, who will face off in a September GOP primary for Munson’s seat, are clashing over budget votes related to Casa de Maryland, a controversial immigrant services organization. Erin Julius has the story for The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail.

MORTGAGE: A bill that would require mortgage lenders to try mediation with homeowners before they foreclose on a home passed the House this weekend as well, according to Nick Sohr of The Daily Record. Here’s The Associated Press take.

CORPORATE PROPOSAL: Linskey in The Sun also writes about a plan to create a new class of for profit corporations, which would be organized in such a way that executives could weigh community and environmental considerations when making decisions for the company.

KRATOVIL: Aaron Davis with the Post writes about Eastern Shore Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil’s conservative voting record.

JOBS: BP is closing its solar manufacturing plant in Frederick, Ed Waters Jr. writes for the Frederick News-Post. The move will cost 320 workers their jobs. Steven Mufson has the story for the Post.

The news came along with an announcement that Maryland lost 13,800 jobs last month, the worst tally of the recession, Jamie Smith Hopkins writes for The Sun.

TEA PARTY: Adam Bednar with the Carroll County Times writes about the impact that “Tea Party” groups could have locally this November.

WINE: Nick Sohr writes on his blog for The Daily Record that a bill to allow wineries to ship directly to customers is officially dead.