April 6, 2010

State Roundup April 6, 2010

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BUDGET: While the House and Senate have found common ground on a number of “big ticket items” in the state’s budget, there are still tough decisions that need to be agreed on, including teachers’ pensions and legislative scholarship programs. WBAL-TV reporter David Collins has the story. WYPR reporter Joel McCord is reporting that the differences will be taken up at a House-Senate conference committee.

One thing lawmakers could agree on with regards to the budget was to eat pizza Tuesday night as they further discuss $100 million in separate versions of their plans, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

Both chambers have agreed to cut 500 executive branch positions in order to find some common ground on their versions of the the state budget plan, according to Baltimore Sun reporter Annie Linskey. Each chamber cut about $120 million to the budget, but the measures didn’t line up, writes Douglas Tallman for The Gazette of Politics and Business.

According to this Sun editorial, the state should just make the deep cuts to legislative scholarships and bond bills, but lawmakers will most likely “flinch.”

EHRLICH: Washington Post reporter John Wagner is saying the key for the governor’s seat may be the Washington region. Former television reporter Andy Barth, a Democrat, has been selected as Robert Ehrlich’s press secretary. The Sun’ Julie Bykowicz has the story.

The Sun editorial page does not agree with WBAL’s decision to allow Ehrlich to continue his radio show, even after he announces his candidacy for governor, despite a loophole.

Sun columnist Tom Schaller notes an interesting reversal of fortune between Maryland Republicans Ehrlich and Michael Steele.

TABLE GAMES: Given the chance, the likelihood of casino style table game in Prince George’s County is bleak according to religious and civic leaders, writes Ovetta Wiggins for The Post.

AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE: The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved a bill that would raise the minimum automobile insurance liability coverage from $20,000 per victim and $40,000 per crash to $30,000 and $60,000. Insurance companies are fighting the bill, while trial lawyers are in support of it according to Michael Dresser for The Sun.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee signed off on a bill that would allow Maryland doctors to prescribe marijuana for medicinal purposes, writes Andy Rosen for MarylandReporter.com.

TAXES: Red Maryland blogger Brian Griffiths posted this Youtube video of Senate Democrats explaining to Gov. Martin O’Malley the state of Maryland’s finances. The video is jab to Democrats who support increasing taxes.

BILLS: WBAL-TV reporter David Collins reports lawmakers are being told to “pick up the pace.” More than 2,600 bills have been introduced, with only 43 passing both Houses as of Monday afternoon.

TEACHER PENSIONS: The Maryland Association of Counties is against the proposal to shift teacher pensions, according to Michael Sanderson for Conduit Street, a MACo blog.

TEA PARTY: As the Maryland Tea Party movement grows in popularity, critics are suggesting that the staff of the movement should be registered as  lobbyists, according to WBFF (Fox Baltimore) reporter Michael Buczyner.

Tea Party representatives, like David Schwartz, Maryland director for Americans for Prosperity, say the group will most likely grow from now until Election Day, according to Brian Witte for the Associated Press, as posted by The Annapolis Capital.

ENERGY: Several energy companies are opposing a bill that would establish new requirements for companies to build transmission lines, according to Frederick News-Post staff writer Meg Tully.

CELL PHONES: Some lawmakers want tougher penalties for using cell phones while driving, according to WBFF (Fox Baltimore) reporter John Rydell.

SOLAR ENERGY: The state is moving toward requiring energy providers to increase the amount of solar energy they use. The Senate passed the measure on Friday, while the House of Delegates is in for a “robust debate” on the topic, according to Sun staff writer Julie Bykowicz.

SEX OFFENDERS: With less than a week left in the legislative session, lawmakers are trying to toughen up laws against sex offenders, which has been a focal point of debate this year. WJZ reporter Kelly McPherson has the story.

CHESAPEAKE BAY: Money to improve and preserve the Chesapeake Bay is on the “chopping block,” according to WJZ reporter Alex DeMetrick.

PRAYER: Lawmakers are saying a prayer in the House of Delegates Friday that referenced Jesus Christ, crossed a line. Gazette staff writer Alan Brody has the story.