April 7, 2010

State Roundup April 7, 2010

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LAW CLINIC: Lawmakers will not withhold any funds from the University of Maryland’s law clinic for pursuing an unpopular lawsuit against the poultry industry, Annie Linskey reports in The Baltimore Sun. Some lawmakers were disappointed by the decision, but others argue that the university now understands their concerns. Fraser Smith has an audio report for WYPR.

FORECLOSURES: A bill allowing homeowners facing foreclosure to request a mediation session with lenders looks to be ready to pass, Nick Sohr reports for The Daily Record.

HEALTH SERVICES: Local health officials say the state budget will institute cuts that will weaken food inspections, pregnancy clinics and other services, Larry Carson writes in The Sun. Local health departments are poised to get $37 million in the budget, compared to $73 million budgeted two years ago.

PAYDAY LOANS: The General Assembly passed legislation closing a loophole that allowed companies to charge more than 600 percent interest on so-called “payday” loans, setting a 33 percent annual interest rate cap, Nick Sohr writes in The Daily Record. The bill now heads to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk for signing into law.

AUTO INSURANCE: A bill raising the minimum level of liability coverage for vehicle owners in the state was delayed after being on the verge of preliminary approval, Michael Dresser writes in his Getting There blog for The Sun. Republicans proposed a number of amendments which failed, before Sen. Lisa Gladden pushed the vote back a day so she could offer her own amendment. Andy Rosen writes that insurance companies are surprisingly against the increase in minimum level of coverage.

TRANSPARENCY: The push for greater transparency in General Assembly activity that lit up the early days of this year’s session has fallen into the shadows, Erich Wagner writes for MarylandReporter.com. Bills mandating more openness have not even gotten a vote in House and Senate rules committees made up largely of legislative leaders, who cite practical problems implementing the proposals.

EHRLICH: Paul West of The Sun looks at how former Gov. Bob Ehrlich seems to be trying to avoid any mention of his former lieutenant governor, now embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. Meanwhile, Democratic strategists are pushing to mention the link as much as possible.

DEBATE: Gov. Martin O’Malley issued a debate challenge to Bob Ehrlich Tuesday, proposing an hour-long Saturday debate on WBAL radio, John Wagner writes in The Washington Post. Ehrlich insisted that it be done on his weekly show, but the O’Malley camp said that wouldn’t qualify, Julie Bykowicz writes in The Sun.

LOCKHEED EXEMPTION: The General Assembly approved legislation exempting Lockheed Martin’s training center from the state’s 6 percent sales and use tax in an attempt to curry favor with Northrop Grumman, Nick Sohr writes in his Eye on Annapolis blog.

MURPHY: Brian Murphy announced his candidacy for governor Tuesday by saying, “Bob Ehrlich is not a fiscal conservative,” Len Lazarick writes for MarylandReporter.com. And former state GOP chairman Jim Pelura agrees, endorsing Murphy.

BOAST: The House Ways and Means Committee may prove again to be a stumbling block for passage of a bill rewarding companies for contributing to scholarship programs at private schools, Erich Wagner writes for MarylandReporter.com.

RECRUITER ACCESS: The state Senate passed a measure prohibiting local school districts from sharing student information with military recruiters, Hayley Peterson reports in the Washington Examiner. The bill, which passed by a 25-22 vote, puts the option of sharing information with recruiters in the hands of parents instead.

HEALTH CARE: The state Senate defeated a proposal Tuesday that would have set the state in opposition to the provision of President Obama’s health care bill requiring that individuals purchase health insurance, Michael Dresser writes for The Sun.

STORMWATER REGULATIONS: State lawmakers passed changes to new stormwater regulations that were supported by developers but criticized by environmental groups, Tim Wheeler writes for The Sun. The changes would exempt 1,000 to 1,500 development projects statewide for up to seven years, because they’re in the local planning pipeline. Tom LoBianco gives his take on the stormwater compromise.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: A Senate committee will hear a bill Wednesday that would allow people falsely accused of domestic violence to shield it from the public view, Annie Linskey writes in The Sun. Victims’ rights groups and judges would still be able to view such information.

GANGS: The House passed legislation Tuesday cracking down on gang activity, but opponents say it makes it too easy for innocent young people to be arrested, Hayley Peterson writes for the Washington Examiner. Julie Bykowicz has the story for The Sun, and Dave Collins has video for WBAL-TV.

FRANCHOT: Josh Kurtz at Center Maryland analyzes the political career and status of Comptroller Peter Franchot.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Dave Collins reports for WBAL-TV that the measure legalizing medical marijuana will likely not pass, due to a House work group calling for further study on the issue.

GANSLER: Attorney General Doug Gansler discusses the use of tasers with the Frederick County NAACP, writes Nicholas Stern in the Frederick News-Post.

CARROLL CASINOS: A bill to allow casino nights for nonprofits in Carroll County is in legislative limbo, Adam Bednar reports in the Carroll County Times.