April 13, 2010

It’s over: Sine Die Roundup April 13, 2010

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The legislative session is over. Today, Gov. Martin O’Malley will begin signing bills into law, while lawmakers and their staff will pack up and head home to their districts. Meanwhile, the journalists of Maryland will begin to sort through the flurry of activity that was the end of the legislative session.

Today’s special Sine Die State Roundup contains several pieces that take a broad view of a final day on which hundreds of bills passed. Among the top issues were sex offender reforms, aid for private schools — which failed — and a move to sweeten the deal at a prospective slots location.

SCORE CARD 2010: The Washington Post’s Maryland Politics blog, with a little help from the Associated Press, rounds up several high profile bills and their outcomes on the last day of the legislative session.

SEX OFFENDER REFORMS PASS: Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linskey with The Baltimore Sun have a comprehensive wrap, written just after the session concluded. They point to several bills, highlighting the late passage of sex offender law reforms that would lengthen some sentences, repeal good behavior prison credits, and put in place lifetime supervision for violent and repeat offenders. Here’s Associated Press writer Brian Witte’s take on the sex offender reform.

Here’s video from WMAR on the sex offender reform deals. WJZ also has a good text summary of what the bills do. John Rydell with Fox 45 has more on the sex offender laws.

CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES UPDATED: The General Assembly OK’d new guidelines for child support for the first time in more than two decades, according to staff and wire reports from The Daily Record.

Several compromises were made to the bill between the House and Senate, but lawmakers are confident Gov. O’Malley will sign off on the measure, writes Nick DiMarco for MarylandReporter.com.

SCHOOL TAX CREDITS FAIL: A House panel voted to kill legislation yesterday intended to prevent private schools from closing their doors, according to Erich Wagner for MarylandReporter.com.

TEXT READING BAN FAILS: WBAL Radio’s roundup includes coverage of a failed bill that would have banned reading text messages while driving. It passed the Senate, but didn’t get out of the House. Current law is focused on drivers writing text messages while driving.

TEACHER LABOR PANEL APPROVED: According to MarylandReporter.com staff writer Nick DiMarco, teachers will be able to appeal labor disputes to a newly-created, neutral third-party panel. Before, decisions were appealed to the county boards of education that cut teachers’ checks.

ROCKY GAP SLOTS SWEETENED: The Sun also has a roundup of session briefs, which includes a report of a late agreement intended to make Rocky Gap, a state-controlled resort in Allegany County, more attractive to slots developers. It is the only approved site that drew no qualified bids from developers last year.

TRAFFIC COURT DATES OPTIONAL: The Senate unanimously passed a House bill Monday that requires drivers to request a court date if they want to challenge a citation. The measure could save millions of dollars in overtime paid to police officers. Michael Dresser has the story for his Getting There blog for The Sun.

GREENS LIKE TRANSPO BILL: Maryland greens are more than satisfied with the passage of bill establishing a specific set of environmental criteria for evaluating transportation projects, Michael Dresser writes for his Sun blog.

SCHOOL GANG CRACKDOWN PASSES: There was a late night scramble in both chambers, resulting from measures related to gang legislation, write Aaron Davis and John Wagner for The Washington Post. The measure requires collaboration on gangs between schools and police.

RACE TO THE TOP MEASURE APPROVED: Maryland teachers must wait three years before they can earn tenure, and may receive mentoring during their probationary period, under a bill that attempts to strengthen Maryland’s attempts to acquire $250 million in federal stimulus dollars. Michael Birnbaum has the story for the Post.

CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS : The House passed a bill establishing a Bill of Rights for correctional officers, according to Erin Julius for The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail.

HEALTH BENEFITS: The House of Delegates agreed Monday morning to give patients more flexibility in choosing a doctor not preferred by their insurer, writes Scott Graham for the Baltimore Business Journal.O’MALLEY: Gov. Martin O’Malley says there was less infighting in the 2010 General Assembly as both Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked toward common goals, writes Meg Tully for the Frederick News-Post.

O’Malley told reporters Monday that he “hopes” to not raise taxes if he returns for another four years, despite Republican predictions that hikes will be inevitable. Len Lazarick has the story for MarylandReporter.com. Also check out our video interview with the governor. However, O’Malley said he couldn’t make a campaign promise not to raise taxes, according to Doug Tallman for The Gazette.

RUNNING MATE: There are rumblings about Bob Ehrlich’s gubernatorial campaign, including former Secretary of State Mary Kane as a possible running mate, writes Alan Brody for The Gazette.

STEPPING OUT: Annie Linskey with The Sun talks to the lawmakers who are leaving on their own accord after this session. A former county official tries to send millions back to local governments on his way out, a doctor tries to slow medical pot, and a respected Republican sings “The Battle Hymm of the Republic.”

TEA PARTY: MarylandReporter.com editor Len Lazarick spent part of Monday with Maryland TEA partiers who wanted to “get rid of everybody holding office in Maryland,” especially Democrats.

SPECIAL ORDERS: For The Sun’s political blog, Michael Dresser gives a blow by blow account of an early Sine Die debate centered around Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin’s attempts to kill bills by way of special orders.

STORMWATER: Now that the dust is settling from the legislative session, environmental groups are looking to mend differences over a “contentious battle” about new runoff regulations, writes Sean Sedam for The Gazette.

SOLAR ENERGY GETS BOOST: Daily Record reporter Nick Sohr gives his take on a bill that ramps up the state utilities’ use of renewable energy sources, specifically solar energy.