April 16, 2010

State Roundup April 16, 2010

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People across the state vent their frustration with government at Tea Party protests, and we have more analysis of this year’s legislative session. Lawmakers turn to November, preparing their campaign arguments.

TEA PARTIES: People gathered in Hagerstown to protest as part of the nationwide April 15 Tea Party rallies, Dan Dearth writes in The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail. Alex Ruoff and Deborah Gates write in The (Salisbury) Daily Times that a Salisbury Tea Party protest was not without internal controversy, as a speaker called on people to oppose Republican Sarah Palin.

In Towson, people were lured to the local tea party with promises of a free lunch, only to discover it would cost $7.50 “with taxes and other fees,” Bryan Sears writes for Patuxent Publishing. And Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich visited the Tea Party in Westminster, Adam Bednar reports for The Carroll County Times. In Frederick, protesters gathered around a restaurant to air their complaints with the administration, Ike Wilson reports for The Frederick News-Post. David Collins has video of the Towson protest for WBAL-TV.

WRAP-UP: Nick Sohr has his wrap-up of this year’s General Assembly session in The Daily Record. Lawmakers made many short-term budget and economic fixes, hoping that would be enough to get the state through to economic recovery, but Republicans warn of looming tax increases. Scott Dance writes in the Baltimore Business Journal that these possible tax and fee increases worry business leaders and are becoming fuel for political campaigns.

The Gazette’s staff has its own wrap on what happened this session, led by the budget and a ban on the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

CAMPAIGN: Now that the session’s over, lawmakers are converting their victories into campaign issues, Sean Sedam writes for The Gazette. A Democratic senator wants to talk about the elimination of state education penalties, and a Republican says he’ll be discussing what the budget would look like with the GOP in power.

LABOR: The legislative session was a productive one for labor organizations, which won victories for teachers, child care providers and retail workers, closing the books on several issues debated for years, Nick DiMarco writes for MarylandReporter.com.

WORKERS COMP: A bill to make the state’s worker’s compensation program of last resort more independent failed this year, Nick Sohr writes for The Daily Record’s Eye on Annapolis blog.

ASSEMBLY TURNOVER: Alan Brody with The Gazette writes that the General Assembly could see major turnover after the November election, with an incoming group of lawmakers perhaps rivaling the 45-member class from 2007.

TRANSPARENCY: Maryland earned a lukewarm rating for the transparency of state spending in a recent report, Erich Wagner writes for MarylandReporter.com despite a flurry of open government measures proposed throughout the General Assembly session.

EDUCATION REFORM: Some teachers and union officials are complaining about education reforms passed this year, including one that makes it tougher to get tenure. The measures are intended to help Maryland compete for as much as $250 million in federal grants. Marcus Moore has the story for The Gazette.

BOAST: Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, an advocate for the Jewish community, writes an op-ed in The Gazette complaining that students are the ones most hurt by inaction on a bill that would have directed aid to private schools through tax credits.

GAMING: Experts say attempts to make Maryland more attractive to gaming companies, including a measure to entice slots bids at the struggling Rocky Gap resort in Western Maryland, probably didn’t go far enough. Alan Brody has the story for The Gazette.

EHRLICH: Doug Tallman with The Gazette covers Bob Ehrlch’s campaign event, where business owners tell the gubernatorial candidate that state business policies are “crippling” them.

MIKULSKI: Even without a big-name challenger, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski raised nearly $1 million during the first three months of 2010, according to Paul West of The Sun. That brings her total to about $3.8 million

HELLER: Adam Pagnucco of Maryland Politics Watch reports that Del. Hank Heller will retire from the House.

SPEED CAMERAS: Speed cameras in the state are not issuing enough fines to cover the cost of operation, the Associated Press reports. But State Highway Administrator Neil Pedersen argues that it’s worth it if people are driving more carefully. Hayley Peterson has the story for the Washington Examiner.

LEE: Blair Lee writes in his Gazette column that lawmakers responded well to some pressing problems, such as a shortfall in unemployment benefit funds. But some of the biggest state problems weren’t addressed.

RASCOVAR: Barry Rascovar’s Gazette column focuses on what lawmakers didn’t do. He writes that the failure to close long-term spending deficits is worse than “kicking the can down the road.”

BOYD: Laslo Boyd interviews legislative leadership for his Gazette column. They are pleased with the outcome of budget negotiations.