State Roundup, December 27, 2010

December 27, 2010 at 7:31 pm

STATE CUTS: Gov. Martin O’Malley is considering across-the-board cuts in local education funding, a reduction in payments to mental health providers who serve the poor and a shift of hundreds of millions of dollars in teacher pension costs to the state’s counties to close the state’s budget gap, John Wagner reports for the Post.

Some lawmakers say extending a tax on Maryland’s highest earners might be a means of filling financial holes, writes Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette.

Red Maryland’s Matt Johnson has issued a New Year’s resolution: To call lawmakers and the state on budget crap when he sees it.

TAX CUT MYTHS: Columnist Tim Rowland of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that myths about the benefits of cutting taxes abound.

WIND POWER: A bill requiring utilities to enter into long-term purchasing agreements for wind-generated power is in the works for the 2011 General Assembly, with supporters and opponents getting ready to air the issue, Barbara Pash reports for MarylandReporter.com.

ROCKY SLOTS: Allegany County legislators say dramatic changes, such as reducing the amount of taxes paid by a casino owner, are needed to entice developers to take a chance on the Rocky Gap slots parlor while simultaneously taking ownership of the 12-year-old resort, which is due for major renovations, Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette reports.

DISPEL WINE MYTHS: A report on shipping wine, commissioned by Comptroller Peter Franchot, dispels the myths that allowing wine shipments will result in financial disaster to wholesalers and retailers, writes the editorial board for the Annapolis Capital.

And the Salisbury Daily Times editorial board also weighed in on direct shipping of wine, also calling for the shipping ban’s repeal.

NEWSMAKERS? The Daily Record is seeking reader suggestions for its Maryland Newsmakers column, in which they will interview the state’s movers and shakers about the issues.

HOYER ON DADT: Several leading gay-rights advocates say U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, reports the Hill’s Russell Berman.

MOONEY AT GOP: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar gives a detailed analysis of why Alex Mooney, the defeated state senator, will not do well as chairman of the state Republican Party.

KRATOVIL REFLECTS: Outgoing U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil is reflecting on his term in Congress and says Democrats shouldn’t lose sight of what’s important: fixing the economy and representing America’s moderates, the Salisbury Daily Times’ Greg Latshaw reports.

VOTING MACHINES: The Gazette’s Alan Brody writes that Maryland would save as much as $9.5 million over eight years by switching to an optical-scan voting system, according to a new report that advocates hope will spur O’Malley and legislative leaders to start funding the replacement of the touch-screen machines in fiscal 2012.

JUDICIAL OVERSIGHT: An ethics panel in 2005 found one Maryland judge’s board membership in violation, but the opinion was not published until this month, reports Jeffrey Smith for the Post. The episode has cast a spotlight on what critics say is the private and sometimes inconsistent application of ethics rules for the federal judiciary.

BUSINESS CLIMATE: Editorialists at the Daily Record say Maryland’s business climate needs to change, as presented in a new report from the Greater Baltimore Committee.

BRINKLEY BUDGET: Meg Tully of the Frederick News Post reports that when state Sen. David Brinkley returns to Annapolis next month, one of his biggest jobs will be creating another alternative budget plan.

SHANK SURVEY: Weeks before the Maryland legislature reconvenes,  soon-to-be state Sen. Christopher Shank is asking his Washington County constituents for their opinions in a web survey, reports Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

To take the survey, click here.

WORCESTER LIQUOR BOARD: To stave off talk of abolishment, members of the Worcester County Liquor Control Board say they plan hire a lawyer to look at their practices and will stay in close contact with members of the Comptroller’s Office, which fined the board $16,000, Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times reports.

TRAVEL TAX SUIT: Montgomery County filed a federal lawsuit against a host of online travel vendors including Expedia and Orbitz, claiming that the county doesn’t get its fair share of taxes, reports Maria Glod for the Post.

BA CO BUDGET: Baltimore County has been recognized for its presentation of its fiscal 2011 budget, satisfying guidelines for effective budget presentation, according to the Towson Times.

JOHNSON REPRESENTATION: Central Prince George’s residents have formed a coalition calling for their councilwoman to be returned the council privileges she was stripped of, writes Daniel Valentine of the Gazette. That councilwoman, Leslie Johnson, is facing federal charges of evidence tampering.

GARRETT CO REQUESTS: Garrett County commissioners are asking their state representatives for a number of things when they return to Annapolis, including a push for the full reinstatement of highway user fees to county governments, writes Kristin Harty Barkley of the Cumberland Times-News.

FREDERICK ETHICS CODE: There’s ample reason why Frederick County needs to keep its ethics code barring donations to commissioners from developers in certain situations. Strengthening the code, writes the editorial board of the Frederick News Post, would also be a good idea.

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