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Published on January 21st, 2011 | by Len Lazarick

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State Roundup, January 21, 2011

2012 BUDGET: Gov. Martin O’Malley releases his fiscal year 2012 budget proposal – and much talked-about plan to address a projected $1.6 billion shortfall – this afternoon. The Salisbury Daily Times runs the Associated Press story. Annie Linskey of The Sun writes that it does not include furloughs, but will instead hold costs for education at their current levels, cut Medicaid payments to hospitals, overhaul the pension system, and reduce aid to counties. WBAL’s Robert Lang writes about the cuts, and will broadcast O’Malley’s budget press conference live at 1:30 p.m. WJZ ran a longer Associated Press story about the potential cuts.

“The budget will be balanced, and no one will be happy,” O’Malley chief of staff  Matt Gallagher tells The Gazette’s Alan Brody in his preview of the state budget.

In a commentary on Center Maryland, Donald Fry calls receiving the budget the first defining moment of the 2011 General Assembly.

UNION CONTRACT: The new contract with state workers providing for raises and no furloughs could be a trade-off for looming pension changes, some observers speculate in a piece by the Gazette’s Alan Brody.

BETTER OVERSIGHT: Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein told the House of Delegates Health and Government Operations Committee that there needs to be better oversight of taxpayer-funded drug treatment and mental health service providers, reports The Sun’s Scott Calvert. The hearing was in response to a Sun investigation that showed high Medicaid billings, salaries, and improper diagnoses at Baltimore Behavioral Health, Inc.

MONTEL AND MARIJUANA: Talk show host Montel Williams, a Baltimore native, will be in Annapolis next week to lend support to a bill allowing medical marijuana, reports The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz. Williams, who has used marijuana to help treat the pain associated with multiple sclerosis, will be at a press conference with bill sponsors Sen. David Brinkley and Del. Dan Morhaim, reports The Post’s Ann Marimow. The Daily Record runs the Associated Press story. ABC2 has video.

IN THE MONEY: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake already has more than $842,000 cash on hand for her campaign this year – more than three times what closest competitor and rumored challenger state Sen. Catherine Pugh has raised so far, reports The Sun’s Julie Scharper.

Meanwhile, The Sun’s Larry Carson reports that recently re-elected Howard County Executive Ken Ulman still has $439,668 in the bank – more than any other county executive – for whatever he may choose to run for in 2014.

HARFORD SENATORS: More than a week into the 2011 session, only Harford County’s three senators – and none of its eight delegates – have filed bills, reports Rachel Konopacki of The Aegis.

DEATH PENALTY: The Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review have set a hearing on proposed regulations for capital punishment for next month, reports The Post’s John Wagner. Gov. Martin O’Malley proposed these regulations in 2009.

PG ETHICS PANEL: A new board examining ethics in Prince George’s County will have its first hearing on Jan. 29, reports The Post’s Miranda Spivack. On the agenda: determining if the county needs an independent inspector general, among other things.

CARROLL DELEGATION: The Carroll County delegation was nearly unanimous on the legislation it plans to bring during this General Assembly – a mix of local initiatives as well as a provision allowing some organizations to sponsor card games and casino nights to raise money, reports the Carroll County Times’ Christian Alexandersen.

TAX EQUITY: The Frederick County delegation is expected to debate a proposal that would adjust the tax equity law today, reports The Frederick News-Post’s Meg Tully.  Tax equity is used by some counties to pay back municipalities for providing services the county would otherwise have to provide, like parks, police or planning.

HEALTH CARE REPEAL VOTE: A day after the House of Representatives voted to repeal federal health care reforms, a group of lobbyists and lawmakers held a press conference denouncing the vote in Annapolis. MarylandReporter.com’s Felicia Howard recorded a podcast at the event.

U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who was always against the law, said he was happy about the repeal vote – but happier about a resolution instructing House committees to look for reforms to improve the quality of health care, reduce the cost of health insurance, and reverse implementation of the law that will take decisions out of the control of patients and their doctors, Meg Tully reports in the Frederick News-Post.

DONOGHUE REMEMBERS SHRIVER: Del. John Donoghue shares his memories of early political involvement with Sargent Shriver’s presidential and vice presidential campaigns with Herald-Mail reporter Andy Schotz.

PENSIONS TO 401(K) PLANS: Economist Anirban Basu told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee that he recommends the state switch its pension plan to a 401(k) plan to slow the growth of the $18 billion deficit in retirement benefits, reports The Examiner’s Hayley Petersen.

BETTER IN BALTIMORE: Basu also told the committee that the economic rebound is happening more quickly in Baltimore than other regions of the state. WBAL’s David Collins has video.

MONTGOMERY COLLEGE LAWSUIT: Conservative group Judicial Watch sues Montgomery College, trying to get the court to force the school to stop giving in-county tuition to illegal immigrants, reports MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick.

Silver Spring Patch runs the story from Maggie Clark of Capital News Service. WBFF has video. Erin Cunningham has more on the lawsuit in the Gazette.

KITTLEMAN PLANS: Sen. Allan Kittleman says his resignation as minority leader is not a way to position himself for higher office, Sarah Breitenbach and Alan Brody write in the Gazette.

EARLY VOTING: Del. Veronica Turner of Prince George’s County wants to cut the number of early voting days, Alan Brody writes in the Gazette.

JUDICIARY FRESHMEN: The Gazette’s Alan Brody writes about the freshmen on the House Judiciary Committee.

UTILITIES AND THE PSC: Lawmakers need to keep the pressure on utilities despite the Public Service Commission’s proposed regulatory changes that would fine certain companies for frequent and lengthy power outages, says Sen. Jim Rosapepe, according to Margie Hyslop in the Gazette.

O’MALLEY’S FUTURE: Barry Rascovar opines in his Gazette column that Gov. O’Malley’s inaugural address may be positioning for a quest for higher office.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items about former congressman Frank Kratovil, Senate President Mike Miller, Chief Judge Robert Bell and the missing red robe, and journalist Lou Davis.

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