State Roundup, January 26, 2011

January 26, 2011 at 7:51 am

COUNTIES STILL PAY: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2012 budget proposal spares counties their worst fear — paying a share of teacher pensions — but passes down new costs through the state’s property tax assessment offices, reports Greg Latshaw for the Salisbury Daily Times.

PENSION FIX: Legislative leaders told businesspeople yesterday that more needs to be done to fix the state’s pension system than what Gov. O’Malley has proposed, reports Scott Dance for the Baltimore Business Journal.

LOWERED EXPECTATIONS: O’Malley’s proposed fiscal 2012 budget is getting good reviews, in large part because hints from O’Malley and his administration led everyone to expect the worst, writes the editorial board for the Annapolis Capital.

POTUS MO’M? Let’s not get too carried away with this Martin O’Malley for president business, writes Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland, if only for the simple fact that 2016 is five years away. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that at least 15 other governors, with varying degrees of seriousness, are also being talked about as potential candidates for president in 2012 or beyond.

ROADS FUNDING: Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola plans on introducing a major tax package to pump $400 million to $600 million a year into the dwindling transportation trust fund, along with a constitutional amendment to put the fund into a “lockbox” so it can’t be raided for other purposes, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

And a constellation of Maryland business groups believe the state must raise more money for transportation, Annie Linskey writes for the Sun, but they also want that constitutional amendment to wall off the funds.

GAY UNIONS: Maryland appears poised this year to expand the rights of same-sex couples, with the state legislature considering proposals on full marriage benefits as well as a compromise that would establish civil unions, the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linskey write. Click on the video at the top of the story to hear Lea Gilmore of the Maryland Black Family Alliance and others speak for the legislation.

Del. Don Dwyer will have none of it. He writes in an op-ed in the Annapolis Capital that homosexuality is a choice and shouldn’t be considered a civil rights issue that allows marriage.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV interviews several gay couples as well as Senate President Mike Miller concerning the issue.

The Montgomery County Council has joined the cry for same-sex marriage, writes Erin Cunningham of the Gazette.

GUN PERMIT: Although Del. Michael Smigiel wants people who have a permit to carry a firearm in Maryland’s border states to have the right to carry them here, the Maryland State Police, which handles gun permit requests, vehemently opposes the proposal, Abby Rodgers writes for MarylandReporter.com.

Meg Tully of the Frederick News Post reports that the bill would dramatically change gun rights for Maryland residents as well as those from out-of-state passing through.

TABLE GAMING: Following up several other stories about gambling, John Wagner of the Post reports that voters could be asked to decide next year whether to allow Las Vegas-style table games at the state’s slots casinos – including a new location in Prince George’s County.

Senate Pres Miller said there is momentum in the Senate to pass table gaming, reports Liam Farrell of the Annapolis Capital.

General Assembly leaders said yesterday that legislation seeking voter approval of table games such as poker and roulette could gain passage either this year or next, blogs Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz of the Sun.

WINE CORKAGE: Baltimore City and Baltimore and Frederick counties are joining the movement to lift the ban on wine corkage at restaurants that hold a liquor license, reports the BBJ’s Scott Dance. As we related yesterday, the Maryland Restaurant Association has come out against lifting the ban.

SEX OFFENDER ID: A new legislative proposal would require that driver’s licenses display a code identifying sex offenders to law enforcement, Holly Nunn of the Capital News Service reports in the Daily Record.

VETERAN SLOTS: Steve Schuster of the Towson Times follows several stories on allowing slots at war veterans’ posts with interviews of those for and against the proposal.

STEADY JOBLESSNESS: Maryland’s unemployment rate remained at 7.4 percent for the fourth consecutive month in December, writes Ryan Sharrow of the Baltimore Business Journal.

NO. 2 IN R&D: Maryland again grabbed the No. 2 spot on an index from a California think-tank that aims to capture a state’s research and development capabilities and human capital capacity, reports the BBJ’s Ryan Sharrow.

SOTU: Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation endorsed the president’s call last night to work across party lines to improve education, facilitate innovation and reduce the deficit, reports Jessica Anderson of the Sun.

If you didn’t notice who sat with who during the State of the Union address, the Sun’s Matthew Hay Brown was paying attention for you.

DUTCH TAPPED: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has named U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger the top Democrat on the House Select Committee on Intelligence, Matthew Hay Brown blogs for the Sun.

CONSERVATIVES ON STEINER: Local conservatives sat down with Marc Steiner on WEAA-FM yesterday to offer their perspectives on the issues of the day. The panel included Trae Lewis – President of the Baltimore Area Young Republicans, Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland and Anne McCarthy, an associate dean at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and former Republican candidate for Comptroller.

ULMAN UPBEAT: Howard County Executive Ken Ulman focused on the positive in his State of the County speech yesterday, reports Lindsey McPherson for the Howard County Times.

HARFORD PLANNING: Harford County Executive David Craig will announce the major planning initiatives for the next three years in an address tomorrow, the Dagger posts.

JUDGE REPRIMANDED: Don Aines of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that a judge in Hagerstown says he accepts a state board’s sanctions following his guilty plea to drunk driving charges.

One requirement is to take daily breathalyzer tests before court, the AP reports in the Carroll County Times.

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