February 2, 2011

State Roundup, February 2, 2011

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BUDGET FUNDING: Lawmakers and local officials throughout the state are questioning the fairness of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget proposal, which contains millions of dollars less for education and road repairs than state funding formulas require, Julie Bykowicz of the Sun reports.

And Democratic lawmakers say O’Malley has told them he’ll keep an open mind on new taxes as they seek a spending plan that minimizes cuts to education, health care and transportation, according to an AP report on WJZ-TV.

GAY UNIONS: A majority of Maryland Senate Republicans — but not all — oppose legislation to recognize gay marriage, Annie Linskey reports for the Sun.

And nearly a month after announcing plans to submit legislation that would legalize civil unions, Sen. Allan Kittleman says he has not yet decided whether to go forward with his proposal, Alan Brody reports for the Gazette.

OWE TAXES? NO DRIVING: The O’Malley administration is seeking to add new weaponry to the state’s tax-collecting arsenal with a proposal to deny driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations to those who fail to pay their taxes, writes the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

BAD DRIVER FEES: O’Malley’s budget also calls for fines of $100 for each point over five that drivers incur on their licenses within five years. A $500 fine would be assessed for each alcohol- or drug-related driving offense. These bad driver fees are expected to bring in $9 million in fiscal 2013 and $11 million for every year after that, and some drivers believe O’Malley is on the right track, Erin Cunningham reports for the Gazette.

PRIMARY OFFENSE: Legislators in Annapolis are working to make texting and using handheld cell phones while driving a primary offense, reports Dave Collins of WBAL-TV.

HOTEL PER DIEM: Many members of the General Assembly could lose their lodging reimbursements under a bill that would eliminate the $100-a-day perk for legislators who live less than 50 miles from the State House. “We’re asking state workers to accept furloughs and benefit cuts,” said state Sen. Allan Kittleman said. “But we’re still letting legislators who live 10 miles away stay in hotels.” Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com.

COMBINED REPORTING BACKED: Liberal senators and delegates are pressing ahead with bills to bring the combined reporting method of corporate taxation to Maryland, even after the Business Tax Reform Commission rejected the idea in November, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes.

ILLEGALS’ NUMBERS: Maryland, which had 35,000 illegal immigrants in 1990, is now home to 275,000, enough to rank 10th among the states, David Sherfinski writes for the Washington Examiner.

ILLEGALS’ TUITION: Senate President Mike Miller is expecting a tough battle this year on legislation to allow illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition to public colleges and universities under specific circumstances, the AP’s Brian Witte reports in the Annapolis Capital.

PROOF OF CITIZENSHIP: A proposed bill would require adults to provide proof of U.S. citizenship before they can receive certain public benefits, writes Abby Rogers of MarylandReporter.com.

ROASTING PORK: Marta Mossburg takes on pork in a column in the Frederick News Post, and protests the lack of full disclosure of lawmakers who propose such bills.

LANDOW OBJECTS: The company owned by former state Democratic Party chair Nathan Landow is objecting to casino operator Penn National Gaming’s purchase of bankrupt Rosecroft Raceway, arguing it had the higher and better offer at last week’s auction, Hanah Cho of the Sun writes.

PG, MOCO AID CUT: Hayley Peterson of the Washington Examiner takes a closer look at O’Malley’s fiscal 2012 budget proposal and finds that it slashes state aid to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties by a total of $70 million.

CUT MOCO PANELS: Cutting of some of Montgomery County’s 86 commissions, boards and committees is proposed again as a way to reduce its bureaucracy and save millions, the Post’s Michael Laris reports.

PG SCHOOL CUTS: Jenna Johnson of the Post writes that the Prince George’s School superintendent has proposed cutting more than 1,100 jobs, paring back kindergarten programs and increasing some class sizes to close a major budget shortfall.

FREDERICK GOP RULES: A rule change being considered by the Frederick County Republican Central Committee could force c county commissioner off the panel, since the change would prevent those filing as a candidate for public office or serving in public office from being committee members, Meg Tully reports for the Frederick News Post.

ZOO FUNDING: For the second straight year, Maryland lawmakers will consider legislation that would help pay for an animal health clinic at the Salisbury Zoological Park, writes Greg Latshaw for the Salisbury Daily Times.

STATE CENTER GARAGE: Downtown Baltimore commercial property owners fighting the planned $1.5 billion State Center development are questioning the legality of plans to build a $33 million parking garage that would be financed mostly by the state, the Sun’s Lorraine Mirabella reports.

Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com writes that the lawsuit has effectively put the entire project on hold.

STATE ROADS: The BBJ’s Daniel Sernovitz writes that, according to a report by a nonprofit D.C. research firm, almost 44% of Maryland’s major roadways are in disrepair, more than 25% of its bridges are structurally deficient or obsolete, and half its city streets are congested.

The group estimated that the combination of bad roads, congestion delays and the crashes caused by both cost Maryland drivers $7 billion a year, reports the Post’s Ashley Halsey.

State roads are deteriorating at a much faster rate than the state can afford to repair them, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

WBAL-TV’s Barry Simms reports that the cost of poor roads and congestion to each consumer is $2,200 a year.

ROCKFISH SEIZED: Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police officers stumbled upon a poacher’s net bulging with more than 3 tons of rockfish off Kent Island, the largest haul seized by a single patrol in at least 25 years, writes Darryl Fears for the Post. The fish will be separated by size and sold or given to charities.

The haul, writes the Sun’s Candus Thomson, has a market value of about $15,000.