February 9, 2011

State Roundup, February 9, 2011

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GAY MARRIAGE: Hundreds of activists on both sides of the same-sex marriage divide swarmed the Maryland Senate office buildings yesterday, with advocates sharing personal anecdotes and opponents issuing warnings as lawmakers considered legislation that would allow gay couples to marry, reports the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

Supporters of same-sex marriage came armed with personal stories, emotional pleas for equal treatment and arguments about how allowing gay couples to marry could help Maryland’s economy, John Wagner reports for the Post.

Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes that Republican Sen. Allan H. Kittleman — who had endorsed civil unions as recently as a month ago — now says civil unions would consign gay couples to less than equal status.

Calling it a “generational issue,” Senate President Mike Miller gave the legislation a better than 50-50 chance of passing, blogs the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz.

Miller also called gay marriage “a national trend,” according to an AP report in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

A former official with the Ehrlich administration testified for same-sex marriage. The Sun runs a transcript of his testimony.

EDUCATION BILLS: A freshman state senator has introduced four bills that seek to strengthen the autonomy of charter schools and boost teacher quality in public schools, including a measure that would add “ineffectiveness” as a basis for dismissing teachers, reports the Sun’s Erica Green.

VOTER IDs: Del. Kathy Afzali told her colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee that requiring citizens to show identification before they can vote is a necessary and easy way to prevent fraud, but others argued that it would instead turn people away from the polls, Megan Poinski reports for MarylandReporter.com.

OPEN SECRETS: Marta Mossburg writesfor the Frederick News Post Op-ed page about two transparency bills that stand out in the Maryland legislative session this year.

GAS TAX: Nick Sohr of the Daily Record reports that a proposal backed by nearly one-third of the state Senate would add 10 cents to the state’s gas tax and raise the vehicle registration fee by half to pump $450 million annually into transportation projects.

JAIL FEES: House Judiciary Committee members have mixed opinions when it comes to a new fee schedule proposed by the county sheriff for the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, Meg Tully reports for the Frederick News Post.

NIX BOOZE PANEL: After a closed-session vote, Worcester County Commissioners sent draft legislation to Annapolis to abolish the county’s Liquor Control Board, Jennifer Shutt writes for the Salisbury Daily Times.

HEALTH EXCHANGES: Independent health insurance brokers and their clients lobbied legislators in Annapolis yesterday to try to prevent being put out of a business by a new health benefit exchange program proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, reports Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

ANDERSON MULLS RUN: Del. Curt Anderson may mount a challenge to Baltimore City Council President Jack Young, who has held the head council position for a year, blogs the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

UNIFIED DISCORD: Julie Bykowicz of the Sun writes that, in a rare showing of discord among the Senate Democrats, almost half recently signed a letter seeking a more unified approach to policy discussions and leadership selection.

SUFFERING INFRASTRUCTURE: Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com writes that Maryland’s aging and ill-maintained transit, roads, dams, bridges and stormwater systems earned a barely passing grade of C- from an association of civil engineers.

MIKULKSI DIRECTOR: Former president of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners Jan Gardner has been named as U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s state director, reports the Frederick News Post.

LOLLAR FOR TEA: Charles Lollar, a Marine Corps officer who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer last fall, has been named to head the state’s tea party organization, blogs Julie Bykowicz of the Sun.

MORE FISH: Maryland wildlife officials said they have confiscated another 1,100 pounds of striped bass from illegal gill nets found in the Chesapeake Bay, according to WBAL-TV.

PEPCO PROBLEMS: In his first public appearance since the January snowstorm that left hundreds of thousands of residents without power, Pepco’s top executive told Maryland legislators yesterday that the company’s response was “not acceptable, and we’re going to fix it,” Ann Marimow and Hamil Harris report for the Post.

Pepco execs weren’t the only ones to face legislators yesterday, writes Ben Mook for the Daily Record. Executives from BGE and Allegheny Power also were grilled yesterday by members of the Maryland House of Delegates.

But, reports Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald Mail, Allegheny Power spent only five minutes before the legislators, which asked few questions.

Dave Collins of WBAL-TV was in Annapolis for the hearing.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin weighed in on the Pepco outages before the Montgomery County Council, writes Erin Cunningham for the Gazette.

ETHICS COMPLAINT: A high Ehrlich administration official and former Republican candidate for Howard County Council has filed an ethics complaint against county Executive Ken Ulman and Council Chairman Calvin Ball, claiming that they got her fired from a position with the Howard Chamber of Commerce, reports Len Lazarick with MarylandReporter.com.

SPEED CAMERAS: Following up a Patch.com story, the Sun’s Raven Hill reports on the public relations firm with close ties to the O’Malley administration that fueled a campaign on behalf of a client to up the number of speed cameras in Baltimore County.

APOLITICAL OFFICE: Although he ran for office unopposed, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler said the job must remain apolitical, writes Ed Waters of the Frederick News Post.