State Roundup, February 28, 2011

February 28, 2011 at 7:44 am

GAY MARRIAGE: The House committee hearing on whether to allow same-sex couples to marry opened Friday afternoon with testimony from bill sponsors, openly gay legislators and other supporters. But after an hour, they switched to testimony from opponents, a plan they intend to continue for the length of the debate, blogs the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz. Be sure to read reader comments.

As debate in the House heats up, opponents acknowledged the bill might pass this week, writes the Post’s John Wagner, and they are already gearing up for a referendum on the issue.

The battle has been one-sided, with opponents much less visible in the state capital, writes Annie Linskey of the Sun. But those who want to preserve traditional marriage are just beginning to show a coordinated resistance.

Advocates expressed confidence Friday afternoon that the measure would find similar success in the House of Delegates, Alan Brody and Sarah Breitenbach write for SoMdNews.com.

Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com sits down with Del. Heather Mizeur to discuss the progression of the bill and what’s up next for it .

As we head into Week 2 of the debate, WJZ-TV’s Derek Valcourt speaks with people on both sides of the fight. Scroll down for the video report.

Peggy McEwan of the Gazette goes to Silver Spring to attend the anniversary celebration of 10 gay couples who were married a year ago in D.C.

Columnist Susan Reimer of the Sun writes about bigotry, the movement away from it and how we will look to future generations if we hold on to it.

Sen. Joanne Benson, who missed Thursday night’s vote on same-sex marriage because of a phone call, on Friday asked her colleagues to let her cast a vote, 17 hours after the rest of the body approved the controversial measure 25-21. Sen. Pres Mike Miller said no, adding “Let that be a lesson to the new folks.”

Steve Chapman writes for the Washington Examiner that in if the Defense of Marriage Act were struck down, the federal government could then treat all states equally, by abiding by whatever decision they made on the matter.

O’MALLEY VS. CHRISTIE: Alexander Burns of Politico writes that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are on a collision course. Both are forceful partisans who rank at the top of the next generation of prospective presidential candidates. But it was Christie who got the cover of this week’s New York Times magazine.

O’Malley criticized Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s battles with unions there during a debate with Texas Governor Rick Perry sponsored by Politico on Friday, Glynis Kazanjian writes for MarylandReporter.com

CYBERSECURITY: At the weekend gathering of governors, Gov. O’Malley led a panel yesterday on cybersecurity, calling attacks on state and federal databases “one of the nation’s great emerging threats,” Julie Bykowicz writes for the Sun.

DEATH PENALTY: Rather than giving closure, the death penalty becomes an unwieldy burden for many victims’ families, the Sun editorial board writes in a very thoughtful piece.

SEPTIC BAN: Sen. David Brinkley has delayed action on a proposed ban on septic systems, but the bill is likely to move forward this week, reports Meg Tully for the Frederick News Post.

POTHOLES & POLITICS: The slashing of state aid for road repairs means not only a proliferation of potholes, but also talk of a gasoline-tax increase at a time when fuel prices are already soaring, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

NO TAX REFUND: A bill being considered by the state legislature would prevent Anne Arundel County residents wanted on outstanding warrants from receiving a state tax refund. Supporters of the proposal hope to later extend the idea to the rest of the state, Andrea Siegel reports for the Sun.

LEGAL POT: Maryland lawmakers will be holding a hearing this afternoon on a measure to legalize medical marijuana in Maryland. There’s an AP report in this morning’s TBD.com.

DRUNK ID: Ryan Marshall of the Carroll County Times reports that a Carroll legislator has proposed a bill that would require motorists convicted a third time of driving under the influence to have a notice put on their driver’s licenses.

FEDERAL SHUTDOWN: If Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on a budget by Friday, the government shutdown would deal a blow to a Maryland economy still pulling out of the recession, Capital News Service’s Andy Marso reports in the Salisbury Daily Times.

EDUCATION FUNDS: Calling education funding “our seed corn,” Bebe Verdery of the ACLU writes in a op-ed for the Sun, that this is the last place the General Assembly should cut spending. “If we eat it now instead of planting it,” she writes, “there’s no harvest down the road.”

OTB STRUGGLES: The state’s four remaining off-track betting facilities are struggling to stay open along with the declining horse-racing industry, Hanah Cho reports for the Sun. Sun Photographer Kim Hairston shot a series of photos inside the Cracked Claw, one of four remaining OTB facilities in the state.

PRINT SHOP: Ryan Marshall of the Carroll County Times writes that it isn’t only legislators who are kept busy during the 90-day session. The workers in the legislative print shop keep pumping out the legislation.

POACHED FISH: Maryland Natural Resources police have found another illegal rockfish net off Kent Island with up to 400 pounds of fish, the AP reports in the Daily Record.

ICC TOLL: Robert Thomson of the Post answers reader questions on paying the toll along the ICC. And opinionators for the Frederick News Post write that it may be years before we know whether the cost of building the road has been worth it.

FARMS VS. EPA: The American Farm Bureau Federation has filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the EPA from instituting a pollution diet on the Chesapeake Bay, arguing that it is the responsibility of the six states in the region to regulate runoff. U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin says the case lacks merit, writes Darryl Fears of the Post.

BACO FEES: County Exec Kevin Kamenetz told state lawmakers Friday that Baltimore County needs to raise its fees for liquor licenses and a range of other business permits by an additional $2.2 million a year to bring in more revenue and cover the cost of inspections, Gary Haber writes for the BBJ.

Bryan Sears of Patch.com writes that most of the fees have not been touched since they were instituted by the General Assembly in the 1940s and 1950s. Some date back to 1920 and 1858. Even so, owners are saying some of the hikes could devastate their businesses. You can listen to Kamenetz’s testimony here.

Raven Hill of the Sun writes that Kamenetz described most of the proposed fee hikes as modest: a plumber’s or dry cleaner’s license could go from $15 to $40. For restaurant owners, the increases vary from $25 to $1,325 higher than the current rate. Liquor license fees could run from $100 to $2,500; the current maximum is $1,000.

ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD: A partially-elected Baltimore County Board of Education is still possible, despite the county Senate Delegation nixing a bill that would have created a board with a mix of appointed and elected members. Instead, writes Steve Schuster for the Towson Times, it supported a plan to form a task force to study the issue, and recommend how — or if — the school board makeup should change.

ANNAPOLIS PAGES: Ryan Marshall of the Carroll County Times writes about the four local pages who learn state government up close.

ELECTION BOARD: A bill before the state Senate would establish five full members of Frederick County Board of Elections with no alternates, reports Meg Tully for the Frederick News Post.

ROBOCALL DECISION: A long-awaited state investigation into an attack robocall in the last Washington County Commissioners election has ended without criminal charges, Andrew Schotz reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

EX-MAYOR DIES: WBAL-TV is reporting that John Thomas Chambers Jr., 82, the first and only African-American mayor of Annapolis, has died. Chambers served on the city council for 14 years and as mayor for two months in 1981. He was appointed by the City Council to replace then-acting Mayor Gustav Akerland, who committed suicide, writes John-John Williams of the Sun.

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