March 8, 2011

State Roundup, March 8, 2011

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CHANGING SEPTIC TACK: Facing protests from both parties and rural representatives in the General Assembly, Gov. Martin O’Malley is changing his tactics to crack down on septic systems, offering amendments to his bill allowing farmers to divide their land into more parcels, according to an Associated Press report in the Carroll County Times.

O’MALLEY GETS WET: To highlight the problems with septic systems, on Wednesday Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to don protective gear and wade into Lake Bonnie in Goldsboro, which has been plagued with high bacteria from failing septic systems, reports The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz.

CLOSER TO JACKPOT: Revenues at Maryland’s two slots casinos rose 12% in February, reports Gus Sentementes of The Sun. The Daily Record’s Rachel Bernstein writes that Hollywood Casino in Perryville had its best month since October. The Daily Record’s Jon Sham put together an interactive graphic so you can see how closely the state, education, and other priorities are to hitting the big revenue prize. Breaking it down, the Baltimore Business Journal’s Ryan Sharrow writes that machines in Perryville made an average of $215 per day, while machines at Ocean Downs made an average of $149 per day.

NO PROTESTS: Following last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Westboro Baptist Church’s right to protest, Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger will introduce legislation in Congress making it illegal to protest at a military funeral, writes The Sun’s Matthew Hay Brown. Ruppersberger said that he wants extremists to not use military funerals as a way to promote their agenda, reports Patch.com’s Nick DiMarco.

BIG BONUSES: Maryland’s Congressional delegation paid its staff members millions of dollars in bonuses last year, reports WBAL’s Jayne Miller.

TEXT MESSAGE BAN: The Senate passed a much-debated bill to ban reading text messages while driving 35 to 11, reports The Sun’s Annie Linskey.

GUN DAY: Today is the House Judiciary Committee’s annual “gun day,” where a dozen bills about firearms are on the agenda – though recent history suggests many are doomed to fail, David Saleh Rauf of Capital News Service reports in The Capital.

UNRELIABLE PLAN: Independent consultants found Pepco’s multimillion-dollar reliability plan to be “cobbled together” without much study, and more apt to fail than it should be, reports The Post’s Joe Stephens and Mary Pat Flaherty.

SMOOTH SAILING FOR O’MALLEY: Maryland First Lady Katie O’Malley easily passed scrutiny from the Senate Executive Nominations Committee for a second 10-year term as a district court judge in Baltimore, reports The Post’s John Wagner.

NEW ADULT DRIVERS: A Senate committee hears testimony today on a bill designed to make it easier for adults who have never had a driver’s license to get one, writes The Sun’s Michael Dresser.

CHARITY GAMBLING: Bills are pending that would allow charities like the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion add slots, cards and roulette to their fundraising games, but some predict a bumpy road toward passing, reports The Sun’s Arthur Hirsch.

CAP CUTS: Kristin Harty Barkley of the Cumberland Times-News reports that superintendents and financial directors from Allegany and Garrett county schools traveled to Annapolis to make their case for sustained funding to the General Assembly.

MADD GETS MAD: A bill proposed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Vallario that looks like it is increasing use of ignition interlock devices for drunk drivers actually does not make them mandatory, angering the drunk driving awareness group, reports The Sun’s Michael Dresser.

IGNITION INTERLOCKS: Meanwhile, Del. Benjamin Kramer wants to make ignition interlocks be required for all Marylanders convicted of driving drunk, writes Sarah Breitenbach in the Gazette. The devices require a driver to register a blood alcohol content below the legal limit before starting a car. They are now issued in some drunk driving cases.

GARAGIOLA IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Senate Majority Leader Robert Garagiola is behind many of the most high-profile legislative pushes this session. Center Maryland’s Josh Kurtz profiles him and his legislative efforts so far.

GAY MARRIAGE REPEAL: It hasn’t even passed the House yet, but the Church of Latter-Day Saints is already getting behind the effort to petition for a referendum on same-sex marriage, reports AMERICAblog Gay’s Joe Sudbay reports.

LICENSE PLATES: Del. Kieffer Mitchell wants drivers to be able to keep their old black -and-white license plates, Sarah Breitenbach reports in the Gazette.

BWI UPGRADES: Contracts worth $23 million in upgrades to Baltimore-Washington Airport will come before the Board of Public Works on Wednesday, reports Scott Graham of the Baltimore Business Journal.

NEW PRESCRIPTION PLAN: The Board of Public Works has a $2.4 billion contract for a new five-year prescription plan for government employees and retirees on its agenda for Wednesday, reports the Baltimore Business Journal’s Scott Graham.

IMMIGRANT ACTION: Fifteen University of Maryland, College Park students were among masses in Annapolis agitating for in-state college tuition rates for illegal immigrants graduating from the state’s high schools, reports Molly Marcot of The Diamondback. The Senate is set to act on the bill this week.

Weijia Jang of WJZ has video of the rally, which also took aim at “anti-immigrant” bills.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE AIDE RESIGNS: Sophie Dagenais, chief of staff to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, is resigning from office, effective March 21, reports The Sun’s Julie Scharper. Dagenais said she always planned to resign after a year in the position. The Daily Record’s Melody Simmons reports the mayor is already looking for her replacement.

ICC RUSH HOUR: The Post’s Robert Thomson drove the brand new InterCounty Connector during its first operational rush hour on Monday and found it to be a free and clear drive.

MoCo SCHOOLS: The Montgomery County school board is requesting the state school board to prevent the County Council from cutting its budget below the maintenance of effort, Erin Cunningham writes in the Gazette.

MOCO BAG TAX: Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett proposed a 5-cent bag tax, the proceeds of which would go to water protection efforts, reports The Post’s Michael Laris. He blogs that the tax is expected to raise $1.5 million. The Examiner’s Brian Hughes reports it would apply to all stores, not just ones selling food.

CAMERAS IN HOWARD COUNTY: Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is expected to deliver his pitch for speed cameras near county schools this evening, reports The Sun’s Larry Carson.

FOURTH WORST CONGESTION: A new study ranks traffic congestion in the DC area to be the nation’s fourth worst, reports The Post’s Ashley Halsey III.

GAS TAX: Proposals to increase gas tax have small businesses worried, reports Fox 45.