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Published on March 17th, 2011 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, March 17, 2011

ED BUDGET: As expected, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com, the House education appropriations subcommittee boosted school aid for fiscal 2012 so that all local school systems will receive the same amount per-pupil as they did last year.

Aaron Davis of the Post writes that this sidesteps at least one bruising battle with teachers unions and is in the wake of Monday’s protest by teachers unions and state employees that drew the largest crowd to the Maryland State House in more than a decade.

2nd ALTERNATIVE BUDGET: Two Republican state senators are crafting an alternative budget plan for the state, which they plan to present at a hearing before the Senate and Budget Taxation Committee tomorrow, reports Meg Tully for the Frederick News Post. House Republicans have already presented their alternative budget.

UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS: As the University of Maryland System lobbies legislators on behalf of a bill that would allow undocumented students to receive in-state tuition at four-year state colleges and universities, College Park has taken a quieter, but favorable, position, writes Yasmeen Abutaleb of the Diamondback.

DRUNK LIABILITY: A proposed law would hold alcohol vendors and servers liable for serving underage patrons or noticeably intoxicated adults who then kill or injure someone, or damage property while driving drunk, Jen Bondeson of the Gazette reports. Thirty-seven state already have a similar law.

CELL PHONE LAW: Residents have mixed reactions to legislation that would strengthen the law regarding the use of cell phones while driving. The Maryland House of Delegates passed a bill 92-40 that would make driving while talking on a cell phone a primary, rather than a secondary, offense, writes Lauren Fulbright of the Arbutus Times.

DEATH PENALTY: Kirk Bloodsworth spent eight years in prison – two on death row — for a crime he did not commit. You can listen to his interview with Marc Steiner on WEAA-FM as they discuss the future of the death penalty in Maryland, and his advocacy work for reform of the it.

RX DRUG ABUSE: A new report says prescription drug abuse is on the rise in Maryland, writes Emily Mullin for the Baltimore Business Journal, but a proposed state program could help target people who are improperly getting these medications.

FRACKING TALK: As natural gas drilling heads to Western Maryland, listen to Dan Rodricks live on WYPR from noon to 1 p.m. to discuss fracking with environmental reporter Rona Kobell following up her Bay Journal series, a former Pennsylvania natural resources official and Pa. residents who have seen the environmental impact of it first hand.

SEPARATING MEN, WOMEN: Maryland delegates will consider a bill today that would separate men’s and women’s bedrooms in state psychiatric hospitals, a move that advocates contend would protect vulnerable women but that health officials say they need more time to research, reports the Sun’s Yeganeh June Torbati.

DEL. WATERWORKS: Del. Keiffer Mitchell has been taking a ribbing from his fellows in the State House, writes Laura Vozzella, ever since he sympathized with Del. Luke Clippinger’s testimony for the same sex marriage bill. Mitchell, who is African American, is married to a white woman, which would have been illegal in the year he was born. Clippinger is gay.

CLUB SUBSIDIES: Financial data from the Maryland Jockey Club show its tracks were hemorrhaging money in the years before the company began seeking continued state subsidies for horse racing, writes Liam Farrell for the Annapolis Capital.

The editorial board for the Sun writes that O’Malley’s legislation to extend financial aid to the Maryland Jockey Club for three more years goes way too far, giving it no reason to work hard to turn its business around.

6-FIGURE STATE PAY: According to the state Comptroller’s Office, 5,139 government employees were paid more than $100,000 in the last fiscal year. This listing included full-time, part-time and contract employees, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

ON O’MALLEY: On this St. Patrick’s Day, Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland offers an audio commentary on Irish rocker and governor, Martin O’Malley.

LET THE SUN SHINE: Want to know who’s contributing money to Maryland candidates? Go to www.followthemoney.org and check it out. Be careful: This kind of information is addictive, and you may get hooked, writes the editorial board of the Frederick News Post.

FEDERAL WISHLIST: Gov. O’Malley went to D.C. yesterday to ask the state’s congressional delegation to press for federal transportation spending, work force development grants and education investment, Scott Dance of the Baltimore Business Journal writes.

EHRLICH TALKS: John Rydell of WBFF-TV talks to former Gov. Bob Ehrlich about his new job, the gubernatorial campaign, robocalls and Julius Henson.

NO PAY TO PLAY: Miranda Spivack of the Post writes that the Prince George’s County House delegation put the final touches on an ethics bill yesterday meant to send a signal that the county is no longer a place where businesses must “pay to play.”

LEOPOLD PROBE: State prosecutors are investigating whether Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold misused government resources by directing his county-funded security detail to carry out campaign activities, Nicole Fuller and Andrea Siegel report for the Sun.

A union president and donor told investigators he wrote a $4,000 check to Leopold’s re-election campaign in late September and handed it over to a county police officer assigned to protect the county executive, reports Scott Dougherty for the Annapolis Capital.

Jayne Miller of WBAL-TV reports that a rep for Leopold said the county executive recalled two other occasions on which his county-funded security detail collected campaign donations

MAYOR’S ETHICS: Editorial writers for the Sun say that Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has acted according to ethical standards in awarding contracts to her husband’s employer, the Johns Hopkins Health System.

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