March 22, 2011

State Roundup, March 22, 2011

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FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES: With some for-profit colleges facing allegations of misleading recruits and operating as diploma mills, the General Assembly is targeting the lightly regulated industry with proposed penalties aimed at ensuring that its schools live up to promises made to Maryland students, reports Childs Walker for the Sun.

CAMPUS MERGER: A Senate budget panel voted to ask the University System of Maryland to consider fusing campuses in College Park and Baltimore into a mega-university that would surpass Stanford and Yale in some higher education rankings, Annie Linskey blogs for the Sun.

The merger, proposed by Senate President Mike Miller, would create an institution with more than 40,000 students and $1.1 billion in research funding, Scott Graham of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

University regents would be required to develop a plan and come up with a timeline for the possible merger, writes the Post’s John Wagner.

RETIREE HEALTH PLANS: Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette reports that union leaders say changes to state employee retiree health plans from a House committee are easier to swallow than recommendations by the governor earlier this year.

BWI FIRE STAFF: Dave Collins of WBAL-TV reports that legislators in Annapolis are considering cutting the fire department staff at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. The proposal is buried deep in the budget bill.

POACHING BILLS: Pamela Wood of the Annapolis Capital writes that lawmakers are considering several bills aimed at catching and punishing those who steal the Chesapeake Bay’s fish, crabs and oysters, due in large part to the discovery of illegal fishing nets that trapped nearly 13 tons of rockfish this winter.

WIND POWER: WJZ-TV’s Kai Jackson reports that hundreds rallied in Annapolis last night in support of harnessing wind power off the shores of Maryland, but opponents are concerned it will cost you more money.

ELECTRIC CARS: As the first generation of electric cars produced by major automakers trickles into the market, Maryland lawmakers are considering a trio of proposals intended to spur sales and lay the foundation for the high-tech autos, Capital News Service’s David Saleh Rauf reports in the Daily Record.

BOTTLED WATER: Environmentalists are heading to Annapolis today to speak out against public spending on bottled water as part of World Water Day, which was established by the United Nations to focus attention on the importance of fresh water and its sustainable management, according to an AP story on WJZ.com.

MINORITY CONTRACTING: The House of Delegates passes a plan proposed to test whether removing the race- and gender-specific requirements for contracts might encourage overall minority contracting with the state, Scott Dance reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

BOOZE TAX: A Baltimore senator introduced a measure in the Maryland Senate last night to increase the sales tax on alcohol by 3% over the next three years, blogs the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

The bill, which has the backing of Senate leaders, was put forward as an alternative to raising excise taxes on alcohol, a move that has been a major priority of health-care advocates this session, writes John Wagner for the Post.

CHECKMATE: Sen. Jamie Raskin outmaneuvered Del. Jim Gilchrist during a 30-minute chess match last night, successfully defending the Senate’s title as the more intellectual chamber, blogs Annie Linskey for the Sun.

HOSPITAL TAX: WBAL-TV is reporting that Senate Republicans want a federal investigation into whether a proposed tax on Maryland hospitals violates an agreement between the state and the federal government that limits how much patients pay for care.

HEALTH CARE: The federal health care reform law has provided Maryland with $69.5 million in grants and extended health care services to hundreds of thousands of state residents, according to a White House report released Monday, reports Emily Mullin for the Baltimore Business Journal.

FUNERAL PROTESTS: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger talked with Dan Rodricks on WYPR about his proposal to prevent protests at military funerals.

HARRIS VISIT: Liz Holland of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is making a two-day tour to visit constituents and talk about the federal budget.