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Published on March 29th, 2011 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, March 29, 2011

HEALTH EXCHANGES: Hundreds of health insurance brokers who were afraid the O’Malley administration’s health benefits exchange would put them out of business are now reasonably happy with the bill that yesterday passed the House of Delegates and was reported to the Senate by its Finance Committee, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

HIGHER ED CUTS: Working on two independent versions of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed budget, the state Senate and House of Delegates may be making more cuts to higher education, which university and University System of Maryland officials contend may further burden already cash-strapped institutions, Yasmeen Abutaleb reports for the Diamondback.

GAMING BILLS: Maryland’s Senate gave the final nod to a bill that would drastically lower the tax rate on gaming revenue from a casino at Rocky Gap in Western Maryland in an attempt to gin up interest in the aging site. The lower rate would be in effect for 10 years, Annie Linskey writes for the Sun.

Maryland’s racetracks moved a step closer to securing state subsidies yesterday, but House lawmakers want them to submit business plans and open their books to a state panel, according to an Associated Press report in the Carroll County Times.

Nick Sohr of the Daily Record reports that the racetrack bill would allow the state to subsidize operations at Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park in 2012 and 2013 – but not 2014 – with up to $6 million a year from state taxes on slot machines.

BILL UPDATE: As “crossover day” came and went, Megan Poinski offers an uber-roundup to update the slew of bills that MarylandReporter.com has reported on over the past few months.

WIND PROPOSAL: O’Malley’s legislative agenda was dealt another blow yesterday when his signature offshore wind proposal failed to get either a full House or Senate vote before a major General Assembly deadline, the Washington Times’ David Hill reports.

Mark Newgent of Red Maryland takes on O’Malley, GE and the wind proposal in an opinion piece for the Washington Examiner.

FERTILIZER REGS: Environment Maryland, an independent research organization, wants the state to tighten laws that regulate how homeowners and businesses use fertilizers. It released a report yesterday detailing changes it believes are necessary to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay by reducing its nitrogen and phosphorus levels, reports Sarah Breitenbach for the Gazette.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, accompanying Environment Maryland, urged homeowners “to be part of the solution” this spring when they fertilize their lawns, according to an Associated Press report in the Daily Record.

ANNAPOLIS IN BRIEF: The Senate joined the House of Delegates in voting to end mandatory delivery of residential white pages to home phone company customers, Julie Bykowicz blogs for the Sun.

The Senate has joined the House of Delegates in passing a proposal that enables wineries to ship bottles directly to Maryland homes, writes the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz. The legislation would take effect July 1, in time for late summer wine sipping.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV offers a roundup of bills still expected to be debated, including O’Malley’s wind bill and liquor taxes.

A group in favor of a bill that would allow in-state tuition for illegal immigrants under certain circumstances in Maryland will be expressing support for the legislation in Annapolis today, according to an AP report on WJZ.

NewDEAL: In the Post, Aaron Blake reports that O’Malley has teamed up with Alaska Sen. Mark Begich to form a new non-profit group to highlight young Democratic elected officials with new ideas at the state and local level. The group, called The NewDEAL (Developing Exceptional American Leaders), officially launches today.

BLOCKING STATE CENTER: A group of restaurant owners in Little Italy in Baltimore have joined a lawsuit that seeks to halt the $1.5 billion redevelopment of State Center, scheduled to be the subject of a hearing in Baltimore City Circuit Court on April 6, Melody Simmons reports for the Daily Record.

Daniel Sernovitz of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that the restaurateurs joined a group of downtown building owners that sued the state and a private development team in December to halt the project.

PG ECONOMY: Prince George’s County Exec Rushern Baker is slated to deliver his first State of the Economy address at 6 tonight at the 10th annual Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce economic development showcase, Miranda Spivack blogs for the Post.

SOLAR FARM: Liz Holland of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that during what was termed “a day of history,” University of Maryland Eastern Shore and state officials flipped the switch on a 2.2-megawatt solar farm that will allow the campus to reduce its energy bills throughout the next 20 years.

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