State Roundup, April 6, 2011

April 06, 2011 at 6:46 am

CAPITAL BUDGET: The House of Delegates yesterday approved $925 million in new borrowing as part of a $3 billion capital budget, the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz reports. The plan, which would fund major investments, now awaits the blessing of the Senate, which has until the end of the session Monday to act.

Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com writes that the capital budget is funded through bonds, and the money is spent on infrastructure projects across the state.

The capital budget includes $267 million for environmental and agricultural projects, including $180 million for nutrient removal technologies in 67 of the state’s largest wastewater treatment plants, according to an AP story in the Daily Record.

OPERATING BUDGET: Aaron Davis of the Post writes that budget negotiators in Annapolis agreed to spend a year studying the merger of the state’s two top public universities to save money, and left it up to leaders of the House of Delegates to decide whether they would follow the Senate and increase Maryland’s sales tax on alcohol.

If delegates go along with the Senate alcohol tax plan, it would provide $21 million for additional education aid for Prince George’s County and Baltimore city, $5 million to reduce the developmental disabilities waiting list and about $3 million would go to the general fund, Alan Brody writes for the Gazette.

PENSION TENSION: The Sun’s Annie Linskey and Liz Kay interview state workers who are worried about the changes in their pensions and the resulting smaller paychecks.

Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that Washington County Republican Del. Andrew Serafini described the newly minted state pension agreement “a good first step.”

NEW CAR FEE: A budget conference committee decided yesterday to raise a fee that car dealers are allowed to charge for paperwork related to buying a new car. The fee will go from $100 to $200 for the next three years and $300 a year after that, according to a report on WBALTV.com. The state will generate about $6 million a year at first from the fee increase.

TIT FOR TAT: The House Rules Committee voted yesterday morning to hold all Senate bills in their grasp, a maneuver orchestrated by Del. Maggie McIntosh who wanted to send the other chamber a message that they should release the House bills locked in the Senate rules panel, blogs Annie Linskey for the Sun.

INVEST MARYLAND: A pared down version of the governor’s top economic proposal cleared a House of Delegates committee yesterday, but significant differences remain with the direction senators are taking on the state-run venture fund plan, Nick Sohr reports for the Daily Record.

Scott Dance of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that the committee also voted to broaden the companies that are eligible for the investment.

GOVERNMENT FOLLY: Columnist Marta Mossburg opines in the Frederick News Post that if lawmakers’ wages were garnished to pay for the folly of sustaining the Rocky Gap resort, it might have ended more quickly. But the bondholders’ ultimatum should serve as a warning for elected officials that they cannot run the rest of state government like Rocky Gap with impunity.

IN-STATE TUITION: Julie Bykowicz of the Sun blogs that the controversial plan to allow undocumented immigrants to pay in-state college tuition rates is on track for passage this year, with a vote yesterday afternoon to send the bill for debate in the full House of Delegates.

The Post’s Ann Marimow writes that legislators amended the bill to address concerns among fellow Democrats about competition for a limited number of in-state slots at Maryland’s four-year institutions.

BIAS SUITS: A bill to grant the right to sue for people discriminated against in places of public accommodation — like restaurants, theaters and hotels — is being smothered by Senate amendments seeking to water down the bill, blogs Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com.

TRANSGENDER BIAS: The Senate Rules Committee yesterday revived a controversial bill that prohibits housing and employment discrimination against transgendered people, voting 6 to 3 to move the measure to the Senate Judiciary Committee, writes Annie Linskey in the Sun.

WIND SUPPORT: Gov. Martin O’Malley won support from a key House lawmaker in his effort to spur the development of one of the nation’s first offshore wind farms. There could be a committee vote on the bill as soon as today, writes the Post’s Ann Marimow.

WASTE-TO-ENERGY: Waste-to-energy is a proven source of clean, renewable energy that converts municipal solid waste into electricity and steam via combustion. This material must categorized as renewable and this legislation be passed, writes William F. Brandes in an op-ed in the Sun. By doing so, he says, Maryland would continue to lead the way toward producing renewable energy.

Such a plant is planned in Frederick County, reports Meg Tully for the Frederick News Post, where the county government hopes to partner with neighboring Carroll County to build a plant for this new method of trash disposal, rather than relying on landfilling.

CASINO REVENUE: Rachel Bernstein of the Daily Record reports that the state’s two casinos generated nearly $13.1 million in revenue in March. And click here for Jon Sham’s nifty interactive revenue distribution calculator.

DYING INDUSTRY? The Annapolis Capital editorial board writes that the numbers on how much the Maryland Jockey Club lost last year should prompt more thought by legislators about what the state gets from propping up an industry that can’t stand on its own legs.

DJS REPORTS: Capital News Service’s Holly Nunn reports in the Daily Record that, in an attempt to fix the state’s most troubled agency without spending more money, lawmakers are asking the Department of Juvenile Services for reports rather than policy changes.

UNIVERSITY CUTS: The General Assembly has agreed to cut $4 million in spending from the University System of Maryland’s central office for the next fiscal year, reports Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald Mail, finding a middle ground between the House and Senate.

Rachel Roubein of the Diamondback writes that the cut was a far cry from the $8.1 million the House of Delegates had recommended.

PRIMARY DAYS: Under a bill, which passed the Senate unanimously yesterday and is now headed for O’Malley’s signature, voters would cast ballots in the 2012 presidential primary election in April and the 2014 gubernatorial primary would move from September to June, John Wagner and Ann Marimow report for the Post.

WINE AT FARMERS MARKETS: Both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly have passed a bill that will allow wineries to sell their products at 12 special events a year including farmers markets in Frederick County, writes the Frederick News Post’s Meg Tully.

CHARTER SCHOOL HELP: A bill that exempts Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School from paying property tax for its Frederick school building has been approved by both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly, reports Meg Tully for the Frederick News Post.

WICOMICO SCHOOL FUNDING: Wicomico County, for the second straight year, may fall short of funding its school system at the minimum level set by state law, Greg Latshaw reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

SAFEZONES SPEED CAMERAS: To reduce the number of highway workers injured or killed by speeding cars, state officials will continue to use the SafeZones speed camera program, Shantee Woodards reports for the Annapolis Capital.

SCHAEFER RELEASED: After a five-day hospital stay for pneumonia, former Gov. William Donald Schaefer returned yesterday to his home at the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville, the Sun’s Jessica Anderson reports.

PG SCHOOLS TO APPEAL: Prince George’s County’s Public Schools officials said they will appeal federal government penalties alleging they shortchanged more than 1,000 foreign teachers brought to staff county classrooms since 2005, Daniel Valentine reports for the Gazette.

FED GOVT SHUTDOWN: A leading federal employees union that represents 14,615 government workers who live in Maryland sued President Barack Obama’s administration over what it calls a lack of information about how a government shutdown would be implemented if Congress fails to pass a spending plan by Friday, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

Federal agencies in Montgomery County are drawing up contingency plans in the event the federal government shuts down at midnight Friday, reports C. Benjamin Ford for the Gazette.

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski is supporting a bill that would cut off paychecks to lawmakers if they fail to reach a budget compromise, according to WBALTV.com. “If there is a government shutdown, I don’t think members of Congress should get paid,” she said.

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