April 12, 2011

State Roundup, April 12, 2011

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WHAT PASSED

ROUNDUP: Here’s a Associated Press at-a-glance roundup of which bills passed the Maryland General Assembly. It ran in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

Brian Witte and Tom LoBianco of the Associated Press write, in the Hagerstown Herald Mail, about some of the more important pieces of legislation and how they fared during the session.

ABC2’s Cheryl Connor presents a roundup of what happened late into the night – finishing with confetti and balloons dropped in the House chamber, and going through all of the bills that will be coming before Martin O’Malley.

WJZ’s Kelly McPherson takes viewers through the highlights of the last day of the session for the 11 p.m. news.

WBAL’s Robert Lang and Anne Kramer have their rundown of the last day of session, plus audio from several leaders in both chambers about the session.

RX POT STUDY: Maryland will study how to develop a medical marijuana distribution system,  and decriminalize small amounts of pot for sick people, under legislation now headed to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk for his signature, Julie Bykowicz blogs for the Sun.

BOOZE TAX: Len Lazarick and Megan Poinski ofMarylandReporter.com write that the House of Delegates and Senate last night passed a new 3% sales tax on alcohol sold in stores, bars and restaurants, with most of the proceeds in the first year going to schools and school construction. Gov. O’Malley said he will sign both bills, which will go into effect July 1.

The tax increase will raise an estimated $85 million a year, with about $47 million going to school construction in the first year and $15 million set aside to help the developmentally disabled, according to an AP report in the Carroll County Times.

IN-STATE TUITION FOR ILLEGALS: After a midday Senate filibuster temporarily delayed its passage, the bill granting in-state tuition for illegal immigrants was sent to O’Malley for his promised signature last night, write Len Lazarick and Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

With Senate lawmakers refusing to sign off on House-backed changes to the measure, the bill’s fate hung in the balance yesterday afternoon, Ann Marimow writes for the Post.

WBAL TV’s David Collins has a video report on the Senate’s filibuster attempt for in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and several of the other issues still pending by the time the evening news came on. WBFF also has a video story on the debate over the college tuition plan.

PARTY DIVISION: The action on these two-high profile issues came on a chaotic day during which lawmakers scrambled to complete work on dozens of bills before the legislature’s midnight adjournment, report the Post’s John Wagner and Ann Marimow.

Both proposals were overwhelmingly opposed in Frederick County’s delegation, where all eight members opposed the alcohol tax and only Sen. Ron Young, a Frederick Democrat, supported the tuition bill, Meg Tully reports for the Frederick News Post.

The passage of both bills, write Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz of the Sun, divided Maryland’s mostly Democratic General Assembly down party lines.

VENTURE FUND: A House of Delegates committee approved Senate changes to a proposed state-run venture capital fund last night, leaving the governor’s top economic legislation with one final hurdle before the midnight deadline, writes Nick Sohr of the Daily Record.

HORSE RACING HELP: The General Assembly sent a bill that provides millions of dollars in grants and loans to help horse racing tracks to O’Malley’s desk for his signature last night, according an AP report in the Carroll County Times.

Nick Sohr of the Daily Record writes that changes made by the Senate would require the jockey club and Rosecroft to reach a simulcast agreement before receiving state subsidies.

MINORITY BIZ CHANGES: The Sun’s Hanah Cho reports that minority owned businesses are concerned about the changes to the state’s minority business program, including eliminating participation goals for African-American- and women-owned firms in state contracts.

PENSION ADJUSTMENTS: Editorialists for the Annapolis Capital write that when a thriving economy brought new revenue to the state, employees and their unions negotiated better benefits and higher pay. So when times are bad, isn’t it reasonable that their compensation be adjusted accordingly?

HEALTH EXCHANGES: The General Assembly approved legislation yesterday morning that would create the framework of a public health care exchange where individuals and small businesses would one day be able to compare and purchase insurance policies, Nick Sohr reports for the Daily Record.

HOSPITAL TAX: A tax on Maryland’s hospitals that would generate about $225 million in new revenue for the state has been approved by the General Assembly, reports Emily Mullin for the Baltimore Business Journal.

DINING A LA FIDO: The Maryland Senate voted yesterday morning for a bill to allow owners to bring their dogs to outdoor dining areas of restaurants if restaurant owners say it’s OK, the AP reports in the Daily Record.

JOBLESS BENEFITS: The General Assembly has approved a measure that’s needed for the state to collect additional federal jobless benefits, according to an AP report in the Salisbury Daily Times.

FREDERICK BILLS: The General Assembly passed five bills sponsored by the Frederick County delegation of state lawmakers during the assembly’s 428th session. Scroll down to the box to read Meg Tully’s summary of them for the Frederick News Post.

ORPHANS’ COURT JUDGES: Prince George’s and Baltimore counties may be the next jurisdictions to require that judges on their orphans’ courts be Maryland lawyers, the Daily Record’s Steve Lash reports.

FRATERNAL SLOTS: Greg Latshaw of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that in the hours leading up to adjournment at midnight, the General Assembly moved through bills in a frenetic finish, with a law approving slots for Worcester County fraternal groups hanging in the balance.

WHAT DIDN’T PASS

TRANSGENDERED BIAS: The Senate has ended debate for the year on a bill that would have protected transgendered people from employment, credit and housing discrimination, reports the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz.

The Post’s John Wagner blogs that the Senate sent the bill back to committee, which, with fewer than 12 hours remaining in the 90-day legislative session, effectively derailed the bill.

Morgan Meneses-Sheets, of Equality Maryland, said the transgender-rights group was “shocked and disappointed” that a majority of senators “took a walk on fairness” and did not vote to pass the legislation, reports the Daily Record’s Steve Lash.

WIND FARMS, SEPTIC LIMITS: Gov. O’Malley yesterday settled on a confrontational line that laid blame on members of the General Assembly for delaying two of his core legislative initiatives – offshore wind development and limiting construction of most new septic systems to reduce pollution in the Bay, blogs Aaron Davis of the Post.

Patch.com conducts video interviews with citizens on their views on subsidizing off-shore wind projects, which O’Malley will likely push next year.

IN PICTURES: The Sun wraps up the legislative session with a large photo gallery covering the 90 days.

OTHER NEWS

JOHNSON DEFENDED: A few days after a plea hearing was set in the federal criminal case against Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, she hosted a community gathering Saturday focused on “empowering and partnering,” that constituents said proves Johnson still is capable of representing them on the County Council, Andrew Waite reports for the Gazette.