State Roundup, April 18, 2011

April 18, 2011 at 6:42 am

BUSCH HELPS ANNAPOLIS: Pamela Wood of the Annapolis Capital reports that, in the waning hours of the General Assembly session, House Speaker Michael Busch used his considerable influence to direct millions in taxpayer dollars to Annapolis projects, including an aging arts center and a turf baseball field for kids.

PETITION TO REPEAL: Glynis Kazanjian writes for MarylandReporter.com that opponents of just passed legislation allowing illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition met on Saturday in Annapolis to organize a petition drive to repeal the law. But the elections board has yet to revise signature guidelines for the process or approve wording on the petition.

THE COST: Allowing Maryland’s illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition to attend the state’s public universities is expected to cost at least $3.5 million in five years, writes Hayley Peterson for the Washington Examiner. Fiscal analysts expect that expense to grow annually.

UNDONE, DONE: Although Maryland lawmakers could claim some accomplishments during the 90-day session, they left the capital with a long list of unfinished business, including debates over boosting funding for transportation projects and allowing table games at the state’s slots casinos, reports John Wagner and Ann Marimow for the Post.

The Baltimore Business Journal’s Web Editor Ryan Sharrow sits down with reporters Scott Dance and Alexander Jackson to discuss on the BBJ’s podcast what bills made it through the 428th session of the Maryland General Assembly.

LAST MINUTE DEALS: Car dealers, rental companies, the film industry and newspapers are among the businesses to benefit from last-minute dealing by the General Assembly at the end of the session last Monday, reports the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

BOOZE TAX CONTROVERSY: When the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill last week increasing the sales tax on alcohol from 6% to 9%, less than 20% of the hike’s first-year revenue was slated to go to the mental health programs it had been targeted to, writes David Hill of the Washington Times. Some now accuse legislators of pulling a bait-and-switch on those who needed the bill most.

ASSERTIVE O’MALLEY: Although Gov. Martin O’Malley found this year’s General Assembly less than accommodating, opportunities to reassert his leadership in the state are not far off, opines the editorial board for the Sun.

One of those opportunities could be considered his appearance last Friday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, blogs the Post’s John Wagner, where O’Malley touted Maryland’s education spending and knocked “new tea-partying Republican governors,” before a national television audience.

SEPTIC STUDY: O’Malley is assembling a group to study pollution from septic systems, and plans to sign an executive order today establishing the study, which will examine the extent to which septic tanks from large developments are polluting the Chesapeake Bay, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

WITHOUT WIND: The Sun’s Jay Hancock writes that Maryland can achieve its energy goals without offshore wind farms.

VOTE BOARD TO RECHECK: The Maryland State Board of Elections will take another look at signatures that were deemed invalid in a drive by the Libertarian Party and Green Party to have their candidates recognized on state ballots, says an AP report in the Daily Record.

Maryland’s Greens and Libertarians were told Friday they are no longer official political parties because they failed to win enough votes in the fall election and, the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz blogs, weren’t able to collect enough valid signatures to petition to remain on the ballot.

NO FIX ON RX POT: The Frederick News Post’s editorialists blast state lawmakers for failing to take decisive action to create a robust system that would allow medical marijuana users to legally seek relief from sometimes devastating symptoms.

WHEEL POLITICS: Doug Miller of the Laurel Leader writes that cycling advocates are beginning to feel their oats as a political force. They won a victory in Annapolis this session in getting a bill passed that would allow prosecutors to seek stiffer penalties against drivers whose negligence kills cyclists and others.

WASHINGTON CO ASSESSES: The Republican majority of Washington County’s delegation was glad to see a same-sex marriage bill fail this year and discouraged that Maryland voted to grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.

FIREHOUSE FUNDS: Howard County will receive $500,000 in state funds to help build a new firehouse in Elkridge, a project firefighters have been lobbying for since 2005, reports Kellie Woodhouse for the Columbia Flyer.

STATE SCHOOL AID SOUGHT: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and county schools Superintendent Joe Hairston sent a joint letter to state officials seeking support for an addition project at Stoneleigh Elementary School in Towson, which is 26% above capacity, according to the Towson Times.

STATE THEFTS: Two employees stole thousands from the state government departments where they worked, auditors say, and both were fired, reports Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com. One made $71,000 worth of unauthorized purchases with a government credit card from the Department of Natural Resources, and another took $12,500 in cash from the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services.

HARRIS TARGET: They couldn’t beat him on Election Day, but Democrats will get another crack at Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris this fall — a year before voters head back to the polls in 2012. State lawmakers are shifting their attention to congressional redistricting, John Fritze writes for the Baltimore Sun.

HARRIS, BOOZE & FISH: Humorist and columnist Dan Rodricks of the Sun offers snippets on Rep. Harris, sipping whiskey in Howard County, Del. Pat McDonough’s threatened lawsuit against Maryland’s “Dream Act” and a better way to poach rockfish.

DEARTH OF HONOR: While the General Assembly failed to give famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman a place in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, Cari Shane writes for the Post, women are noteworthy for their absence in being honored with statues elsewhere.

SPLIT ON GOP PLAN: Maryland’s congressional delegation split along party lines Friday over a controversial Republican budget plan for 2012 that would make deep spending cuts while overhauling Medicare and Medicaid, the Sun’s John Fritze blogs.

U.S. REPS RAISE BUCKS: Though it’s nearly 19 months off, members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are already raising money for the 2012 election – some at a faster clip than others – to prepare for the ever-more-expensive campaign season to come, according to campaign disclosure statements, blogs John Fritze of the Sun.

BRAC NOTICE: Maryland U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin will visit the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda today to announce $300 million for traffic improvements related to military base realignment, according to the Salisbury Daily Times.

JOBLESSNESS: Maryland has 210,000 unemployed residents searching for work, reports Jamie Smith Hopkins for the Sun. And Maryland employers have 70,000 job openings. The unemployment rate would drop overnight, state officials say, if many of the jobless people had the skills needed to fill those empty positions.

DRACONIAN LESSONS: Scott Daugherty of the Annapolis Capital delves into etymology to give us an interesting lesson in the term “Draconian,” much loved, overused and misused by politicians.

PRINCE GEORGE’S PAY HIKE: Union officials representing police, firefighters and school system employees in Prince George’s County said they deserve a pay raise, especially if the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is able to get a 2% cost-of-living wage increase for its county employees, Alex Pappas reports for the Washington Examiner.

CARROLL CUTS: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times reports that as the Carroll County commissioners prepare to release their proposed operating and capital budgets for fiscal year 2012, they have told departments and agencies to develop plans to deal with possible cuts.

WA CO SALARIES: Nearly three out of four employees who work full time for the Washington County government will earn more this year than the average income for workers in the county, Heather Keels writes for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

SERVICE FEE HEARINGS: Three public hearings related to changes in county rates and fees are scheduled tomorrow during the Washington County Board of County Commissioners’ meeting, according to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

WICOMICO BUDGET: Greg Latshaw of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt will lift the shroud of mystery on his 2012 budget proposal tomorrow, presenting a full plan showing whether property taxes will go up and which areas will bear the brunt of his cuts.

CHARTER FREDERICK: Ed Waters of the Frederick News Post reports that despite political and philosophical differences, members of Frederick County’s legislative delegation to Annapolis support charter government for the county.

Columnist Don Kornreich of the News Post writes that the production of a draft charter for Frederick County voters to consider involves developing an approach to governance and not a path to resolving substantive issues.

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