May 11, 2011

State Roundup, May 11, 2011

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DREAM ACT SIGNED: Dozens of illegal immigrants celebrated in Annapolis yesterday as Maryland officially made them eligible for tuition discounts at colleges and universities — an issue that ignited impassioned opposition during the legislative session and is already subject to a repeal effort, writes Annie Linskey for the Sun.

From senators and clergymen to high school students in T-shirts who wouldn’t give their last names, the mood was joyous as the crowd celebrated years of struggle, phone banks and lobbying, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

“This will allow us to have a more highly educated workforce in our state,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said during the bill-signing ceremony, where he signed scores of other measures, according to an AP report in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

The law takes effect July 1 and students could receive in-state rates as early as this fall, writes Glynis Kazanjian of Patch.com.

Sponsors had worked for years to pass legislation that would allow illegal immigrant students in Maryland to continue their education by paying in-state tuition at the state’s four-year institutions, blogs Ann Marimow for the Post.

WBAL-TV’s Dave Collins reports that while supporters were celebrating, opponents were collecting petition signatures. He also reports on other bills signed.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV also was in Annapolis for the signing of the Maryland DREAM act.

MEDICAL POT: Kelly McPherson of WJZ-TV reports that O’Malley signed into law a bill that gives users of medical marijuana some legal protections.

ROCKY SLOTS DEAL: Gov. O’Malley signed legislation yesterday reducing the state’s take of Rocky Gap gambling proceeds to 50% from 67% in the first 10 years of operation, offering better terms to prospective slot-machine operators, according to an AP story in the Daily Record.

Here’s a list of other bills signed into law yesterday by the governor.

CUTS HURT IN-STATE STUDENTS: State budget cuts affect 350 high-achieving high school seniors who were planning on attending Maryland colleges with the help of a state scholarship program, report Yeganeh June Torbati and Childs Walker for the Sun.

POOR GRADES: The swelling tide of students who graduate from state public high schools without basic reading or math skills should halt the beatification of retiring schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick and shatter the myth of the state’s unparalleled public schools, writes columnist Marta Mossburg in the Sun.

TRANSPORTATION FUND: Gov. O’Malley is trying to revive discussion of the state’s depleted transportation fund in anticipation of the issue’s coming up in the fall special General Assembly session intended to redraw congressional district lines, Larry Carson reports for the Sun. If Howard’s delegation is any measure, it will be tough to pass anything.

FOLLOWING THE MONEY: The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that Maryland ranks among the best states in measuring the results of transportation spending, according to a report released today by two important think tanks.

The data collection ensures that Maryland taxpayers can get the biggest bang for their bucks, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

GREEN BUILDING CODE: Maryland has become the first state in the nation to embrace a green construction code, which green building advocates hope will pave the way (so to speak) for much more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly structures, blogs Tim Wheeler at the Sun.

NO TO TRASH TO ENERGY: The bill on Gov. O’Malley’s desk that would qualify trash incineration as a “Tier 1” renewable energy source would be disastrous for advancing the state’s top waste-management priorities — reduce, reuse and recycle — and legitimate renewable energy, Brenda Platt of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance writes in an op-ed piece for the Sun.

FEDERAL FUNDS TO DROP: The governor’s Grants Office has released a report detailing the federal funds that have flowed into Maryland since 2009 and which are planned through next year, when federal funding is expected to decline by more than a billion dollars, writes Gus Sentementes for the Sun.

PROTECT OYSTER BEDS: The state’s oyster beds must be protected, opines the editorial board for the Sun, not only for those who love to eat oysters but for the health of the Bay as well.

BAY RIVER HEALTH: Most Chesapeake Bay rivers and streams are still in poor health, writes the Sun’s Tim Wheeler, even though levels of nutrient pollution have slowly dropped at two-thirds of the places where they’ve been monitoring water quality for the past 25 years.

BACO BUDGET: The Sun’s Raven Hill reports that officials from four Baltimore County agencies say they could not absorb an estimated $726,000 in total budget cuts proposed by the auditor’s office.

FUNDS RESTORED: The association that represents volunteer firefighters in Montgomery County could have part of its funding restored as part of a reconciliation list that includes additions and subtractions from the fiscal 2012 budget of Executive Ike Leggett, reports Erin Cunningham of the Gazette.

ARUNDEL BUDGET: Schools, library dominate a hearing as they complain that Anne Arundel budget cuts are too harsh, writes the Annapolis Capital’s Tina Reed and Erin Cox.

AFFORDABLE HOMES: As part of his affordable homes initiative, O’Malley announced a $1 million donation from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation to help create new rental homes in the state for people with disabilities and extremely low incomes, Pamela Wood writes for the Capital.

HOYER ON DISCLOSURE: U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, said he opposes a White House plan that would require federal contractors to disclose their political contributions as a condition for winning government business, blogs John Fritze of the Sun.