May 19, 2011

State Roundup, May 19, 2011

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BILLS VETOED, MOVED: Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday vetoed four bills, all of which passed the Democrat-led legislature during its recent session either unanimously or close to it, blogs John Wagner of the Post.

O’Malley also announced he would allow three bills to become law without his signature.

One of those is the lifer parole bill, which requires the governor to respond in writing within 180 days when the Maryland Parole Commission recommends parole for a lifer. If the governor does nothing, the inmate will be released, blogs Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.

O’Malley vetoed a Frederick County bill intended to grant a property tax credit to the Monocacy Valley Montessori Public Charter School, saying he did so at the request of the bill’s sponsors because the legislation contained unintended consequences that would have granted tax credits to private schools that rent buildings, Meg Tully reports for the Frederick News Post.

GOOD BOOZE TAX: In the state’s first alcohol tax increase since 1972, Gov. O’Malley will sign a bill today to hike the tax by 3%, reports WMAR-TV. Research suggests the bill will save many lives by reducing alcohol abuse and underage drinking since they are price sensitive.

Looking at things from a consumer’s perspective, opines the Sun editorial board, the liquor tax increase may be the best thing to happen in years. It will mean that alcohol is slightly more expensive, but it also signifies the most significant crack yet in the all-powerful liquor lobby.

TOLL HIKES: The potential hike in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge crossing toll could affect commerce in Worcester County, report Scott Muska and Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times.

With the Bay Bridge as a backdrop, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris said yesterday that Maryland officials have unfairly targeted rural areas of the state for toll increases, and suggested Congress should consider withholding federal transportation money from states unless they demonstrate they will spend it equitably, writes John Fritze of the Sun.

DAM SAFE: While unusually heavy rains are causing minor flooding in Maryland and overwhelming dams and levees along the Mississippi River basin, Maryland Department of the Environment officials have assured the Board of Public Works they are working to ensure that the more than 400 dams across the state stay solid, reports Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com

ANTI-BULLYING: John Patti of WBAL-AM reports that Judge and first lady Katie O’Malley will be visiting Baltimore County students today who created a bullying awareness and prevention public service announcement.

WHITHER THE WHISKERED ONE: Following the disclosure of William Donald Schaefer’s will, the Sun’s Laura Vozzella ponders the fate of Willie IV, his cat.

HOLOCAUST DISCLOSURE: Members of Congress are praising Maryland lawmakers for approving a bill requiring the French rail company SNCF to disclose its role in transporting victims of the Holocaust, if the company seeks a procurement contract to provide MARC train service in the state, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

JACK JOHNSON: In disagreeing with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, the Post’s Robert McCartney opines that that county’s residents should feel embarrassed that the most powerful and prominent county official of the past decade is looking at spending most of the next decade in federal prison for corruption.

The Sun’s editorial board writes that former Prince George’s County Exec Jack Johnson’s guilty plea in corruption case is an all-too-familiar story in Maryland.

Although Johnson would serve his sentence in federal jail, writes Daniel Leaderman for the Gazette, high-profile inmates held at county and state jails would likely have a more sheltered environment than at federal prison.

Legal experts said Johnson, who was Prince George’s top prosecutor before he became county executive, may have initially intended to fight the charges but was swayed by the evidence the government gathered during a years-long investigation, writes the Post’s Ruben Castaneda.

Andrea Noble of the Washington Times reports that a developer who pleaded guilty in connection with a federal investigation of Johnson also appears to have given tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions through “straw donors” to former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and former Rep. Albert Wynn.

MOCO TAX RATE: In separate decisions yesterday, the Montgomery County Council indicated its intention to approve an increase in the county’s property tax rate this year and cutbacks in government employee benefits, reports Erin Cunningham for the Gazette.

ARUNDEL BIAS SUIT: After a U.S. District Court judge trimmed down the gender discrimination lawsuit originally filed against Arundel County Exec John Leopold, but allowed it to proceed, lawyers on both sides claimed victory. But we know who’s not winning: the taxpayers of Anne Arundel County, who one way or another will pay for a court battle that will soak up time and energy that ought to go into public business, opines the editorial board for the Annapolis Capital.