Published on July 1st, 2011 | by Cynthia Prairie2
State Roundup, July 1, 2011
Legislators say that despite the recent success of a law allowing gay marriage in New York, many in Maryland are unlikely to change their positions, writes Alan Brody in The Gazette. Regardless, many supporters are still hopeful a similar law can pass in 2012.
Gazette columnist Blair Lee asks if gay marriage in Maryland is what O’Malley needs to aid a potential White House bid in 2016.
LAWS TAKE EFFECT: The editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times writes that today is the day dozens of new laws passed by the Maryland General Assembly during the 2011 legislative session will take effect — with one notable exception.
SIGNATURE COUNTING: The Republican-led group trying to repeal the controversial new state law granting new benefits to illegal immigrants reported that they’ve met their goal of 100,000 signatures opposing the law, Annie Linskey blogs for the Sun.
Dave McMillion of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that Del. Neal Parrott, one of the chief organizers of the petition drive, said he did not have a feel for how many signatures might be valid, but he felt it was a “good percentage.”
The Maryland State Board of Elections has until July 22 to certify the signatures, but it is likely opponents will know before then whether they have succeeded. Elections officials plan to begin daily updates on the board’s Web site as the tally progresses, writes the Post’s Aaron Davis.
Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com reports the fate of the new law is unknown until voters decide on the issue on the November 2012 general election ballot, but legal challenges are expected between now and then.
WMAR-TV’s Christian Schaffer has a video report on the petition drive.
BOOZE TAX HIKE: Washington County proprietors bracing for Maryland’s hike in alcohol sales tax that takes effect today said the impact of the legislature’s decision is still months away, reports Kate Alexander for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
Cecil County merchants worry they will lose customers as the tax gap between Maryland and Delaware grows, reports Josh Shannon for the Cecil Whig.
As the tax increases today, disability rights advocates and other groups begin jockeying for the revenues it will create, writes The Gazette’s Sarah Breitenbach. She also examines how difficult the tax will be to implement from the business side of restaurants, bars and taverns, and liquor stores.
Brian Witte of the Associated Press writes, in the Salisbury Daily Times, that advocates for health care and the developmentally disabled yesterday cheered the 50% increase in the state’s sales tax on beer, wine and spirits with the hope future proceeds will go to health needs.
Supporters are optimistic a congratulatory letter from Gov. O’Malley on their grass-roots push to raise taxes on alcohol for the first time in decades bodes well for future revenue allocations, reports Robert Lang for WBAL-AM.
Myranda Stephens of WBFF-TV interviews shoppers at one liquor store in Baltimore city.
DISTRIBUTORS STILL RULE: In the fights to have direct shipping of wine and cigars, it’s obvious who still has all the clout in Maryland, opines the editorial board for the Sun. Despite passage of a law allowing direct-to-consumer wine shipping, liquor distributors still rule.
STIMULUS RECAP: As the two-year federal stimulus program wraps up, The Gazette’s Kevin James Shay looks at how the $6.3 billion program helped Maryland.
FAST TRACK SIGNING: Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday called Maryland’s often lengthy and confusing business permit process “one of the weaknesses of our state,” before signing an executive order aimed at easing it, writes Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.
Nick Sohr blogs in the Daily Record that FastTrack will allow developers to apply online for the streamlined state review, which will have agencies working concurrently to vet the project — rather than one at a time.
RACE SIMULCASTING: Hanah Cho of the Sun reports that the state is expected to mediate negotiations on a new simulcasting agreement between Rosecroft Raceway and representatives of Maryland’s thoroughbred racing.
BIO HOME: Maryland worked hard to show itself off as the place for progressive biotechnology companies to be at this week’s annual BIO convention in Washington, D.C., writes The Gazette’s Lindsey Robbins.
CRAIG FOR GOVERNOR? Harford County Executive David Craig – prohibited by term limits from running again – announced he is conducting “campaign schools” across the state, beginning speculation that he may have his sights on something bigger in 2014, writes Alan Brody in the Gazette.
SENTENCING SNAFU: The Maryland State Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy, which sets sentencing guidelines, is having problems with a new misdemeanor offense approved this year by the General Assembly: criminal negligent manslaughter by a vehicle or vessel, writes The Gazette’s C. Benjamin Ford.
ATF PROBE: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, in the latest battle with his Republican counterpart on the House Oversight Committee, says that an investigation into a troubled federal gun trafficking operation should also consider the role U.S. gun laws play in violence on the Mexican border, the Sun’s John Fritze reports.
ARUNDEL GREEN GRADES: Just a few Anne Arundel lawmakers came out with good grades on the annual scorecard from the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, according to the Political Notes column in the Annapolis Capital.
JOHNSON PLEADS GUILTY: Prince George’s County Council member Leslie Johnson, who made international news when she hid cash bribes in her bra, pleaded guilty yesterday to destroying evidence, but she plans to stay in office until she is sentenced in October, Miranda Spivack and Ruben Castaneda report for the Post.
She also pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering, reports the Gazette’s Daniel Leaderman.
Johnson was arrested with her husband, then-County Executive Jack Johnson, in November in an ongoing FBI investigation of pay-to-play schemes in Prince George’s County, Ben Giles writes in the Washington Examiner.
The AP reports in the Carroll County Times that Johnson said, “I made a mistake for which I today accepted responsibility. I only ask not to be defined by this mistake.”
Prosecutors are seeking a 12- to 18-month sentence for her guilty pleas on one count each of conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering. Her husband faces a sentence between 11 and 13 years, the Washington Times’ Andrea Noble writes.
The felony conviction means Johnson will no longer be a qualified voter under Maryland law when she is sentenced on Oct. 13, at which point she cannot serve as a council member under the Prince George’s county charter, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.
Residents of Johnson’s district tell the Gazette’s Abby Brownback that they are hoping for better representation if Johnson leaves her seat – either voluntarily or involuntarily. Because of the criminal charges, Johnson has been stripped of many of her rights on council.
WBAL-TV’s Barry Sims has a video report on Johnson’s guilty plea.
OUTSOURCING HEARINGS: Meg Tully of the Frederick News Post reports that County Commissioners President Blaine Young is encouraging county employees to attend public hearings scheduled this month that will focus on a report that recommended the county outsource 528 core government jobs to a private company.
GROWING FREDERICK: According to 2010 Census figures, Frederick County saw the biggest population rise of all Maryland jurisdictions, with a net gain of more than 16,000 residents. Its closest competitors were Carroll, Charles, Harford, Calvert, Cecil, Washington and St. Mary’s counties, whose gains ranged from 12,000-plus to 9,000-plus, the Frederick News Post editorial board writes.
SALARIES POSTED: Baltimore County government will begin posting the salaries of every county employee online beginning today, reports the Towson Times. The salaries will be listed on the county’s website at http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov, on the Human Resources page of the site under Agencies.
HOCO GEARS UP FOR 2012: Veteran Sun reporter Larry Carson writes his final political column before retiring on how Howard County Democrats, secure in knowing they have President Barack Obama as their candidate, still continue to organize, contact newly registered Democrats, all to build their base of core neighborhood organizers and volunteers.
ENVIRONMENTAL SCORECARD: The Gazette’s Alan Brody examines the Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ annual Environmental Scorecard, which gave senators higher scores for their support of green initiatives.
GAZETTE NOTEBOOK: This week’s notebook has items about the “Poopy Award,” a surprise serenade for U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, DREAM Act petitioning pranks, and Larry Carson Day in Howard County.
FIRST AMENDMENT AND ROBOCALLS: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar asks if the robocall case filed against ex-gov. Bob Ehrlich campaign aides Paul Schurick and Julius Henson could be found in violation of the First Amendment.