State Roundup, July 29, 2011

July 29, 2011 at 7:09 am

RETHINKING TOLLS: Days before the public comment period on toll increases for roads and bridges ends, the Maryland Transportation Authority met to determine ways to buffer the impact of the tolls, but still raise the needed funds, reports The Sun’s Michael Dresser.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE: Senate President Mike Miller told The Post’s John Wagner that he predicts the Gov. Martin O’Malley-sponsored gay marriage bill will pass the General Assembly – not because of O’Malley, but because of the relative ease of getting the Dream Act on the referendum ballot.

HARRIS ON DEBT CEILING: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris told The Capital’s Earl Kelly that there may not be a quick resolution to the federal debt ceiling dispute after the Congressional Budget Office found it may be another week before the federal government defaults.

Harris is one of 39 House members who has signed a pledge promising to only vote for an increase in the debt ceiling if it is accompanied by a balanced budget constitutional amendment, reports the Salisbury Daily Times’ Jennifer Shutt.

In an audio report with Patch.com’s Brad Gerick, Harris said that a balanced budget amendment is the cure to the nation’s problems.

On Thursday, about 20 people showed up at Harris’ Kent Island office, carrying signs to urge him to compromise on the issue, reports Chris Knauss of the Easton Star-Democrat.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY ON DEBT: Meanwhile, the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Federal Relations urged Maryland’s Congressional delegation to “do the right thing for Maryland and vote to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions,” blogs The Daily Record’s Nick Sohr.

The committee compared the situation to Congress pointing a double-barreled shotgun at Maryland, reports The Examiner’s Hayley Peterson.

CREDIT RATINGS: Moody’s placed at least seven local governments in Maryland on a “watch list” for potential credit downgrades if the United States fails to raise the bond ceiling and defaults, reports The Examiner’s Hayley Peterson.

MCDONOUGH FOR U.S. SENATE? Del. Pat McDonough, a Republican who has considered runs for many offices, is considering a run to go to Washington – either replacing U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin or U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger in the 2nd Congressional district, reports MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick.

The Daily Record’s Nick Sohr blogs that what may make McDonough’s mind up is the way that the 2nd Congressional district is drawn in the state’s redistricting process.

While he realized this may appear indecisive, McDonough declared Cardin and Ruppersberger “liberal political twins,” and said he just wants to clean up the mess in Washington, reports The Post’s Ben Pershing.

Patch.com’s Bryan Sears reports that these are not the first offices McDonough has thought about seeking. He has also considered running for governor, Baltimore County Executive, and state Senate.

McDonough acknowledged that any Congressional run would be an uphill battle in Democrat-dominated Maryland, reports David Hill of the Washington Times.

Daniel Bongino, who will possibly challenge McDonough for the Republican nomination, said that McDonough’s decision will not impact him, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

POLICYMAKER OF THE YEAR: The Data Quality Campaign named O’Malley as its “State Policymaker of the Year” for establishing the Maryland Longitudinal Data System Center in 2010, writes The Post’s John Wagner. Watch the video to see why O’Malley was chosen.

PROGRESSIVE MARYLAND: The coalition of labor and liberal groups is struggling to pay its bills and make payroll, writes Margie Hyslop in the Gazette.

SALES TAX PROPOSALS: The Maryland Chamber of Commerce has published documentation online relating to the potential tax increases discussed by the Maryland Senate earlier this week. They were also briefed in MACo’s Conduit Street blog.

SHALE DRILLING: In the mountains of Western Maryland, landowners are waiting for a state study on shale drilling to be done so they can reap their windfall from the natural gas that lies beneath their land, Sarah Breitenbach reports in the Gazette.

MORGAN STATE AUDIT:  An audit of Morgan State University found several control problems – but they university also cleared up more than a dozen issues found three years ago, reports MarylandReporter.com’s Megan Poinski

The Sun’s Childs Walker wrote that lax review procedures caused the university to award scholarships of different amounts.

BALTIMORE COUNTY SCHOOLS: The county school district is cutting about 200 teachers for budgetary reasons, but spent about $1.9 million to hire three dozen new administrators, reports Liz Bowie.

AA COUNTY IMMIGRATION BILL: Anne Arundel County Councilman John Grasso will propose a bill requiring anyone requesting government services to present a state ID in hopes of cracking down on illegal immigration, reports The Sun’s Nicole Fuller.

OWINGS MILLS GROUNDBREAKING: The mood was buoyant as ground was broken Thursday for the long delayed Owings Mills Metro Centre project, reports Raven Hill for The Sun. WBAL’s Robert Lang has video.

OBESITY: Maryland health officials are looking for ways to curb the growing rate over overweight people, Erin Cunningham writes in the Gazette.

MONTGOMERY GANGS: Gazette columnist Blair Lee writes about the need for a curfew in Montgomery County to curb gang violence.

PG HOSPITAL: There’s no easy solution to the hospital mess in Prince George’s County, writes Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar.

COST OF BUSINESS: In his Center Maryland commentary, Don Fry of the Greater Baltimore Committee writes that the cost of doing business is one of the key factors hurting job growth here.

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