August 2, 2011

State Roundup, August 2, 2011

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HOUSE OKS DEBT DEAL: The House of Representatives approved a bipartisan deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling yesterday in a vote that splintered Democratic and Republican members of Maryland’s congressional delegation and pushed the months-long battle toward a climax in the Senate today, John Fritze reports for the Sun.

BIG CONSEQUENCES FOR MD: Maryland’s massive reliance on federal dollars means that even small changes in the U.S. budget mean large consequences for the state that mostly surrounds the District of Columbia, opines business columnist Jay Hancock for the Sun. The changes announced yesterday are not small.

CREDIT UNIONS STEP UP: Eileen Ambrose of the Sun reports that while congressional leaders work to push through a deal to raise the government’s debt ceiling, some credit unions that serve federal employees in Maryland and Washington have developed programs to assist their members should Congress fail to raise the government’s borrowing limit and Uncle Sam can’t pay workers’ wages or retirees’ benefits this month.

HARRIS ON DEBT CEILING: As Congress moves closer to the deadline to raise the debt ceiling, Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM speaks with U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican representing Maryland’s 1st District, to hear his perspective. Listen here to the interview.

O’MALLEY SUPPORTS DEAL: Gov. Martin O’Malley voiced support for the debt-ceiling deal pending in Congress but blasted “tea-partying, narrow-minded” Republicans for bringing the country to the brink of an “economic suicide pact,” blogs John Wagner for the Post.

TAX HIKES RECOMMENDED: The progressive Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute is recommending $2.6 billion in tax increases to cure state budget shortfalls, including $2 billion on consumer services that are not currently taxed, blogs Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

IMMIGRATION REFERENDUM CHALLENGED: Annie Linskey of the Sun reports that the immigrant advocacy group Casa de Maryland asked a court yesterday to toss out the referendum aimed at overturning the new law that extends in-state tuition breaks at Maryland’s public colleges and universities to illegal immigrants.

Eight Maryland residents — including two illegal immigrants — also join the suit as named plaintiffs, reports Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

The lawsuit contends that tax money the DREAM Act would direct to tuition aid for undocumented immigrants effectively puts the measure in a class of laws dealing with state budget issues, making it off-limits to a referendum, Aaron Davis reports for the Post.

The suit also contends that more than 57,000 of the 108,923 petition signatures validated by the Board of Elections are invalid, reports Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner.

Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette reports that the lawsuit, filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, has been expected since a petition drive to overturn the law was announced in the spring.

FRANCHOT DISAPPOINTS: A coalition of Baltimore community groups has written to Comptroller Peter Franchot “to express our dismay and disappointment” that he has yanked his support from the $1.5 billion State Center project, despite his votes for the project in the past, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

DEATH PENALTY USE: Michael Corbin of the Urbanite reports that Maryland, and with 33 other states, still allows the death penalty, but actual executions have become rare, and each of Maryland’s jurisdictions handles capital punishment cases differently.

TOLL HIKE DELAYS: The large turnout and impassioned pleas during public hearings in Havre de Grace and Perryville may have persuaded Maryland Transportation Authority officials to alter their proposal for the Hatem Bridge toll hike and likely delay its October implementation, state Sen. Nancy Jacobs has told Brian Goodman of the Dagger.

Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley says because of changes being considered in response to input at public hearings held concerning all the hikes, the MdTA may not vote on any final schedule on Aug. 25, as originally planned, according to the Annapolis Capital.

Columnist Mike Blackson of the Carroll County Times writes that the toll hikes in this economy were not a good idea.

LOTTERY TAKE IS UP: Lottery revenues in fiscal 2011 continued to surpass previous proceeds, generating $1.7 billion in sales and directing $519.37 million to the state’s general fund, writes Sarah Breitenbach for the Gazette.

BUDGET ‘WOES’ CHALLENGED: Frederick County’s former finance head yesterday challenged portrayals of Frederick County’s fiscal woes that local leaders have used to support the need for budgetary overhaul, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.

FOOD RECYCLING: Opinionators for the Frederick News Post say that recycling food waste into soil nutrients, a pilot program now in Howard County, should be given serious consideration by all jurisdictions.

GROUP VETS CANDIDATES: With a special primary election to fill former Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson’s seat expected to take place in about two months, a political watchdog group has begun vetting candidates, writes Andy Brownback of the Gazette. Sandy Pruitt, of People for Change, said, “We’re looking for a candidate not tied to the establishment, who’s innovative, creative, an independent thinker.”