November 17, 2011

State Roundup, November 17, 2011

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EDUCATION FUNDING: Michael Alison Chandler, writing for the Post, says an 11th-hour amendment this year to a much-disputed Maryland education finance law could jeopardize as much as $2.6 billion in local funding that school systems have traditionally counted on, the state teachers union contended in a report. The report is the latest sign that the “maintenance of effort” education law will remain contentious in the next legislative session.

You can download the report at this link.

The state’s Thornton law ensured that local county governments could not reduce funding as the state ratcheted up its funding from 2002 on, blogs the Sun’s Liz Bowie.

FAT CAT CONTRIBUTIONS: Business interests were the biggest contributors to the campaigns of both Gov. Martin O’Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot, according to a report by the Maryland Tax Education Foundation, reports Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com. The report also showed that almost 80% of the total $14.2 million donated to O’Malley came in increments of $1,000 or more, and one-third were $4,000 or more.

WOMEN’S HEALTH: Miranda Spivack of the Post reports that beginning Jan. 1, Maryland women whose income is about 200% of the federal poverty scale, or about $22,000 a year for a single woman, can receive free family planning services, including breast and reproductive cancer screenings, pelvic exams, sexually transmitted disease testing, pregnancy counseling, and contraception.

KASEMEYER FOR TAX ROLLBACK: Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Edward Kasemeyer said yesterday that he personally favors rolling back Maryland’s corporate income tax by 1/4% a year for several years. This would bring Maryland’s 8.25% corporate tax rate – raised four years ago from 7% – closer to Virginia’s 6% rate, Len Lazarick blogs for MarylandReporter.com.

LAX REPORTING: Maryland is one of 23 states that has been lax in reporting mental health and substance abuse records to a national database used to run background checks on gun purchasers, a coalition of mayors found in a report released this week, the Capital News Service’s Andrew Damstedt reports in the Daily Record.

PIANO LESSONS: An otherwise harmonious Board of Public Works meeting hit a dissonant note yesterday when Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot objected to a $553,264 purchase of 32 Steinway-designed pianos for a performing arts center scheduled to open next year at Bowie State University, the Sun’s Michael Dresser reports.

Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com that only 4 of the 32 would be made by Steinway & Sons. Five would be the Steinway-designed Boston model that would go to faculty and 23 would be the least expensive Essex model, both of which are manufactured by Asian piano-makers to Steinway specifications.

SLOTS TALK: A lobbyist for Evitts Resort, one of two bidders competing against each other for a slots license in Western Maryland, recently approached the other about the possibility of brokering a deal, blogs John Wagner of the Post, adding that the slots commission chairman said, “There’s nothing explicitly wrong with that kind of conversation taking place.”

Minnesota’s Lakes Entertainment, which partnered with a Texas firm in Evitts Resort, announced to shareholders not so profitable quarterly results yesterday, reports the Cumberland Times-News.

BALTIMORE CASINO: Developers of Baltimore’s proposed casino say they’re on track to open by the end of 2013, reports Melinda Roeder of WBFF-TB. But it still needs approval by the State Commission.

VEEP BUCKS: The Maryland Film Office estimates that filming the first season of Veep, Julia Louis Dreyfus’s dark sit-com, could generate 2,000 jobs and have an economic impact of $25 million, Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports.

MILLIONAIRES TAX: Maryland Juice is blogging about an “eye-grabbing headline” in The LA Times: Millionaires group to lobby for higher taxes — on themselves, about a renewed push by politically active millionaires to persuade Congress to roll back the Bush-era tax cuts on them. The millionaires’ group – Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength — focused on members of the Deficit Supercommittee, including like Maryland’s Rep. Chris Van Hollen. Only one of Maryland millionnaires, Juice notes, is in the group. Here’s their website.

LOOSER LIQUOR LAWS: Officials in Wicomico County may seek the Eastern Shore delegation’s help in getting a law through the General Assembly that would open up the county’s liquor laws so that it would add a second Class D license specifically for entertainment and amusement establishments, allowing them to let in those under age 21 for the first time.

PG SHORTFALL: Prince George’s County officials are facing a budget shortfall next fiscal year, prompted by falling property tax revenue, Ben Giles reports for the Washington Examiner.

BA CO ETHICS ISSUES: A trip to an exclusive New Jersey golf club by the chief of the Baltimore County Revenue Authority as the guest of a revenue authority contractor is raising questions from ethics watchdog groups and state and county legislators, Bryan Sears reports for Patch.com. The outing has also highlighted an apparent hole in county ethics laws at a time when the county executive is seeking to strengthen the code.

As the Baltimore County Council prepares to take up an ethics reform package, some members say they’re wary of a measure that would make it easy for anyone to access their financial disclosure forms, Alison Knezevich reports for the Sun. And Knezevich writes about Councilman Ken Oliver who has had his own ethical lapses and is trying to maintain constituent support.

FREDERICK LAND PLAN: A crowd of residents — featuring those wanting to slow growth in their neighborhoods and those ready to build – turned out last night for the first public hearing of the Frederick County Planning Commission to discuss rewriting the county’s land-use plan, Pete McCarthy writes for the Frederick News-Post.

MO CO SCHOOL REPAIRS: Andrew Ujifusa of the Gazette writes that concerned Montgomery County parents imploring the Board of Education to fix aging and overcrowded schools can at least point to the fact that a school system proposal, even when adjusted for enrollment, far exceeds the requests of neighboring counties. He outlines the numbers.

WISCONSIN AVE. TUNNEL: Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner writes that the latest cost estimates for rebuilding the popular Capital Crescent Trail make it ”financially unfeasible” to rebuild the tunnel under Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda, according to a Montgomery County planner.