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Published on January 9th, 2012 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, January 9, 2012

LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUPS: Maryland’s legislative leaders, meeting with the Maryland Association of Counties, offered a lively preview of what promises to be a 90-day session packed with contentious debates over tax increases to fund infrastructure projects, high-profile environmental issues, the expansion of gambling and same-sex marriage, the Washington Post’s John Wagner blogs.

Senate President Mike Miller told county officials from across that Maryland that he wants to expand casino gambling, increase the gas tax and push some of the costs of state pensions onto the counties, Len Lazarick writes in MarylandReporter.com.

From the budget to medical marijuana to the cigarette tax hike, the Sun editorialists take you on a quick preview of the upcoming session.

Del. Kumar Barve joins Chris Gordon on News4 Today to discuss what’s on the agenda for the Maryland General Assembly’s upcoming session including balancing the budget, upping the gas tax and the flush tax.

Democratic leaders in Annapolis have compiled a “To Do” list for the next three months that includes raising taxes and changing the definition of marriage. Some also want to close off big chunks of Maryland to development and open even more casinos in the state, Annie Linskey and Michael Dresser write for the Sun.

In the Gazette, columnist Lazlo Boyd writes that the ultimate measure of whether the governor and General Assembly are successful this year is whether they can balance the state budget and still invest in Maryland’s future.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Two Cumberland men pleaded with local legislators at their public meeting to support the legalization of the use of marijuana for medical purposes, Matthew Bieniek Cumberland Times-News reports.

SEPTIC ISSUE: Don’t be surprised if longtime waste warriors along the Chesapeake Bay’s thickly populated Western Shore are not sympathetic to claims that builders in still rural parts of the watershed should have unlimited use of septic tanks, Karen Hosler opines in the Gazette.

WIND FARMS: Political currents in Annapolis that seemed poised to help propel the wind energy industry in Maryland just a year ago have since turned against it, reports Aaron Davis for the Post.

COURT COMMISSIONERS: Del. Curt Anderson, who chairs the House Criminal Justice subcommittee. is drafting a bill that would take away warrant power from the state’s 240 court commissioners, who in addition to setting bail, can order someone’s arrest based on another citizen’s word, the Sun’s Tricia Bishop reports.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: In this final installment of WYPR-FM’s series on the issues likely to dominate this year’s General Assembly session, which starts Wednesday, Joel McCord reports on the continuing efforts to legalize same sex marriage.

FANTASY FOOTBALL, REAL BUCKS: Del. John Olszewski Jr., an active fantasy footballer, says he wants to put Marylanders “on the same playing field” with participants elsewhere, and has pre-filed a measure in Annapolis to allow wagers within fantasy leagues, Annie Linskey reports for the Sun.

GAMBLING: Nick Sohr of the Daily Record says gambling is shaping up to be one of the most interesting debates of the 2012 legislative session and, underscoring the need that many in the General Assembly feel to approve table games, it’s going to be a big issue in plenty of other states, too.

FUNDS FOR MO CO: Montgomery County’s 32 state lawmakers have their eyes on bringing education and transportation funding back to the county as the Maryland General Assembly convenes, Rachel Baye reports for the Washington Examiner.

Baye also reports that Montgomery County lawmakers, faced with $135 million budget hole, are weighing tax increases to cover expenses like employee pay raises and public safety funding.

WA CO ISSUES: So what’s on the mind of Washington County’s state lawmakers as they head to Annapolis? Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that it’s money, marriage, foreclosed properties, virtual schools, petition privacy, parole and probation violators and Washington County’s proposed senior center.

FUNDING HBCUS: The Sun editorial board writes that Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities were underfunded during the era of segregation; now the state must find a way to empower them to compete effectively with their traditionally white peers.

SIGN FINES: Individuals and businesses may want to think twice before posting a sign on a state road without proper approval, writes the Gazette’s Nesa Nourmohammadi. On Jan. 1, the State Highway Administration began issuing a $25 penalty for each sign illegally placed on state road rights-of-way and medians.

OPEN CASE PROBLEM: Annapolis Capital columnist Eric Hartley takes a look at the attempts to make more court cases available online and the perils intrinsic in such an open system.

REDISTRICTING FALLOUT: Carroll County may be gaining representatives Annapolis under the current redistricting, writes the editorial board for the Carroll County Times, but it is losing true representation since it will share districts with more populace counties.

Katie Jones details the many changes in representation that Carroll County will face under the new districting plan.

Del. Don Dwyer, a conservative Republican, won’t be running in a new, more racially diverse district centered in Glen Burnie, writes Tim Pratt of the Annapolis Capital. Dwyer has restated his intention to run for the District 31 senate seat in 2014, creating an open seat in the new subdistrict.

ETHICS RULES OVERHAUL: The Maryland Senate will form a new committee devoted to overhauling the state’s ethics rules after a court case last year in which Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) was found not guilty of federal crimes but acknowledged some ethical lapses, John Wagner blogs for the Post.

ENVIRONMENTAL HONORS: The Wicomico Environmental Trust will honor Eastern Shore state Del. Norm Conway with the annual John Groutt Award for Environmental Stewardship, reports Katherine Gunby for the Salisbury Daily Times.

BUSCH MAKES HISTORY: Earl Kelly of the Annapolis Capital profiles the “level-headed” and “even-tempered” Michael Busch, who on Wednesday will become the longest serving House Speaker in Maryland history.

RUCK.US: Ray Glendening, the son of former Gov. Parris Glendening, has started a for-profit website, Ruck.us, to bring people with like ideologies together in the hopes of breaking down the strictures of political parties, writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

CARDIN RACE: Eric Wargotz, a Republican who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2010, said he wants to take a “second look” at running for Senate this year for Ben Cardin’s seat now that state Sen. Anthony Muse, a Democrat, is in the race, the Sun’s John Fritze writes.

Cardin (D-Md.) was endorsed for re-election by the Democrat he beat six years ago – Kweisi Mfume — on the morning after Muse announced he was challenging Cardin in the April primary, Ben Pershing blogs for the Post.

IN THE 6th DISTRICT: On the Campaign Trail, in the Herald-Mail, takes a quick look at the 6th Congressional District race with news on the campaigns of Charles Bailey and Alex Mooney.

FRIEND OF PAUL: Eastern Shore singer Jordan Page, who also writes protest songs that decry big government, big business and the military-industrial complex, has become the go-to entertainer for supporters of Ron Paul, the libertarian Republican presidential candidate who seems to be drawing in young Republican and independent voters, the Sun’s Michael Sragrow reports.

DROP THE ACT: Frederick County Commission chair Blaine Young gets taken to the woodshed by the Frederick News-Post editorial board, which says he needs to drop his radio show and his bombastic radio personality and become the bridge-building representative of all the people of Frederick. This editorial attracted a slew of public comments.

COSTLY CLEANUP: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post writes that officials are decrying what they say is a burdensome state watershed cleanup plan they say could cost almost $4 billion to execute in Frederick County.

FREDERICK LOBBYIST: In hiring a lobbying firm to tout its needs in Annapolis, it appears the city of Frederick has put the cart before the horse, writes the editorial board for the Frederick News-Post.

PG COUNCIL RETREAT: The Prince George’s County Council will meet today and tomorrow in Baltimore for its annual retreat, to be held at the Admiral Fell Inn, writes Miranda Spivack for the Post. The sessions are open to the public, but as of late Saturday, only limited information was available on the council’s Web site.

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