January 12, 2012

State Roundup, January 12, 2012

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89 DAYS TO GO: Speaker Michael Busch gaveled the House of Delegates into session at noon yesterday for what promises to be a busy and divisive session, Pamela Wood and Earl Kelly report for the Annapolis Capital.

The General Assembly opened its 2012 session among pomp and talk of possible tax hikes, writes Steve Kelly and Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette.

Melinda Roeder of WBFF-TV reports on the possible gas tax hike.

Environmentalists also rallied outside the State House, reports John Rydell for WBFF-TV.

PENNY TAX HIKE? Gov. Martin O’Malley floated the idea of a penny sales tax hike while speaking with Marc Steiner on WEAA-FM. You can hear the interview here. Steiner also interviewed state Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, which you can hear here.

“These bridges don’t build themselves,” O’Malley said, reports Brian Hughes of the Washington Examiner. “One penny on a sales tax is a pretty big yield.”

Increasing the sales tax from the current 6 cents on the dollar to 7 cents would raise about $600 million a year, Annie Linskey and Michael Dresser report for the Sun.

“He floated it. He did not commit to doing it,” O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory told reporters, blogs John Wagner of the Post.

CHUCKLES: John Wagner and Aaron Davis of the Post pick out a few humorous quotes from the session’s opening day.

MD SCHOOLS ON TOP: For the fourth year in a row, Maryland public schools have come out on top on the annual state-by-state report card published by Education Week magazine. Maryland earned its top place with an overall B+ grade, compared to a C average for the nation as whole, Len Lazarick writes for MarylandReporter.com.

The state received high marks for overall student achievement, which has been on the rise on national tests, and for how equitably it allocates funds to different schools, Liz Bowie reports for the Sun.

DEATH PENALTY: Maryland Juice blogs about the death penalty and the fact that two opponents have been tapped to share the majority whip’s role in the state Senate. Juice also writes about Kirk Bloodsworth, a former Baltimore County resident and well-known opponent of the death penalty, who had been on death row. Scroll down for an interview with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown onthe issue.

NEW MAP: Gov. O’Malley quietly introduced his new legislative redistricting map yesterday, which included a number of changes proposed to his advisory committee in December, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com. Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com created an interactive version of the map, featuring district demographics and street-level district lines.

RALLY AGAINST CUTS: The Save Our State Coalition, which includes the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute; United Food and Commercial Workers; the Service Employees International Union and the NAACP, kicked off the legislative session on yesterday with a rally against the state’s cost-cutting budget balancing, Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com reports.

MILLER PROMISES BRIDGE: State Sen. Mike Miller, in an expansive mood after being elected president of that chamber for the 26th straight year by a unanimous vote, vowed yesterday to deliver money for a replacement bridge over the Choptank River in a Republican senator’s district whether or not minority lawmakers cast votes for a higher gas tax, the Sun’s Michael Dresser reports.

ETHICS IN THE ASSEMBLY: The editorial board for the Sun writes that even as senators and delegates greeted each other after an absence of nine months, state Sen. Ulysses Currie served as a highly visible, awkward reminder of what could prove to be one of the most difficult pieces of business the legislature will have to take up this year – policing its own for ethical lapses.

STONE MARKS 50th: Baltimore County Sen. Norman Stone, 76, marked his 50th opening day as a member of the General Assembly yesterday, blogs Michael Dresser for the Sun.

GEORGE TO LEAD: Del. Ron George, R-Arnold, was elected the new chairman of the Anne Arundel County delegation, but the group’s otherwise collegial meeting left one member bitter over the way votes are counted within the group, Earl Kelly reports for the Annapolis Capital.

WHY IVEY WON’T RUN: Former Prince George’s County state’s attorney Glenn Ivey says he will not run for Congress, writes Daniel Leaderman for the Gazette. “I couldn’t raise enough money to win in the short time frame I’ve got left,” Ivey said.

Ivey had raised the ire of some Democratic Party leaders for deciding to challenge fellow Democrat Donna Edwards for the newly drawn 4th Congressional District seat, while others were quietly cheering him on, saying Edwards was not easy to work with, Miranda Spivack reports for the Post.

WHY AFZALI WILL RUN: First-term state Del. Kathy Afzali said she was so angry over the redrawn congressional districts that “ripped my community in half,” she jumped into the 6th District congressional race, saying she has the best chance of beating a Democrat in November, Katherine Heerbrandt reports for the Gazette.

UM MANSION: The money for the new home for the president of the University of Maryland-College Park comes entirely from about 30 private donors, Rebecca Lurye writes in the Diamondback. Controversy has surrounded the project, which included demolishing the 56-year-old mansion, since several school sports are facing cuts.

FREDERICK FEUD: A Frederick County Planning Commission member is accusing Commissioners President Blaine Young of staring at her breasts, turning a feud over development into personal attacks on each other, Sherry Greenfield is reporting in the Gazette.

BOOZE BRAWL: In a fairly explicit letter, state Comptroller Peter Franchot has again attempted to clear up any misunderstanding with the Worcester County Department of Liquor Control over a booze shipment from Alabama, writes the editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times.