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Published on January 24th, 2012 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, January 24, 2012

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Gov. Martin O’Malley introduced legislation last night to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland, presenting a bill to the General Assembly that aides said would offer broad protections for groups that would not want to perform or honor same-sex marriages, writes Annie Linskey for the Sun. And this morning, Linskey writes, O’Malley will host a breakfast in Annapolis with some gay activists and members of the religious community to discuss his bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

Cheryl Conner of WMAR-TV reports about the difficult time that one couple is having gaining rights for themselves and their son without a same-sex marriage law.

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS: Though it won’t be part of his legislative agenda, Gov. O’Malley told reporters that he will back a bill to extend employment, housing and other rights to transgendered people, Linskey blogs in the Sun.

In Baltimore County, reports Bryan Sears for Patch.com, Council Chairwoman Vicki Almond says that the public accommodation portion of a local transgender anti-discrimination proposal may need to be removed.

FLUSH TAX: The Post’s John Wagner and Aaron Davis report that O’Malley also wants to double the average “flush tax” paid by Marylanders and seeks to continue to aggressively implement the national health-care overhaul by fostering a health-benefit exchange.

GAS TAX HIKE: Conspicuously missing from O’Malley’s legislative package is a long-talked about increase in the gas tax, reports The Gazette’s Sarah Breitenbach. Gus Bauman, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding, which recommended the increase, said that it makes political sense for an increase to happen now, or not at all.

BUDGET BY THE NUMBERS: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that it is difficult to find out what O’Malley’s budget proposal totals and whether cuts have really been made.

See MarylandReporter.com’s video for a discussion of the budget with state Sen. David Brinkley and Neil Bergsman of the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute.

FEDERAL CUTS/STATE BUDGET: Pushing O’Malley’s budget proposal, the chief fiscal analyst for the Maryland General Assembly warned lawmakers yesterday that they need to prepare for the “big train that is coming” from federal budget cuts by reducing the state’s running budget deficit in this legislative session, according to an AP story in the Daily Record.

PERKINS UPGRADES: Following three killings at Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center in Jessup, O’Malley has proposed spending $4.4 million to add 93 staff positions and other safety improvements there as part of his 2013 budget, Kevin Rector reports for the Howard County Times.

REDISTRICTING OPPOSITION: Residents opposing Maryland’s congressional redistricting map are appealing part of their case to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to a brief in the Annapolis Capital.

The Sykesville mayor and town council signed a resolution opposing O’Malley’s preliminary redistricting plan after agreeing that moving the town from a district completely in Carroll County to one predominately in Howard County would have a dramatic and negative effect, Caroline Hailey writes for the Carroll County Times.

WIND PROPOSAL: O’Malley brings his proposal for wind power out for another General Assembly, but with a few changes this time, writes Dan Menefee for MarylandReporter.com. Surcharges for customers and mandatory power-purchase agreements have been eliminated.

O’Malley’s new proposal to build a wind farm in the Atlantic Ocean isn’t different from the old one, Jay Hancock writes for the Sun. Developers must still pay hundreds of millions of dollars to build wind turbines off Maryland’s coast. And Maryland electricity customers still have to pay for them.

DRUG WAR: Scott Graham of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that the state is again poised to pay St. Louis-based Express Scripts Inc. $2.4 billion to manage the prescription drug program for its employees, retirees and their dependents, capping a nearly year-long battle between the company and Rockville-based Catalyst Rx, the state’s current pharmacy benefits manager, over who holds such a lucrative state contract.

O’MALLEY TWEETUP: O’Malley’s first “tweetup” produced little new information although an exchange with a librarian shed some light on a group of people who will fall through the cracks if the governor’s pension shift proposal goes through, blogs Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

Tweeters didn’t challenge the Democratic governor too much, writes Pamela Wood for the Annapolis Capital. Several kept an eye on their smartphones, laptops and iPads, posting snippets of the governor’s answers on their social media accounts — which is often considered slightly rude behavior, but perfectly acceptable at a tweetup.

The Gazette’s Steve Kelly was there as O’Malley took questions from 16 Twitter users at his first tweetup.

WATERMEN CHARGED: Maryland Natural Resources Police say five watermen have been charged with power-dredging for oysters in a Tangier Sound sanctuary, according to an AP story in the Sun.

SCHOOL FUNDING: In a column in the Annapolis Capital, Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold takes the county school superintendent to task over an earlier column on school funding and says that the way the state funds schools needs to be revised.

ROSAPEPE’S RUN: Lindsey McPherson of the Laurel Leader writes about state Sen. Jim Rosapepe of Laurel, who is considering running for comptroller in 2014, should incumbent Peter Franchot run for governor.

EHRLICH FUNDED DEFENSE: A campaign account maintained by former Gov. Bob Ehrlich was used to pay more than $100,000 last year to law firms involved in the criminal defense of his 2010 campaign manager, Paul Schurick, on charges related to voter suppression, John Wagner blogs in the Post.

The payments were outlined in a campaign finance report filed last week by Ehrlich’s campaign committee, which remains in operation while Ehrlich says he intends to stay out of Maryland electoral politics, the Sun’s Michael Dresser writes.

STATE OF THE UNION: A U.S. Army Reserves sergeant who received help from U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett when his medical records were lost will join the congressman at tonight’s State of the Union address by President Obama, reports Dave McMillion for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

KOPP TAKES THE BUS: State Treasurer Nancy Kopp experienced first hand the potential danger of a 36-foot school bus crossing multiple lanes of traffic and executing a J-turn at a Centreville intersection where locals are pushing for an overpass, Shauna Thompson reports for the Easton Star-Democrat.

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