January 26, 2012

State Roundup, January 26, 2012

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SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: In the Post, Greg Masters reports that a familiar ritual played out in the Maryland State House yesterday as county school officials appealed to the Board of Public Works for money to fund school construction projects, a process that takes on more importance this year as O’Malley’s budget proposes a near-record $372 million for school construction.

UN-COOL SCHOOLS: As for Baltimore County Public Schools, Comptroller Peter Franchot, who sits on the BPW, said he plans to post an online petition on his agency’s web site today to help county parents put pressure on the county school administration to put air-conditioning into schools that now offer no relief to sweltering students, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

Bryan Sears of Patch.com writes that the exchange between Franchot and Baltimore County schools superintendent Joe Hairston was heated, with Franchot lighting into a five-minute monologue about the schools’ lack of cooling systems.

WA CO SEEKS $2.4M MORE: Washington County asked for $2.4 million more in school construction money, on top of $7 million already allocated in the state’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget, writes Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

WICOMICO SCHOOLS: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that Wicomico’s request for additional school construction funds from the BPW may have been jeopardized by its County Council’s initial rejection of one project.

CITY SCHOOLS IN DISREPAIR: Baltimore city schools are in disrepair, WBAL-TV’s Dave Collins reports, and Del. Heather Mizeur is suggesting allowing city residents to decide through a referendum question whether to raise the sales tax in Baltimore by a penny to fund public school buildings.

PETITION VERIFICATION: Daniel Menefee of MarylandReporter.com writes that bills to add transparency and checks and balances to signatures on referendum petitions were scrutinized by the House Ways and Means Committee, but seemed to receive a lukewarm support yesterday.

MEDICAL POT: A bill that would enable doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to patients — introduced in the House of Delegates earlier this month — has attracted bipartisan support, moving Maryland closer to joining 16 states and Washington in legalizing the drug for medicinal purposes, Jim Bach reports for the Diamondback.

COMBINED REPORTING RETURNS: Two proposals that consistently rankle business interests big and small in Annapolis resurfaced yesterday for their annual appearance in the State House: the millionaire’s tax and combined reporting (S.B. 249 and S.B. 269), writes Nick Sohr for the Daily Record.

THE 96%:  A poll released yesterday by freshman Republican members of the House of Delegates revealed that a majority of people think they pay too much in taxes, reports The Gazette’s Steve Kelly.

The freshmen are drawing attention taxes by claiming to be among the “96%” of Marylanders who say they pay too much in taxes, blogs John Wagner for the Post. The number came from a recent poll that found that 96% of Marylanders say they pay too much or about the right amount in taxes (33%).

John Rydell of WBFF-TV also reports on the press conference held by the 15 freshmen.

DRUG CONTRACT: The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that under a prescription drug contract with Express Scripts Inc., state employees would no longer be able to buy their medicines from any of the 58 Walgreens pharmacies across the state.

NO TO GAY MARRIAGE: Some gay marriage opponents in the General Assembly say that it doesn’t matter how O’Malley changes the proposal to legalize it to accommodate religious groups, they won’t vote for it, writes Earl Kelly of the Annapolis Capital.

DIGITAL PRODUCTS TAX: That download of an Angry Birds app, Katy Perry song or “Captain America” movie could end up costing consumers more, thanks to a “digital products” tax proposal that’s being pushed in Annapolis this year by Gov. O’Malley, reports the Sun’s Gus Sentementes.

NEW WEBSITE PANNED: A mockup of a redesigned Maryland General Assembly website left most members of the Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government entirely unimpressed, with Del. Heather Mizeur, remarking that the site offered little to promote civic engagement, Daniel Menefee reports for MarylandReporter.com.

HOPE FOR CLEMENCY: Columnist Dan Rodricks writes about that there is a flicker of hope coming out of the O’Malley administration in the case of Mark Farley Grant, the inmate whose plea for clemency — along with an investigative report that established his innocence — went to the Maryland governor 3½ years ago.

CONSTELLATION MERGER: The Public Services Commission started a new set of evidentiary hearings yesterday to find out if the $7.9 billion Constellation-Exelon merger would protect Baltimore Gas and Electric customers from decisions made solely to further Exelon’s corporate interests, reports The Gazette’s Margie Hyslop.

MANUFACTURING PUSH: President Barack Obama’s plan to restore manufacturing in America, outlined in his State of the Union address, is encouraging, local industry leaders say, but it will be up to lawmakers to see it to the finish line, Ryan Sharrow writes for the Baltimore Business Journal.

BARTLETT’S RUN: Maryland Juice picked up an item from The Hill that a new poll shows that Republican U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett is in trouble in his 6th congressional district re-election race. Juice also writes that Bartlett is predicting the end to abortion rights thanks to ultrasound technology.

GARAGIOLA’S RUN: And Patti Borda writes for the Frederick News Post that state Sen. Rob Garagiola, a democrat who is running for the 6th district seat, is saying that he does not see Congress working to ensure opportunity for Americans to climb the ladder of success.

WA CO BILLS: Washington County’s state legislative delegation got closer yesterday to agreeing on a final bill proposing new oversight over the financial workings of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, reports Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

Schotz also reports that the delegation agreed to sponsor a bill to help the bottom line for groups who sell tip-jar games, despite opposition from county government officials, but not one to tighten the limits on how many liquor licenses may be issued in Washington County based on population.

MO CO FIGHTS PENSION SHIFT: The Montgomery County delegation has been meeting weekly with County Executive Ike Leggett and County Council President Roger Berliner to come up with a strategy to fight shifting $41 million of teacher pension costs onto the county as proposed in Gov. O’Malley’s 2013 budget, report Kate Alexander and Andrew Ujifusa of The Gazette.