January 31, 2012

State Roundup, January 31, 2012

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POLL: HALF SUPPORT: Half of Maryland residents now favor the legalization of same-sex marriage, but support still varies significantly along the lines of race, religion and age, a Washington Post poll has found. John Wagner and Peyton Craighill of the Post write that, overall, the poll found that 50% of Marylanders support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry while 44% are opposed.

PROTESTS: More than 300 protesters filled a courtyard in front of the State House in Annapolis last night, listening to ministers and chanting slogans in opposition to the same-sex marriage bill, Annie Linskey writes for the Sun.

Duane Keenan was there on behalf of MarylandReporter.com and spoke with some of those in attendance. Listen to his podcast here.

Melinda Roeder of WBFF-TV also was there.

O’MALLEY TO TESTIFY: Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to appear in front of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee today to offer testimony in favor of his same-sex marriage bill, John Wagner blogs in the Post.

FAIRNESS & LIBERTY: Despite all the passion on both sides of the debate, it boils down to this: Gay marriage is a matter of fairness, of individual liberty and of strengthening Maryland families, opines the Sun editorial board.

SALES TAX FOR GAS: Gov. O’Malley said yesterday that he would ask lawmakers to approve an unprecedented tax increase on gasoline, applying for the first time Maryland’s 6% sales tax to every gallon of gas to raise billions of dollars for road and transit projects, the Post’s Aaron Davis reports.

According to the Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding’s report, adding a 6% sales tax onto gasoline sales would net an extra $613 million a year. The 15-cent gas tax increase would increase revenues by $458 million a year, Megan Poinski reports for MarylandReporter.com.

The increase — to be phased in over three years —would be on top of the 23.5 cents per gallon gas tax the state has been charging since 1992, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell said that if more than 70% of Marylanders oppose a raise in the flat tax on gas, even more would likely be against the governor’s new plan, Ben Giles reports for the Washington Examiner.

AAA of Maryland is criticizing the timing of proposed gas tax hike, according to a story in the Gazette.

The money would go into the state’s Transportation Trust Fund, writes Pamela Wood of the Annapolis Capital.

REALTORS AIM AT BUDGET: The real estate community throughout the state is taking aim at a proposal in O’Malley’s budget that would reduce the mortgage interest deduction and state and local property tax deduction for many Maryland homeowners, reports Carolyn Swift Lasako for the Easton Star Democrat.

FRACKING WATER: A Montgomery County delegate has introduced a bill that would ban the treatment of wastewater generated by hydraulic fracturing in other states, writes Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times-News. The state has placed a moratorium on fracking, so no wastewater is generated here.

FARMS & ESTATE TAX: The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post writes that new bipartisan proposals to exempt up to $5 million of farm property from Maryland’s estate tax is a common sense proposal it supports.

TANNING BED BAN: A group of state lawmakers wants to expand current restrictions and place an outright ban on the use of artificial tanning beds by anyone under 18, Mike Bock of the Capital News Service reports in the Annapolis Capital. Sen. Jamie Raskin said a ban would be comparable to banning tobacco products for minors, since both activities are linked to cancer.

6th DISTRICT RACE: As a congressional candidate in a district that ranges from the hills of Garrett County to the tech corridor along I-270, state Sen. David Brinkley said he has found something that ties everyone together: dismay over federal spending, Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports about the Republican who is challenging incumbent Roscoe Bartlett in the 6th District.

DEMOLITION CRISIS: Soon after being named the University of Maryland’s president in 2010, Wallace Loh learned that the president’s house was scheduled for demolition. “The first thing that came through my mind was: ‘Wallace, you have a crisis here.’ I knew that once the public heard about this, it would be a firestorm,” Loh told Jenna Johnson of the Post.

SHA SIGNS: The State Highway Administration is refusing a request by Frederick County to tout itself as “open for business” of state highway signs, saying, “We want to make it as free from distraction as possible for motorists.” Pete McCarthy writes the story for the Frederick News-Post.

HARFORD SCHOOLS: Cindy Mumby of the Dagger interviews Harford County Executive David Craig concerning Harford schools, their dependence on variables like state funding and budget shortfalls as well as the proposal to shift teacher pension costs from the state.

THE EXEC’S SPEECH: Lindsey McPherson of the Howard County Times explores what it is like for Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who hates giving prepared speeches, and his staff to prepare for his annual state of the county speech.

JOHNSON UNJAILED: Jack Johnson, the former Prince George’s County executive who pleaded guilty last year in a federal corruption probe, will have two more weeks of freedom as the federal Bureau of Prisons completes its evaluation and placement plans. Johnson is expected to serve his seven-year term at the federal prison in North Carolina where fellow prisoners will include financier Bernard Madoff, Miranda Spivack reports for the Post.

TRANSIT HUBBUB: Victor Zapana of the Post reports that Montgomery County Council members met yesterday to assess what they are describing as major flaws in a $101 million Silver Spring transit hub, the indefinite delay in completing the structure — and who is to blame for the problems.