February 6, 2012

State Roundup, February 6, 2012

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GAMING BILL: John Wagner of the Post blogs that a gambling bill set to be introduced today in the Maryland Senate is drawing most attention for its authorization of Las Vegas-style tables games at existing casinos and its call for a new location in Prince George’s County.

GAY MARRIAGE: Dueling bills affecting the prospects for same-sex couples to get married in Maryland were filed last week in the House of Delegates — and both are scheduled for a hearing this week. One bill would legalize gay nuptials. It has 56 co-sponsors. And with 46 co-sponsors, the other seeks to enshrine in the state constitution Maryland’s current law restricting a marriage to one man and one woman, blogs the Post’s John Wagner.

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks takes on the recent “cowards” remark by first lady Katie O’Malley and the subsequent quick apology from her and husband-Gov. Martin, and finds it to be just too illustrative of the politeness that dooms liberals.

This one slipped under the radar: A 14-year-old Bowie girl sat before a Senate committee asking that the committee vote against gay marriage as a birthday gift to her. You can hear her testimony and what seems to be committee member remarks at the Huffington Post.

PETITION PROCESS: With petitions becoming a more potent tool in overturning state laws, some legislators are looking closely at ways to improve the process, Andrew Schotz reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Del. Neil Parrott talks about the issue in this video.

SCHOOLS VS TOURISM: The editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times flags an item from the Maryland Association of Destination Marketing Organizations that suggests pushing some public schools to open after Labor Day: We sure hope no Lower Shore counties make that a priority, the board writes, because the spectacle of tourism opportunities influencing instructional time in our schools is just ugly.

GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY: Capital columnist Eric Hartley writes about one man’s simple fight to open up government documents about a fence in Annapolis.

Sarah Lake of the Salisbury Daily Times reports on a man who finally had to turn to the courts to get documents about an assault his son allegedly suffered while in detention.

Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland writes that one of the key tools that we have in Maryland to keep our legislators accountable are public information requests. This blog has a long history of sunshine in government, and Del. Sandy Rosenberg seems to think that the public knows too much.

An AP report at WJZ-TV also addresses the Rosenberg issue, saying that some open government advocates are concerned that a bill sponsored by Rosenberg to protect professors’ academic freedom is too broad and could draw a curtain over the process.

Writing for the Carroll County Times, Neil Ridgely says that the state Open Meetings Compliance Board said that the Carroll County commissioners violated the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Act when they decided to hold their anti-PlanMaryland forum, at the Pikesville Hilton and preside over it as a quorum of the elected body while excluding many of their own citizens by charging a $25 admittance fee.

POULTRY POLLUTION: Eastern Shore farmers and representatives of the poultry industry presented a new study from the University of Delaware to lawmakers Friday that states that EPA estimates on nutrient pollution from poultry production are outdated and overstated, Dan Menefee reports for MarylandReporter.com.

BOND RATING, DEBT:  Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter writes that State Treasurer Nancy Kopp says that despite the state’s efforts to remain fiscally sound, Maryland is struggling to avoid the downgrading of its cherished top triple A bond rating due to possible federal budget cuts.

Poinski also reports that legislative analysts told lawmakers that if property values don’t start increasing, the state may need to increase property taxes or tap the general fund to pay off its bond debt.

O’MALLEY AGENDA ANALYSIS: What are the prospects for Gov. Martin O’Malley’s ambitious legislative program that includes same-sex marriage, wind power and gas, income, flush and Internet taxes? Bryan Sears of Patch.com, Joel McCord of WYPR and Len Lazarick of Maryland Reporter.com bat around the issues in this video.

The Washington Times editorial board blasts O’Malley for his “big-spending, high-tax and class-warfare policies.”

The damage from perception that Maryland is a high-tax state that goes after the middle-class may be longer lasting than any pain caused by these increases — some of which, we’ll say right now, are fair, writes the editorial board for the Frederick News-Post.

The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital opines that, even by the low standards of State of the State addresses, there wasn’t much to cheer about as O’Malley – a lame-duck governor no longer worried about voter revenge – rolled out his plan to tax his way out of a budget mess.

PARTY WARS: The Post’s John Wagner writes that Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) sparred yesterday morning on national television over which party deserves credit for the start of the economic recovery and their respective job-creation records. Each man heads up his party’s governors association. Scroll down to watch the CNN video.

The Sun’s Annie Linskey writes that O’Malley was playing surrogate for the Obama administration.

Andy Green at the Sun analyzed how Maryland and Virginia compare on jobs creation, and concludes: “Taking the broad view, the difference in how the two states have recovered from the recession is almost non-existent.”

THE WEEK AHEAD: Rob Lang at WBAL AM previews the week ahead, and reports the Joint Ethics Committee will hold its third hearing on what to do about Sen. Ulysses Currie.

O’MALLEY FOR PREZ? N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is all the buzz about a possible presidential run in 2016. And while O’Malley is also on the list, some see his tax policies as detrimental to a run, Paul Bedard reports for the Washington Examiner.

HENSON ON TRIAL: The election fraud trial of long-time political consultant Julius Henson is set for 2 p.m. today in Baltimore Circuit Court. Henson is accused of election fraud, conspiracy to violation election laws and failure to provide a campaign authority line on an Election Day 2010 robocall he created as a consultant for former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, writes Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

HARRIS GIVES BONUSES: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland gave his staffers $44,006 in bonuses last year, Nicole Gaudiano reports in the Salisbury Daily Times. Harris also expects to return a significant amount of unspent office money — much more than $100,000 — to the federal government.

SPEAK ENGLISH: Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker plans to introduce a bill at tonight’s council meeting that would declare English the official language of that county, Nicole Fuller reports in the Sun.

SLOTS IN WESTERN MD: Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times-News outlines a number of bills introduced on behalf of Garrett and Allegany counties, including one — Senate Bill 466 – that would allow nonprofit organizations in both counties to have up to five slot machines.

WASTE-TO-ENERGY INCINERATOR: Now that the Carroll County Board of Commissioners has voted on the county airport expansion issue, the board is looking to evaluate another major decision — whether to proceed with a waste-to-energy incinerator, Carrie Ann Knauer writes for the Carroll County Times.