February 9, 2012

State Roundup, February 9, 2012

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PAPERLESS TAX FILING: Comptroller Peter Franchot plans to make the process of filing income taxes in Maryland “virtually paperless” by 2014, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

JUDICIAL SALARIES, BENEFITS: A proposal to raise judges’ salaries by $29,000 got a cool response from members of the House Appropriations Committee, who must vote on it or let the raises take effect automatically in 50 days, Daniel Menefee reports in MarylandReporter.com.

And the largest state employees union asked the Senate budget committee yesterday to consider broader changes to judicial retirement benefits to bring them more in line with retirement benefits for the average state worker, Len Lazarick and Megan Poinski write in MarylandReporter.com.

BILL HEARINGS: In The Bill Board, Becca Newell of the Easton Star Democrat lists bills that are coming up for hearings today and tomorrow. Just scroll past yesterday’s offerings.

LOCKBOX KEY: The Annapolis Capital editorial writes say a constitutional amendment to block pillaging of the transportation trust fund still gives the governor an out: He could borrow the money if he declares an emergency related to public health and safety, proposes a five-year repayment plan and gets the approval of a legislative supermajority of three-fifths.

TEACHER PENSIONS: Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner attempts to explain what the proposed shift of burden of teacher pensions from the state to the counties will mean for taxpayers.

CAYLEE’S LAW: Maryland is joining states throughout the country in making it a crime not to report the death or disappearance of children, Jennifer Shutt reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

REPORTING CHILD ABUSE: Some Maryland state lawmakers hope to impose criminal sanctions on people who do not report suspected child abuse or neglect. Current Maryland law requires reporting but without penalties for failing to do so, Dave Collins reports for WBAL-TV.

Duane Keenan recorded a podcast for MarylandReporter.com about two bills that would do more to require people to report child abuse.

URBAN TAXES: Residents of five jurisdictions in Maryland would pay more in sales or gas taxes to fund transit projects under dueling proposals sponsored by two rural Republican state senators, reports Bryan Sears for Patch.com.

NEW DRUG PLAN: More than 200,000 Maryland state employees, retirees and dependents will switch to a new pharmacy plan as a result of the Board of Public Works’ decision yesterday to award the $2.4 billion contract to a St. Louis-based company, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

Budget and Management Secretary Eloise Foster said that, over the life of the contract, it should save the state $100 million, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com

PUSH FOR GAY MARRIAGE: Eight Maryland religious leaders make a pitch for same-sex marriage in a web video released by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the latest in a series put out by the advocacy group, the Sun’s Annie Linskey reports.

FORECLOSURE SETTLEMENT: A $25 billion nationwide settlement with five major financial institutions accused of wrongfully foreclosing on borrowers will bring nearly $1 billion to Maryland homeowners affected by the banks’ activities, Brian Englar reports for the Frederick News-Post.

ICC SPEED LIMIT: Montgomery County lawmakers pressed state transportation officials about why the speed limit on the newly opened – and smooth-as-glass – Intercounty Connector is only 55 mph, blogs Aaron Davis for the Post.

LATER SCHOOL START: Following up an earlier editorial in the Salisbury Daily Times, the Sun writes that Comptroller Franchot is suggesting pushing the start of school till after Labor Day, saying a later opening would let families enjoy the last days of summer together and give a boost to small businesses — especially those who employ summer seasonal workers.

O’MALLEY, FRANCHOT SPAR: Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday lashed out at a fellow state Democrat for criticizing the governor’s proposal to raise the state’s gas tax, calling Comptroller Peter Franchot the party’s own “version of Mitt Romney,” reports the Post’s Aaron Davis. The attack drew a sharp response from Franchot, who quipped that he was “sorry” if he was getting in the way of O’Malley’s “presidential efforts.”

BOTSWANA AMBASSADOR: Blogging for MarylandReporter.com, Len Lazarick writes about Botswana’s ambassador to the United States, a Morgan State alumna who visited the State House yesterday and spoke about her country.

DECONSTRUCTING JESSUP: The Board of Public Works gave the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services approval to dismantle 14 of the 16 buildings that made up the old House of Correction in Jessup, Michael Dresser writes for the Sun.

HENSON TRIAL POSTPONED: The election fraud trial of veteran political consultant Julius Henson was postponed yesterday because of the illness of the state’s primary investigator in the case, the Sun’s Luke Broadwater writes.

UM LOBBYISTS: With tuition at the University of Maryland likely to increase by at least 3% next year, student leaders heading to Annapolis plan to focus on fighting for the lowest hike possible and advocating for increased student financial aid. They also will back a bill introduced by state Sen. Richard Madaleno that would make textbooks sales tax free for a set period each year, Leah Villanueva writes for the Diamondback.

CECIL & SMART GROWTH: Cecil County’s planning and zoning director says proposed legislation to encourage “smart growth and protect the Bay” would have a devastating impact on local planning, Cheryl Mattix reports for the Cecil Whig.

GROWLERS: Legislation allowing restaurants to sell refillable containers used for draft beer, known as growlers, won broad support from local Howard County lawmakers who agreed yesterday to move the local bill before the General Assembly, Jessica Anderson writes for the Sun.

BAG TAX KILLED: A proposed 5-cent bag tax for Prince George’s County died in a General Assembly committee after it won broad support from the Prince George’s County Council, blogs the Post’s Miranda Spivack.

Jeffrey Lyles of the Gazette reports that Del. Carolyn Howard of Mitchellville, who voted against the proposal, said, “Every time we have an issue or need to solve a problem, there are those who want to use taxes to fix it.”

CAMPAIGN EMAIL: Del. Kathy Afzali sent an e-mail to supporters last month from her state email address in which she highlighted her bid for a congressional seat and asked for campaign contributions, an action that could be subject to an ethics complaint, Katherine Heerbrandt reports for the Gazette.

OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: The editorial board for the Sun calls Anne Arundel County’s proposal to make English the “official language” a hostile and empty gesture, and code for demonizing immigrants.

CALLAHAN DIES: Dennis Callahan, Anne Arundel County’s chief administrative officer and a former Annapolis mayor and candidate for county executive, died of a heart attack yesterday morning.

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