February 14, 2012

State Roundup, February 14, 2012

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OBAMA’S BUDGET: Labor unions that represent government workers — and some Maryland Democrats — criticized the budget President Barack Obama unveiled yesterday for cutting $27 billion in federal employee pensions while offering what they called a modest, half-percent raise, Andrea Walker and John Fritze report in the Sun.

BALLOT PREVIEW: Mike Bock of Capital News Service writes in the Annapolis Capital that while President Obama and his Republican opponent will capture national headlines this November, Maryland voters will turn their attention to in-state policy disputes, like 2011’s In-State Tuition Bill, also known as the Dream Act.

FEWER ILLEGALS ARRESTED: The number of people arrested in Frederick County and detained under a federal illegal immigration enforcement program has been on the decline since the sheriff’s office began the agreement in April 2008, Nicholas Stern reports for the Frederick News-Post.

RX POT BILL RETURNS: Almost one year after his concerns prompted lawmakers to quash a bill to legalize medical marijuana, legislation supported by state Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein was introduced Friday to legalize the drug’s use for seriously ill patients, Danielle Gaines reports for the Gazette.

RELIGION FOR WIND: Pointing to health and environmental effects of air and water pollution from coal-burning power plants, 36 ministers, nuns, priests, rabbis and an imam who live or work in Prince George’s are urging county legislators on the Senate Finance and House Economic Matters committees to support the governor’s revised attempt to get wind power into Maryland, writes Margie Hyslop for the Gazette.

GAY MARRIAGE BILL: Gov. O’Malley said that his same-sex marriage bill could be voted out of a House committee as early as this week, but acknowledged that he’s still a few votes short on the floor, blogs Annie Linskey for the Sun.

LGBT SUPPORTERS: Beneath the monument to Thurgood Marshall with the engraved words “Equal Justice Under Law,” around 800 advocates for same-sex marriage rallied on Lawyer’s Mall on last night, Justin Snow reports for MarylandReporter.com.

About 25 UMCP students traveled to Annapolis for Lobby Day, where hundreds of LGBTQIA advocates meet with legislators from their state districts to urge them to support same-sex marriage and gender-identity equality legislation, Rebecca Lurye writes for the Diamondback.

Meghan McCorkel of WJZ-TV reports that 15,000 postcards will be delivered to members of the General Assembly, urging them to support marriage equality.

Marc Steiner at WEAA-FM hosts Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, Cathy Brennan, former board member of the GLCCB’s Political Action Committee, and Baltimore County Councilman Tom Quirk in a conversation about Anti-Discrimination legislation protecting transgender rights.

REDISTRICTING MAP: In Annapolis, bills can be killed when they’re assigned to a committee and nothing happens. For Gov. Martin O’Malley’s state legislative redistricting plan, however, the new map will become law unless lawmakers change it, writes Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. With less than two weeks to go before a deadline, the governor’s plan is looking increasingly likely to become final as is.

NATURAL GAS TAX: Sharp fractures have surfaced in the Maryland legislature over how much to tax natural gas production in the event Maryland allows energy companies to drill for shale gas deep below the state’s westernmost counties, reports the Post’s Greg Masters.

CURRIE DECISION: An Associated Press brief in the Sun reports that Senate President Mike Miller says an ethics committee has reached a conclusion on what it will recommend to the Senate to address Sen. Ulysses Currie’s failure to disclose work he did for a grocery store chain.

Daniel Menefee of MarylandReporter.com writes that Miller said he doesn’t know what the Ethics Committee decided, but the Senate will likely abide by its recommendations, which are expected to come to the Senate floor this week.

ETHICS RULES: The editorial board of the Carroll County Times writes that a recommendation by seven state senators to scale back some of the new ethics rules for local government officials would hurt efforts to increase transparency at a time when many people already have little trust in the government at any level.

FRANCHOT ON GAS TAX ETC. Speaking to the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot addressed the “odd environment” in Annapolis, touching on the folly of Gov. O’Malley’s plan to increase the tax on gasoline and the economic importance of the Eastern Shore’s poultry industry, writes Gail Dean for the Easton Star Democrat. He also spoke of the need in Annapolis for fiscal responsibility and political compromise.

PRIVATE TWEETS: Senate Bill 434, presented two weeks ago, would make it illegal for schools to force students to make their tweets public or to require them to “friend” coaches or other officials on Facebook. A hearing on the bill, which has bipartisan support, is scheduled for Feb. 29, Chris Korman writes for the Sun.

DRAFT WINE: Howard County restaurateurs want to let patrons take home beer in growlers. Now, one hopes to offer the same option to the wine-sipping set, writes Jessica Anderson for the Sun. Draft wine, as it’s called, is gaining popularity around the country.

SUICIDE PREVENTION: Baltimore and Howard county parents who lost their children to suicide travel to D.C. to speak with U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes about suicide prevention, Lindsey McPherson writes the story for the Howard County Times.

CALLAHAN REMEMBERED: At services last night, friends and colleagues remember former Annapolis Mayor Dennis Callahan, who died at the age of 70. Nicole Fuller writes the story for the Sun.