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Published on February 15th, 2012 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, February 15, 2012

GAY MARRIAGE MOVES TO FULL HOUSE: With a joint committee vote of 25-18, including a lone Republican supporter, a bill allowing same-sex marriage in Maryland was sent to the full House of Delegates to be voted on as soon as this week, Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com writes.

That lone Republican is Del. Bob Costa, who said, “I think it’s not a state function to decide who can marry,” writes Earl Kelly for the Annapolis Capital. Costa acknowledged his vote may hurt him within his party.

On the House floor, Costa may not be the only Republican backing the bill. Del. Patrick Hogan said he is thinking through some wording in the bill as he considers whether to support it. “I do believe we should provide these rights to all couples. Whether we use the word ‘marriage’ to do that or whether we use ‘civil unions,’ that’s what I’m struggling with,” he told Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post.

Supporters, who hailed the measure as an advance in equal rights, said they were cautiously optimistic it would pass the full House — where a similar bill died last year after narrowly clearing the Senate, John Wagner and Aaron Davis report for the Post.

Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette reports that Del. Curt Anderson was optimistic about its prospects in the House: “I don’t think this vote would have been allowed to be held today unless [leadership] felt confident that they had enough votes on the floor.”

Should the measure win approval, Maryland would become the eighth state to allow same-sex marriages. Washington state’s governor signed a gay marriage bill Monday. New York passed a similar bill last year, Annie Linskey writes for the Sun.

FARM PRESERVATION: A bill sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley that would help save family farms and preserve Maryland agriculture by increasing farm estate tax exemptions met with little opposition in a hearing by the House Ways and Means Committee, reports Justin Snow of MarylandReporter.com.

GAS TAX: Gov. O’Malley is offering local governments a significant sweetener — more money for local road projects — as part of an effort to secure their support for his proposal to apply the state’s 6% sales tax to gasoline, Michael Dresser and Annie Linskey report for the Sun.

The legislation is O’Malley’s answer to questions that have been posed by commissions, business groups and countless state and local officials: How will the state repair its deteriorating transportation infrastructure and how can the state get more money to do what is needed? writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

GOV GRILLED ON GREEN BILLS: O’Malley fielded skeptical questions from lawmakers about three of his top environmental initiatives yesterday as he appealed to them to approve bills aimed at promoting offshore wind energy, limiting development and improving water and sewer systems, Michael Dresser, Annie Linskey and Tim Wheeler write for the Sun.

Pointing to a pie chart on a screen in a Senate hearing room, O’Malley noted that one-third of the nitrogen pollution in the Magothy, Severn and South rivers comes from septic systems, Pamela Wood reports for the Annapolis Capital.

Despite reassurances from O’Malley that additional consumer fees would be capped at $2 a month under his wind farm proposal, a number of senators said they are still concerned that tapping into offshore wind would cost too much, Ellen Stodola of the Capital News Service writes in the Salisbury Daily Times.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV speaks with a Johns Hopkins physician about the cost of wind energy vs. no wind energy.

COULD HURT SMALL BIZ: Fiscal reports released Monday conclude two proposals at the core of O’Malley’s environmental agenda could hurt small businesses, despite previous claims to the contrary by the O’Malley administration, Greg Masters reports for the Post.

MarylandReporter’s Daniel Menefee writes that state Sen. J. B. Jennings said the flush tax increase would hit small businesses hardest based on the proposal’s fiscal note, which reported small businesses would pay up to 250% in flush tax increases.

COUNTIES IN PERIL: Teacher pension shifts and transportation funding are two areas of greatest concerns to counties, says the head of the Maryland Association of Counties, Matthew Bieniek writes for the Cumberland Times-News.

PLANMARYLAND DEBATED: The head of the Frederick County Builders Association and a state official squared off in a public discussion about the pros and cons of PlanMaryland, Dan Dearth writes for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

DIGITAL DOWNLOAD TAX: A number of tech company reps met in Annapolis yesterday morning to convince key legislators of the need to defeat the governor’s proposal to extend the sales tax to downloads of digital products, according to the Maryland Chamber Action Network.

O’MALLEY-FRANCHOT FLAP: Daily Record columnist and WYPR senior news analyst C. Fraser Smith joins the Daily Record’s Danny Jacobs to review last week in Annapolis, including the long-running rivalry between Gov. O’Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot that flared up when O’Malley referred to Franchot as “Maryland’s Mitt Romney.” You can click on the podcast here.

OPPOSED TO PG SLOTS: The Prince George’s County Council is unanimously opposed to the proposed slots bill pending in the General Assembly that could open the door to a casino in the county, Miranda Spivack blogs for the Post.

CASA TAX PROBE: A public interest group that pushes for immigration controls has asked Maryland to investigate the tax-exempt status of CASA de Maryland, a high-profile immigrant rights group that the Immigration Reform Law Institute says repeatedly engaged in political advocacy, breaking the law governing nonprofits, reports Stephen Dinan for the Washington Times.

UNEVEN IN AP TESTING: The editorial board for the Sun opines that while Maryland students overall are doing great when it comes to the Advanced Placement test, the numbers in Baltimore City and on the Eastern Shore are far less encouraging.

6th DISTRICT RACE: The Post’s Ben Pershing, reporting about a heated Democratic primary contest for the 6th District seat held by U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, writes that financier John Delaney rolled out a detailed policy agenda yesterday, one day before his rival in a key Maryland congressional race, state Sen. Rob Garagiola, appeared poised to unveil a key endorsement.

BENEFITING FROM BRAC: As President Barack Obama proposed a new round of military base closures and reorganization, Maryland’s political and business forces already are working to protect installations here and position the state to benefit from any future moves, reports Matthew Hay Brown in the Sun.

TRANSGENDER BIAS: After hearing hours of testimony on a bill to ban discrimination against transgender people, Baltimore County Council members said yesterday they would consider exempting public restrooms and locker rooms from the measure, reports Alison Knezevich for the Sun.

Bryan Sears of Patch.com writes that a bi-partisan coalition on the Baltimore County Council is backing an amendment that clarifies provisions governing the use of private and personal facilities, including bathrooms.

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