February 16, 2012

State Roundup, February 16, 2012

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TEACHER PENSION SHIFT: County leaders and Baltimore City’s mayor came together yesterday in Annapolis to fight the governor’s proposal to shift part of the cost of teacher pensions to local governments, saying they would have to cut deeply into essential services to pay for such a change, the Sun’s Michael Dresser reports.

Bryan Sears of Patch.com reports that Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the immediate past president of the Maryland Association of Counties, said counties such as his have already been hit with severe cuts in state aid over the last three years.

VOTES ON GAY MARRIAGE: Western Maryland Del. Patrick Hogan, who was the target of an intense lobbying campaign over the past few days, announced yesterday afternoon that he will not support Gov. Martin O’Malley’s same-sex marriage bill, the Sun’s Annie Linskey reports.

Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post writes that the bill’s use of the term “marriage” rather than “civil union” was the sticking point.

Thus far, blogs John Wagner of the Post, Del. Robert Costa is the only GOP member of the House to announce his support for the legislation.

As the issue comes before the full House, an AP report in the Carroll County Times attempts to outline where others stand.

Duane Keenan of MarylandReporter.com files a podcast previewing the issues likely to dominate the debate.

O’MALLEY ON GAY MARRIAGE: Gov. O’Malley gave his most detailed explanation to date for the evolution of his stance on gay marriage at the inaugural Baltimore Sun Newsmaker Forum last evening, writes Steve Kilar.

STUDENT ALLERGIES: Maryland’s public schools would be required to have uniform policies for treating students with life-threatening allergies, including having “epi-pens” on hand, under a bill being considered in Annapolis, reports Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

TRANSIT FUND LOCKBOX: State lawmakers will slap a padlock on funds for much-needed road and bridge projects if several legislators from Frederick County have their way this session, writes Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News-Post.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: State lawmakers heard a proposal to expand the eligibility for protective orders, adding people in intimate relationships who aren’t married, Andrew Schotz reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The bill, if approved, would allow more domestic violence victims to obtain protective orders, which are stronger, instead of peace orders.

GARAGIOLA AGAINST GAS TAX: State Sen. Rob Garagiola says he does not support the governor’s current proposal to apply a 6% sales tax to purchases at the pump, Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News-Post.

NO TO CHAUFFEURS: House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert, testified yesterday on a bill he sponsored to stop public officials from using state employees as personal chauffeurs. He also wants to reduce the number of state troopers assigned to transport lawmakers and top government executives, blogs Daniel Menefee for MarylandReporter.com.

RX POT BILLS: Kevin Rector of the Towson Times writes that the use of medical marijuana in Maryland and how a statewide system could legally provide patient access are once again before the General Assembly, with three bills filed in recent weeks — each proposing a very different system for dispensing and distribution of the drug.

REGIONAL UNIVERSITY FUNDING: A battle over funding for six University System of Maryland regional centers has resurfaced, four years after it was first waged, writes Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Del. John Bohanan again is proposing that six centers outside the university system, including one in his district, get money comparable to what the two USM centers get.

FINANCIAL LITERACY AS LITMUS TEST: “If I were to run for governor, and if I were fortunate to win,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said he would have “a litmus test for any appointment to the state school board” or the local boards of education where the governor still makes the choice. They would have to support a financial literacy course requirement for graduation, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

SLOTS VOTE COULD BE LEGAL: Giving Prince George’s County voters the power to decide whether to allow a slots casino in the county may be permissible by the state constitution after all, writes Daniel Leaderman for the Gazette.

ROADSIDE FUNDRAISING: As proposed legislation that would regulate how Montgomery firefighters raise money for a charity is being discussed in Annapolis, the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s regional chapter is having a tougher time serving about 600 county families, the Gazette’s Kate Alexander writes.

SCHURICK WANTS NEW TRIAL: Paul Schurick, one of the defendants in the 2010 election night robocall case, said he deserves a new trial. WBAL-TV reporter Jayne Miller says Paul Schurick’s argument is that prosecutors in the case failed to tell the whole story about a key witness.

6th DISTRICT RACE: Opening a new line of attack in the contentious Democratic primary in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, state Sen. Rob Garagiola sent an e-mail to supporters yesterday noting that his opponent, John Delaney, had made a political contribution to Republican Andy Harris in 2010, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

Fritze also reports that an internal poll conducted by Delaney’s campaign shows the Potomac financier is gaining ground against Garagiola and is tied in a head-to-head matchup.

The Post’s Ben Pershing quotes a press release from Garagiola as saying, “A financial contribution to Republican Andy Harris is … a sign that Delaney isn’t a real Democrat. This is something Mitt Romney would do.” You can view Delaney’s first campaign ad here.

And Maryland Juice lays the whole controversy out, complete with a Garagiola commercial blasting Delaney’s contribution.

FED WORKER CONTRIBUTION: Federal employees will be required to contribute $15 billion – an additional eight-tenths of 1% – toward the cost of extending federal unemployment insurance, under a tentative agreement struck in Congress that would also maintain the 2010 payroll tax break, the Sun’s John Fritze reports.

COUNCIL DIVERSITY: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital makes a case for diversity as the Anne Arundel County Council gets ready to replace African-American Councilman Daryl Jones, who was sentenced to prison for failing to file taxes.

NO TO WIND-SOLAR SITE: Citing space issues at the property and residents’ concerns, the Talbot County Council killed plans to build a wind turbine and solar panel array at a Tilghman wastewater treatment facility, and now must return $400,000 in state funds for the project, Daniel Divilio reports for the Easton Star-Democrat.