March 2, 2012

State Roundup, March 2, 2012

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MARRIAGE BILL SIGNED: In a brief ceremony attended by hundreds of people packed into the State House, Gov. Martin O’Malley, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch signed legislation legalizing gay marriage in Maryland. MarylandReporter.com’s Justin Snow and Len Lazarick write about the ceremony and what happens next as a potential referendum on the bill looms.

The Post’s Aaron Davis describes what he calls one of the grandest bill signing ceremonies in recent memory.

The Capital’s Earl Kelly talked to enthusiastic supporters of the bill – even one who watched the signing from his living room.

The Diamondback’s Jim Bach writes about the short speech O’Malley gave, pronouncing everyone “one Maryland.”

The Frederick News-Post runs an Associated Press story with reactions to the bill from parishioners at a Beltsville church. The Herald-Mail has a version of the story that focuses on Thursday’s bill-signing ceremony.

Watch coverage of the signing on WBAL-TV, WMAR, WBFF and WJZ. WYPR’s Joel McCord has an audio report.

BUDGET PRIORITY: Senate President Mike Miller says passing the budget has first priority over Gov. Martin O’Malley’s legislative agenda, including a gas tax hike, flush tax and off-share wind power, Danielle Gaines reports in the Gazette.

STATE WORKERS: The governor’s budget includes raises for state employees and more staffing, writes the Gazette’s Daniel Leaderman, but union leaders are still hoping for additional revenue streams to avert future cuts.

GAS TAX LESS LIKELY: Rising gas prices and persistent public outcry are making Gov. Martin O’Malley’s gas tax proposal less and less likely to become law, lawmakers from all sides of the aisle tell the Washington Times’ David Hill.

ETHICS REFORM: The General Assembly’s task force on ethics reform has one final meeting Friday morning to discuss general reforms, writes The Post’s Greg Masters.

LEGAL PROTECTIONS: Two bills that enhance legal protections for poor nonviolent offenders – allowing citations to be given for misdemeanors like shoplifting, smoking marijuana or destroying property – and setting legal standards about how long offenders must stay in jail before preliminary hearings passed both the Senate and House of Delegates on Thursday, writes The Post’s Aaron Davis. However, differences in the bills mean that legislators will have to work details out in a conference committee.

In an Associated Press story in The Daily Record, Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh says that everything should be worked out quickly; a new court ruling that inspired the legislation could go into effect next week.

INCREASED TAXES: Hayley Peterson of The Washington Examiner writes about a report analyzing O’Malley’s new income tax plan that states one in five taxpayers would pay an average of $274 more per year — $80 more than O’Malley said when proposing the plan.

CURRIE OFF COMMITTEES: Following recommendations from the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, Sen. Ulysses Currie is no longer serving on the Senate Rules or Executive Nominations committees, reports The Sun’s Annie Linskey.

RASKIN PRAISE: Sen. Jamie Raskin won praise from both sides for his deft floor leadership of the same-sex marriage bill, writes Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

NO SMOKING: A bill will be before the full Senate to ban smoking in cars with children younger than 8, reports The Sun’s Michael Dresser.

PENSION SHIFT COMPROMISE: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post writes about a bill that would compromise on the shifting of teacher pensions from state to local governments, having the state cover costs up to a predetermined “median income.”

MORTGAGE INTEREST DEDUCTION: Alexander Pyles of The Daily Record blogs that while the O’Malley administration says the proposed end to the mortgage interest tax deduction would only impact 20% of homeowners, Realtors said the psychological impact of that change is much deeper.

MEDICARE FRAUD: Brett Lake of the Carroll County times writes about a bill sponsored by Del. Justin Ready that would install computer software at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene specifically programmed to catch potential Medicare and Medicaid fraud.

MILLER “ARRESTED:” At a Thursday night dinner sponsored by the Society of Senates Past, Senate President Mike Miller was “arrested” by Union soldier re-enactors during a description of the state Senate’s role in the Civil War, according to The Sun’s Maryland Politics blog.

ONLINE EDUCATION: Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail describes a bill proposed by Sen. Christopher Shank that would create an online learning council to develop policies for online education and make new opportunities.

TOLL CONTROL: Duane Keenan filed a podcast for MarylandReporter.com about bills that would limit the state’s ability to increase tolls.

1812 BICENTENNIAL: Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn has put a hold on Ben Cardin’s bill to create a star-spangled commission for the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812, Benjamin Ford reports in the Gazette.

UNIVERSITY PARTNERSHIP: The Board of Regents approved a strategic partnership between the University of Maryland’s College Park and Baltimore campuses on Thursday, reports Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

The partnership could bring millions of dollars of new investments into technology ventures, Jack Lambert of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

The Diamondback’s Rebecca Lurye talks about other details of the partnership: A joint public health school and a joint bioinformatics center.

WBAL-TV’s Tim Tooten has video. WBAL’s Robert Lang interviewed university officials about the partnership.

FREDERICK TEACHER SPOUSES: The Frederick News-Post’s Bethany Rodgers writes about a bill that would repeal the ban on Frederick County teachers’ spouses serving on the school board.

NATURAL GAS REVENUES: Maryland would gain $441 million over 30 years in severance taxes if natural gas is extracted from the Marcellus shale formation under the state’s two western counties, according to a study released Thursday by the Maryland Petroleum Council, Margie Hyslop reports in the Gazette.

FUND MANAGERS’ IMPORTANCE: The State Pensions and Retirement System disagrees with criticism from an independent analyst about how firing fund managers could increase retirement system investment returns, reports Megan Poinski from MarylandReporter.com.

BARTLETT REASON FOR RUNNING: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who faces a tough re-election battle, tells the Frederick News-Post’s Nicholas Stern his reasons for running for office haven’t changed: He’s worried about the future, and whether his progeny will have the same opportunities.

CYBER CENTER GOOD FOR STATE: The new National Cyber Center for Excellence in Cyber Security, which will be founded in Montgomery County with federal and state funds, is what Maryland needs to continue to position itself at the forefront of the high-tech field, the staff editorial in the Daily Record says.

CAROLINE COUNTY SPEAKS OUT: Caroline County officials rallied in front of their County Circuit Courthouse on Thursday to send a message to Annapolis: Don’t shift teacher pensions to counties, reports Abby Andrews of the Easton Star-Democrat.

MONTGOMERY BAG TAX: The first month of a 5-cent tax on all shopping bags provided by stores netted the county an additional $154,000, reports The Post’s Victor Zapana.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook includes items on Bartlett’s mustache controversy; Anthony Brown and the Cat in the Hat; “Jack” O’Malley at the White House; Raskin’s pawns; St. Ignatius’s eloquent boys; and Mike Miller’s pat on the back.

STACKED DECK: Gazette columnist Blair Lee describes how Maryland’s election laws are a stacked deck in favor of Democratic incumbents.

PROCUREMENT LAWS: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar says the state’s procurement laws need revision as officials pursue more complicated public-private partnerships.