State Roundup, March 7, 2012

March 07, 2012 at 7:56 am

DOOMSDAY BUDGET: A game of chicken is developing between Democrats in the Maryland Senate and House over competing proposals to raise taxes. Senate Democrats want an across-the-board increase to income taxes to help close the state’s shortfall, while House members want to stick closer to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to cap exemptions and deductions for high-income earners, blogs Aaron Davis for the Post.

There’s something for everybody to hate in the doomsday budget, with $720 million in cuts previewed to Senate budgeters yesterday: School aid gets chopped $204 million; Local aid, already cut in previous years, is slashed $102 million, the bulk of it by totally eliminating of police aid and law enforcement grants; Library funding is sliced, too, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReproter.com.

If the proposed doomsday state budget proposals become law, Allegany and Garrett counties would be hit hard, Matthew Bieniek reports for the Cumberland Times-News.

State Sen. Roger Manno has proposed an income tax hike that is the focus of the Senate’s  budget balancing plan. View an interview with him at MarylandReporter.com.

SALE TAX UPROAR: Justin Snow of MarylandReporter.com writes that members of the House Ways and Means Committee heard nearly six hours of testimony yesterday on a series of tax hikes from raising the income tax rate on millionaires and capital gains to changing the way corporations are taxed. But the measure that drew the fiercest opposition from a long list of witness was a bill to extend the sales tax to 30 new services, including car repair.

FRACKING STUDY FEE: O’Malley administration officials joined environmentalists in supporting a bill that would pay for their year-old study of hydraulic fracturing by levying a fee on the estimated 150,000 acres leased for gas exploration in Garrett and Allegany counties, reports Tim Wheeler of the Sun. Business and oil industry representatives opposed the fee, arguing that it could dampen prospects for drilling to boost the economically depressed region.

The $10-an-acre fee would apply to lands leased for hydraulic fracturing, a drilling method that extracts the gas by blasting through layers of shale rock with a combination of water and chemicals, according to an AP report in the Salisbury Daily Times.

LEAD PAINT: With efforts to reduce lead poisoning among children at a crossroads, Maryland lawmakers are wrestling with proposals to expand state regulation of home sales, rentals and repairs to reduce youngsters’ exposure to the toxic metal, the Sun’s Tim Wheeler reports.

GUN LAW RULING: A ruling by a federal judge loosening handgun restrictions in Maryland has drawn different reactions from the chairmen of the two General Assembly committees that take up gun-related bills, with one blasting the decision and the other reconsidering his position on a restriction that gun rights advocates have long sought to repeal, writes Greg Masters of the Post.

Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports that, as they praise a court ruling that dubbed a Maryland gun law provision unconstitutional, some local legislators are asking for immediate changes to the firearm permitting process.

But, writes Cara Anthony for the New-Post, two leading law enforcement officials in Frederick County have different ideas about gun laws possibly changing in Maryland.

The District Court judge is pushing the Second Amendment envelope in his 23-page opinion that an existing restriction on handgun carry permits in which the applicant must show a “good and substantial reason” to have one infringes on the individual’s right to keep and bear arms, opines the editorial board for the Sun. He admits as much in his decision.

REDISTRICTING CHALLENGE DISMISSED: An AP report in the Daily Record says that a U.S. District Court judge has rejected a challenge to the Maryland congressional redistricting plan proposed by the governor and approved by the General Assembly last fall.

PASSING THE BUS: State Del. Patrick Hogan is aiming to fix a glitch in a law he sponsored last year to stop drivers from illegally passing school buses, writes Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post.

CLEMENCY POSSIBLE: The Sun’s Justin Fenton is reporting that Gov. Martin O’Malley is taking steps to grant clemency to two Maryland inmates serving life sentences, including a Baltimore man convicted of murder at age 14 — the first time he has proceeded that far on such an action.

HEAT IS ON LEOPOLD: Anne Arundel County’s largest police union called on County Executive John Leopold and Police Chief James Teare last night to resign in the wake of the indictment of Leopold, who is accused of using his police security detail for campaign and personal tasks, Andrea Siegal reports for the Sun. Fraternal Order of Police members voted overwhelmingly to express no confidence in Leopold and Teare.

Police officials say it’s the first time in their 42-year history that they’ve made a statement like this, Mike Hellegren of reports for WJZ-TV.

Dan Rodricks at WYPR-FM spoke with Erin Cox of The Annapolis Capital on reaction to the indictment of Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold and the deadlock over a vacancy on the Anne Arundel County Council. He then took an in-depth look at Maryland’s political identity, with longtime political analyst Herb Smith and party official John Willis, authors of “Maryland Politics and Government: Democratic Dominance.”

Strip away all of the salacious details in the indictment against Anne Arundel County Exec John Leopold, and it becomes  clear that there are serious issues at stake, opines the editorial board for the Sun.

PRINCE GEORGE’S BAG FEE: With approval from the Prince George’s County Delegation, writes Lindsey McPherson for the Laurel Leader, a bill that would authorize the county to require retailers to charge a fee for disposable bags is expected to pass through the General Assembly this session.

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