March 9, 2012

State Roundup, March 9, 2012

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SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE APPROVES PLAN: The Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee approved its version of the fiscal year 2013 spending plan on Thursday afternoon. On deck are tax increases for nearly everyone, and a more gradual shift of teacher pension costs to county school boards, reports MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick.

An AP story in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail lays out exactly how the income tax increases – mostly repealing an old tax cut – would appear under the committee’s plan. The Cumberland Times-News’ Brian White also breaks it down simply.

Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner writes that for the state’s wealthiest taxpayers, the proposal taxes them at a 5.75% rate, but people making as little as $3,001 annually could see an increase.

The controversial digital download tax is out, blogs Will Burns for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

MACo’s Conduit Street blog has details on how the pension shift approved by the committee would impact counties in the state.

The full Senate is expected to debate the budget plan next week, reports David Hill of The Washington Times.

Shifting the cost of teacher pensions is gaining momentum in the House of Delegates as well, Daniel Leaderman reports in the Gazette.

Gazette columnist Blair Lee says the counties are left holding the bag in the teacher pension shift. Barry Rascovar, Lee’s confrere on the op-ed page, says the shift is necessary and inevitable.

O’MALLEY PREDICTS GAY MARRIAGE WIN: Appearing on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” Gov. Martin O’Malley predicted that the state’s new same-sex marriage law will be on the November ballot, but will be approved by voters, reports The Washington Post’s John Wagner.

GAY MARRIAGE MEETINGS: Marylanders for Marriage Equality, the group supporting the state’s new same-sex marriage law, will be holding town hall meetings to support the law and starting a petition of people who pledge to support same-sex marriage at referendum, according to an Associated Press story in The Daily Record.

GAY MARRIAGE POLL: According to a new poll commissioned by Marylanders for Marriage Equality, a slight majority – 52% — is likely to vote for same-sex marriage if it’s on the November ballot, writes The Sun’s Annie Linskey,

HANDGUN PERMIT STAY: Attorneys for the state have asked the judge who ruled Maryland’s law on handgun permits unconstitutional for a stay in enforcing the ruling while it is appealed, according to an AP story in The Daily Record.

DEATH PENALTY REPEAL: The perpetual bill to repeal the death penalty is expected to die in committee again this year, even though sponsor Sen. Lisa Gladden thinks she can get the votes if she petitioned her colleagues, according to an Associated Press article by Sarah Breitenbach in the Annapolis Capital.

A Hagerstown man whose family has been through three murders appeared in Annapolis to testify against the death penalty, reports Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

SPEED CAMERA AMENDMENT REJECTED: An amendment that would have required workers to be present in construction zones in order for speed cameras to ticket motorists failed in the Senate by one vote, according to an AP story in The Daily Record.

PUBLIC DEFENDER: Lawmakers have reached a compromise to rewrite Maryland’s Public Defender Act to give defendants proper access to attorneys, Danielle Gaines reports in the Gazette. The consensus amendments would not require judges to work weekends and would dramatically reduce the number of people arrested for crimes with shorter jail terms.

MARIJUANA VETO LIKELY: A spokeswoman for O’Malley said he’d be likely to veto any bill permitting medical marijuana because of liability concerns, Andrea Walker reports for The Sun.

BOND BILLS: More than 120 projects around the state will be vying for $15 million in state capital bonds at a marathon hearing in Annapolis Saturday, Danielle Gaines reports in the Gazette.

BOAT EVENT REGULATION: A bill that would require a permit for events drawing 100 boats or more passed the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, reports the Annapolis Capital’s Tim Pratt. The bill would regulate boat-up events, like the annual Bumper Bash on the Magothy River.

UNIONIZATION BILL PULLED: A bill that would have allowed University of Maryland graduate students, tenure-track faculty and adjunct faculty to unionize was abruptly pulled from consideration in Annapolis on Wednesday after the University System of Maryland agreed to a process that would allow the groups to employ a third party to meet with administrators to air grievances, report Jim Bach and Laura Blasey of The Diamondback.

STIFFER CHILD ABUSE PENALTY: Lawmakers heard testimony on a bill that would increase the maximum penalty for child abuse resulting in death to life in prison, reports the Hagerstown Herald-Mail’s Andrew Schotz.

“BAN THE BOX:” Former felons rallied in Annapolis to ask lawmakers to remove a box that job applicants must check if they have a prior felony from state job applications, saying that box makes it impossible for them to find work. WYPR’s Joel McCord spoke with some of them.

AGAINST SMART METERS: Del. Glen Glass tells MarylandReporter.com’s Duane Keenan in a podcast why he’s proposed a bill that would allow people to not use smart meters.

OPPOSING GAS TAX: The University of Maryland’s Student Government Association voted to oppose Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to start collecting sales tax on gasoline sales, reports Leah Villanueva in The Diamondback.

JOHNSON GOES TO PRISON: Former Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, wife of former county executive Jack Johnson, is scheduled to report for prison today, reports The Post’s Miranda Spivack. Johnson pleaded guilty to destroying evidence for trying to help her husband hide money he’d been given in bribes in advance of an FBI raid.

DELANEY BANK AUDIT: A commercial bank that is headed by District 6 Democratic House of Representatives candidate John Delaney is under investigation by the IRS, reports John Fritze of the Baltimore Sun.

SENATE CAMPAIGN FORUM: At a Tea Party-sponsored campaign forum for those vying for U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin’s seat, candidates said that the federal government is currently too large, reports the Hagerstown Herald-Mail’s Dave McMillion. Nine of the 20 candidates – but not Cardin himself – attended.

IMPALLARIA CAMPAIGN OOPS: A member of Del. Rick Impallaria’s Annapolis legislative staff used a State House phone to remind reporters of the delegate’s Congressional campaign kickoff on Thursday, reports Bryan Sears of Patch.com. Impallaria said the calls were “an honest mistake.”

BALTIMORE 27TH IN EXPORTS: The Brookings Institute ranked Baltimore 27th in the nation for the value of its exports – about $9.7 billion in 2010, according to an article in the Baltimore Business Journal.

COLLEGE INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT: The Board of Public Works approved a two-year contract extension with T. Rowe Price to continue managing the state’s college investment fund program, according to a story in the Baltimore Business Journal.