March 14, 2012

State Roundup, March 14, 2012

Print More

PITCHING GAS TAX: The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to make a personal, perhaps quixotic pitch today for what could be the least popular proposal in Annapolis this year: raising the tax on gasoline. But, he writes, Senate President Mike Miller, a longtime proponent of raising revenue for transportation projects, said it is unlikely that the General Assembly will pass the increase and suggested trying again at a special session later this year.

Miller said that support for a gas tax increase is waning among members of the Senate, and that the tax likely won’t pass this year, Ben Giles and Liz Essley report in the Washington Examiner.

David Hill of the Washington Times writes that O’Malley says the tax increase is a necessary investment in the state’s congested, too-long-ignored road and transit infrastructure.

WJZ-TV’s Meghan McCorkell reports that drivers are groaning over the combination of rising gas prices plus a possible gas tax.

JUDGES GET PAY BOOST: The House of Delegates passed pay increases of up to $14,500 for Maryland judges yesterday in an 84-47 vote. The delegates were convinced they were out of time to get the Senate to agree to a smaller increase of $4,800, before an automatic $29,000 raise took effect tomorrow, Daniel Menefee writes for MarylandReporter.com.

The increase will cost the state about $6.8 million, according to legislative analysts. The chief judge on the Court of Appeals will see an increase from $181,000 to $195,000 by 2016. District Court judges’ salaries will go from $127,000 to $141,000, writes Greg Masters in the Post.

Several Frederick County lawmakers objected to the raises, writes Bethany Rodgers in the Frederick News-Post.

OPPOSITION TO SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Writing in the Baltimore Brew, columnist Rodney Foxworth says that religion more than race plays a role in African-Americans’ opposition to same sex marriage in Maryland.

TIME OFF FOR SCHOOL: The House of Delegates appears ready to pass a bill that would give prison inmates time off their sentences for earning high-school diplomas and other degrees, despite complaints from Republicans and some Democrats that the measure extends an undeserved privilege to some of the state’s worst criminals, David Hill reports in the Washington Times.

WALK & PEDDLE: In an effort to promote sustainability, state lawmakers have proposed a bill that would require colleges and state facilities to build bike paths and pedestrian walkways on their campuses, Jim Bach reports for the Diamondback.

And, reporting in the Urbanite, Ron Cassie writes that, as part of the Cycle Maryland initiative, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced 20 awardees of the state’s Bikeways program grants.

MAKING ABUSERS PAY: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that those convicted of animal cruelty may soon have to pay for the veterinary care and housing of the animals they abused. A bill, cross-filed in the Maryland House and Senate, is seeking an avenue to help animal control shelters and private rehabilitation clinics that can incur hundreds or even thousands of dollars recoup their expenses.

ELECTRONIC TOLL BOOTHS: Maryland may eventually do away with tollbooths on the state’s highways, bridges and tunnels and switch to electronic toll collection. A preliminary report by the Maryland Transportation Authority concluded that converting its seven toll plazas is feasible but would cost as much as $180 million, the Sun’s Candus Thomson reports.

CASINO FOR PG: Legislation that would authorize a casino in Prince George’s County still faces tough odds in the Maryland General Assembly, but the measure will get a fresh round of scrutiny in the coming week, writes John Wagner for the Post.

DNR SUGGESTS SMALLER BOAT FEE HIKE: The state Department of Natural Resources is suggesting lesser increases in boat registration than was proposed last month in the General Assembly, writes Steve Kilar for the Sun. Under the department’s amendment, registration every two years would cost: $25 for boats under 16 feet; $50 for boats under 21 feet; $75 for boats under 32 feet; $100 for boats under 45 feet; $200 for boats up to 65 feet; and $300 for boats more than 65 feet long.

TUITION WAIVER KILLED: A bill that would waive college tuition for employees of the Maryland Higher Education Commission and their children was handily defeated in the Senate yesterday morning, blogs Justin Snow in MarylandReporter.com.

INSPECTOR GENERAL: Republicans in the General Assembly are proposing a constitutional amendment to create an elected state inspector general to root out waste, fraud and financial problems in state agencies, Megan Poinski reports for MarylandReporter.com.

DISTRICT 4 RACE: Candidates vying for the District 4 Congressional seat say solving the area’s transportation woes are vital, but differ on whether funding the proposed Purple Line or expanding existing Metro services should be the priority, Jeffrey Lyles writes in the Gazette.

FRANCHOT BACKS DELANEY: The 6th District Democratic primary is long on negative ads but short on addressing the issues, writes Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com. John Delaney racked up another high profile endorsement, this time from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, while Rob Garagiola collected his latest union endorsement from the United Auto Workers.

Blogging in the Sun, John Fritze writes that Franchot arrived at Delaney’s campaign headquarters in Gaithersburg to deliver the news to several dozen volunteers and prominent Democrats, including former Montgomery County Exec Doug Duncan, who has backed Delaney from the start.

AA COUNCIL WARNED ON DEADLOCK: In a blistering letter he wrote to the Anne Arundel County Council, County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said that the panel’s failure to fill a vacancy created when a member was sent to federal prison “seriously undermines” the county’s position in a lawsuit over whether he can return to office, writes Nicole Fuller in the Sun.

Allison Bourg of the Annapolis Capital reports that, with the council deadlocked 3-3 on a replacement for Daryl Jones, Hodgson warned that it makes it difficult for the county to argue it had to remove him.

NO CONFIDENCE, NOW WHAT? Columnist Eric Hartley, writing in the Capital, asks what the unions’ no confidence vote in County Executive John Leopold has actually accomplished.

ROADS PROJECTS IN TALBOT: The Talbot County Council has three road improvement projects it wants the state to tackle, and added to the list of regional priorities the replacement of the functionally obsolete Dover Bridge and expanding the dangerous state Route 404 to four lanes, Dan Divilio writes in the Easton Star-Democrat.