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Published on March 26th, 2012 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, March 26, 2012

HOUSE OKS TAX HIKE: House lawmakers on Friday afternoon approved a $35.86 billion fiscal 2013 budget that raises revenue by increasing the income tax rate for Marylanders making more than $100,000 per year, reports Danielle Gaines for the Gazette.

THAT’S NOT TRUE: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks debunks some of the misconceptions about Maryland, its tax rate and the quality of its educational system.

MOVE TOWARD PRIVATIZATION: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has joined a little-noticed wave of Democratic governors gravitating toward the privatization of government facilities — a practice once anathema to blue states and their often-powerful public employee unions, Aaron Davis reports in the Post.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PROJECTS: An AP story in the Carroll County Times reports that the House of Delegates on Saturday gave an initial nod to Gov. O’Malley’s proposed policy governing public-private partnerships on big projects like roads and public buildings, but some lawmakers heatedly objected to a new provision ensuring speedy legal proceedings for participants in such a partnership.

HOUSE PASSES BUDGET: Maryland’s House of Delegates passed a spending package that would hike income taxes on six-figure earners and shift some teacher pension costs to counties in an effort to avoid cuts to classrooms, health-care and other Democratic Party priorities, Aaron Davis reports in the Post.

ED SPENDING: The General Assembly has approved a tough new law that will require Maryland’s counties and Baltimore to keep up a minimum level of education spending or risk having the state withhold part of their annual tax collections and ship the money directly to local school boards, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.

DEADLINE LOOMS: Lawmakers are working overtime of late with just 15 days left in the 2012 General Assembly and an important deadline looming today, David Hill of the Washington Times writes.

O’M STOPS FOR MARRIAGE FUNDER: During a political trip to Connecticut on Friday, Gov. Martin O’Malley worked in a fundraiser for an expected referendum on the same-sex marriage bill he signed into law this month.

SEPTIC AMENDMENTS: A series of nine amendments to the O’Malley administration’s septic bill cleared the Senate Friday evening, preserving longstanding control of septic use with local planning authorities, writes Daniel Menefee for MarylandReporter.com.

AGAINST SEPTIC PLAN: But the owners of a New Market farm are not happy about the proposal in the state legislature to control septic system use and possibly limit the development potential of their land, Bethany Rodgers writes in the Frederick News Post.

MANDATED SPRINKLERS: Brian Shane of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that the Maryland House and Senate each passed bills that would effectively mandate sprinkler systems for new single-family homes. But the debate focused on the cost of the installation.

PANEL OKS 6th CASINO: A state Senate panel approved legislation that would allow a sixth gambling site in Maryland, this time in Prince George’s County, and add Las Vegas-style table games to all the state’s casinos, Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner reports.

 The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee voted 10 to 2 Friday to advance a controversial bill that would add several additional sweeteners for the proposed host jurisdiction, John Wagner writes in the Post.

HEALTH-REFORM WEBSITE: A new website about health reform in Maryland debuted Friday, on the second anniversary of President Barack Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act. HealthReform.Maryland.gov is intended to provide easy access to information about health reform for residents and businesses, as well as on updates on health care reform as it progresses, reports Sarah Gantz of the Baltimore Business Journal.

FED FUNDS FOR CARE: Maryland has received more than $106 million in federal funding to provide more long-term care in communities rather than in hospitals or assisted living facilities, according to a story in the BBJ.

PG BAG FEE DEAD: An attempt to give Prince George’s County lawmakers the authority to impose a 5-cent fee on disposable shopping bags has died in Annapolis, Miranda Spivack reports in the Post.

LET THE SUNSHINE IN: With the advent of the Internet and attempts to use it to make the workings of state government more accessible — attempts that include O’Malley’s much-publicized StateStat and BayStat websites — more light has been shining into the corridors of Maryland government. But not enough, writes the editorial board for the Annapolis Capital.

GOOD PLACE TO BE FEMALE: Maryland is the third best state in the U.S. to be a woman, according to a report released Friday by iVillage.com, Ryan Sharrow reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

6th DISTRICT DEM FORUM: The five Democrats seeking the Maryland 6th District Congressional seat agreed on most issues and only varied in their approaches to those issues at a candidate’s forum Saturday, writes Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News.

6th DISTRICT: David Moon of Maryland Juice, with experience as a Democratic operative, puts on his thinking cap about the Democratic primary for 6th Congressional District, and gives an even handed analysis assessing many factors. He supplements it with five anonymous sources, who sound both informed and thoughtful on the race.

6th GOP DEBATE: Republicans running for Congress in the competitive 6th District piled on Rep. Roscoe Bartlett during a debate yesterday, arguing that the GOP incumbent lacks the sense of urgency needed to win in what is likely to be among the most competitive House races in the country, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

DEM DELANEY: Banker John Delaney knew that Maryland’s ruling Democrats had someone else in mind to become the state’s next 6th District congressman. But, writes John Fritze in the Sun, the 48-year-old multimillionaire from Potomac jumped into the race anyway. And despite early missteps, Delaney’s campaign appears to be gaining momentum with just over a week before the April 3 Democratic primary.

BARTLETT, DELANEY LEAD IN BUCKS: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) and financier John Delaney (D) are well ahead of their respective primary opponents on the fundraising front, according to new Federal Election Commission reports, giving them a key advantage ahead of the April 3 balloting, Ben Pershing blogs in the Post.

EARLY VOTING STARTS: Voters grabbed their umbrellas and headed to five Prince George’s County polling places on Saturday, the first day of the state’s early voting period, reports Abby Brownback for the Gazette. Click here for a list of early voting sites in Maryland.

Chris Knauss of the Easton Star Democrat tallies up the numbers of Eastern Shore registered voters and their parties.

SMITH TO TAKE OATH: Allison Bourg of the Annapolis Capital profiles the Arundel Council’s newest member, Peter Smith, who will be sworn in today at a very difficult time for the county, when the council is considering subpoenaing the police chief in the probe of County Exec John Leopold.

ON A TEARE: Eric Hartley, columnist for the Capital, says police chief James Teare shows disrespect for the law in declining the “invitation” (actually a subpoena) to appear before the council.

BUS TRANSIT GROWTH: Victor Zapana of the Post reports that Montgomery County officials want to ease growing traffic congestion by expanding bus transit, and a task force appointed by County Executive Ike Leggett is poised to argue that property taxes must increase to help pay for the plan.

MOE AND WICOMICO: The editorial board of the Salisbury Daily Times takes a look at Maintenance of Effort requirements and school funding and concludes that Wicomico County better meet its requirements or face the consequences.

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