March 29, 2012

State Roundup, March 29, 2012

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SLIM MAJORITY FOR MARRIAGE REPEAL: Annie Linskey of the Sun reports that an independent poll released yesterday morning by OpinionWorks shows a narrow majority of Marylanders want to repeal the new same-sex marriage bill.

Opponents of same-sex marriage have an advantage in intensity: While 37% “strongly” feel they will vote to make same-sex marriage illegal in Maryland, 31% “strongly” feel they will vote to make it legal, writes John Wagner in the Post. On the other hand, according to OpinionWorks, those who remain undecided tend to be slightly more Democratic and younger, and less religious than the population as a whole — all groups that lean toward making same-sex marriage legal.

CAUTIOUS ON FRACKING: An OpinionWorks poll commissioned by Chesapeake Climate Action Network also found a strong majority of Marylanders favor a cautious approach on the use of fracking to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus shale in the western portion of the state, Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times News reports.

SPRING CLEANING FOR THE BAY: It’s the 2nd annual spring cleaning for the Chesapeake Bay as more than 400 boats will prowl the bay looking for ghost pots with the help of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the nonprofit Oyster Recovery Partnership and a federal grant, writes Pamela Wood of the Annapolis Capital.

MD HEALTH EXCHANGE IN LIMBO? As tough questioning from the U.S. Supreme Court forces proponents of President Obama’s health-care law to contemplate the fallout if it is ruled unconstitutional, Gov. Martin O’Malley says he is unsure how the state would move forward with its own health-care exchanges, Greg Masters reports in the Post.

STATE CENTER AMENDMENT: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, the governor’s point man on legislation governing public-private partnerships, said yesterday the administration will not risk the measure’s defeat over a controversial amendment that could change the rules for appeals in a lawsuit challenging the State Center redevelopment plan in Baltimore, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. Brown said the amendment, tacked on the bill in the House Environmental Matters Committee, did not come from the administration.

HOUSE VOTES POSTING DELAYED: Justin Snow of MarylandReporter.com blogs that tally sheets from roll call votes in the House of Delegates have not been quickly posted on the General Assembly’s website, with clerks citing technical difficulties and an end-of-session pile up of votes.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS RALLY: Environmentalists came to Annapolis dressed in waders, life jackets and even a shark costume to rally for a package of bills moving through the House and Senate that would protect water quality, writes Annie Linskey in the Sun.

UTILITY SURCHARGE KILLED: A bill that would have let gas utilities seek a surcharge of up to $2 a month on customers’ bill was shot down — for a second time – yesterday by a bipartisan coalition of senators who contended the measure would let monopolies charge ratepayers up front for infrastructure improvements the companies now have to finance out of their own coffers, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

Daniel Menefee of MarylandReporter.com reports that the bill would have raised $150 million over five years for the utility to fund pipeline replacement and upgrades,

TAX QUESTIONS ANSWERED: With three weeks left to file taxes by April 17, residents can ask questions from noon to 1 p.m. Monday about their 2011 tax returns and how to file during an online question-and-answer session with the state comptroller and a team of tax experts. The chat can be accessed at www.marylandtaxes.com, Daniel Gross reports in the Gazette.

FREDERICK VOTING EARLY: Katherine Heerbrandt of the Gazette reports that, as of Tuesday, Frederick’s voting center was the third busiest in the state behind Harford County and Randallstown – “Not overwhelming, but steady.”

RON PAUL IN MD: Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul stormed through the University of Maryland yesterday, delivering his trademark libertarian message of noninterventionism and hands-off government to a wildly enthusiastic crowd of students who chanted his name, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

“A lot of people are waking up,” Paul said. “I think the younger generation is certainly waking up . He also touched on this nation’s military involvement abroad, writes Jim Bach for the Diamondback. He said the country should temper its role as “world police,” and should no longer engage in nation building.

Keith Daniels of WBFF-TV was there with a videocam.

ROMNEY MD CHAIRS: In a further display of the organization Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney enjoys in Maryland, the campaign released a list of county chairs that will help drive voter turnout in the state’s primary next Tuesday, blogs John Fritze of the Sun.

OUT FOR CARDIN’S SEAT: John Fritze blogs in the Sun that the head of the Baltimore Jewish Council is raising questions about a campaign flyer from Democratic Senate candidate Anthony Muse that notes that there are no African-Americans serving in the U.S. Senate but that there are 12 Jews. Muse, a state senator from Prince George’s County, is black. He is running against incumbent Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin, who is Jewish.

Republican Senate candidate Daniel Bongino, who also hopes to secure Cardin’s seat, began airing his first television ad, a largely introductory spot that argues that Washington has “left behind significant portions of our inner city,” Fritze reports in the Sun. Scroll down to view the video.

Fritze also blogs that Republican Senate candidate Richard Douglas launched his first television ad this week, criticizing incumbent Cardin on the economy.

6th CONGRESSIONAL RACES: In the 6th District Congressional race, incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who some believed was ready to retire, says his campaign’s polling indicates that the crowded GOP field is splitting the anti-incumbent vote, writes the Sun’s John Fritze.

Gov. Martin O’Malley will back state Sen. Rob Garagiola in his bid to capture the nomination in the 6th Congressional District, a significant get for a candidate who has faced a stronger than expected challenge from Potomac banker John Delaney late in the campaign, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

Garagiola, once the de facto frontrunner to become the Old Line State’s newest member of Congress, finds himself in a serious dogfight with Delaney just less than a week before the Democratic primary, Abby Livingstone reports for Roll Call.

PRES CLINTON TO SPEAK: Former President Bill Clinton will headline Stevenson University’s just-announced 2012-2013 speakers series, opening on Oct. 16 with a talk about the challenge of globalization, Jill Rosen writes in the Sun.

ACLU EXPANDS LEOPOLD PROBE: Allison Bourg of the Annapolis Capital writes that the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland said yesterday it is expanding its inquiry into whether the Anne Arundel county executive‘s police detail illegally accessed a state criminal history database.