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Published on April 9th, 2012 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, April 9, 2012

AT THE WIRE: Pushing legislative brinkmanship to its limits, the General Assembly will go into the last scheduled day of its 90-day session today without an agreement on the one thing it must get done under Maryland’s Constitution: pass a balanced budget, Michael Dresser and Annie Linskey of the Sun report.

And while there is a lengthy roster of high-profile bills remains unresolved as the General Assembly – offshore wind power; a doubling of the so-called “flush tax; the future of gambling in Maryland – it’s all about the budget, writes the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

But lawmakers moved scores of bills on Saturday, blogs Greg Masters in the Post, detailing the list.

Lawmakers held an unusual weekend session to catch up, John Rydell reports for WBFF-TV.
Both the House of Delegates and Senate worked Saturday, two days before scheduled adjournment at midnight tonight.

If lawmakers are unable to finish negotiations on the budget this morning, they could be looking at a rare extended session to finish their work, according to a blog in the Post.

David Hill of the Washington Times also writes about the looming deadline.

The Sun’s Michael Dresser blogs that Senate President Mike Miller warned lawmakers on Saturday that time is running out.

Legislation on the budget, a teacher pension shift, casino gambling, wind farming and transportation infrastructure funding all were in limbo Friday, as the General Assembly prepared to wrap up for 2012, according to a Capital News Service story in the Howard County Times.

PARTNERSHIP BILL: Alexander Pyles of the Daily Record reports that the state Senate gave preliminary approval to a public-private partnerships bill that does not include two controversial amendments made to an identical House of Delegates bill.

The Senate version reverts to the original House bill, establishing an improved process for the state to review and coordinate proposals from outside developers on major infrastructure projects, writes Justin Snow for MarylandReporter.com.

IN SCHOOL TIL 18: The Sun’s Annie Linskey blogs that Maryland is poised to join a growing number of states that are requiring students to stay in school until their 18th birthday, a shift that President Barack Obama urged during his State of the Union address in January.

UNENTITLED CREDITS: The General Assembly has approved a bill imposing steep penalties on homeowners who are caught getting homestead property tax credits they’re not entitled to receive, Scott Calvert of the Sun writes.

O’MALLEY AS ISSUE: Earl Kelly of the Annapolis Capital writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley has earned several victories in 2012, but he has delivered just as much ammunition to his political foes and energized conservatives.

The editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times writes that, making tax-hike arguments isn’t easy for most politicians. For O’Malley, seeking increases in fees and taxes sometimes appears to be a passion. It’s a jarring sort of tactic that can do nothing but give even his most devoted supporters a good deal of pause.

GAMBLING IN MARYLAND: Maryland’s House of Delegates narrowly approved a bill Saturday that would provide $1.2 million to the owner of a racetrack and casino on the Eastern Shore, setting aside objections from some lawmakers who called it a giveaway to the “1%,” Annie Linskey reports in the Sun.

“You know this is wrong. You know it!” Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons told his colleagues before they voted 76 to 44 for the legislation blogs John Wagner for the Post.

The Maryland Senate passed a bill Saturday that would let state voters decide in November whether a sixth Maryland casino should be built in Prince George’s County, writes Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner. An amendment would also let voters decide whether to allow table games like blackjack and roulette.

This bill would also require lawmakers to revisit the issue during the next legislative session to develop more detailed legislation regarding the implementation of the new casino location, Daniel Leaderman reports in the Gazette.

The editorial board of the Sun writes that the state legislature should drop the question of expanding Maryland’s gambling program and concentrate instead on the budget and other crucial matters.

BOLSTERING SAFETY SEAT LAWS: State lawmakers have passed legislation pushed by Maryland doctors that will bolster the state’s child safety seat laws and bring Maryland in compliance with federal guidelines, reports Andrea Walker in the Sun.

ARSENIC BAN: Maryland’s General Assembly adopted on Saturday a ban on arsenic additives in chicken feed, which if signed into law would make the state the first in the nation to take such a step to keep the toxic chemical out of food and the environment, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

LOCAL VS. STATE: This year’s session has been a deal-changer for the state’s relationship with its counties, Earl Kelly and Pamela Wood report in the Annapolis Capital. Bills have passed to direct more education costs to the counties and place greater burdens on them to clean up the environment.

Frederick County lawmakers are divided as to whether local leaders now have less control over growth in their communities or are simply better equipped to make smart decisions, Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News Post.

FLUSH FEE DOUBLES: Most Marylanders will see their flush tax bill double from $30 to $60 beginning July 1, but the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund will remain vulnerable to raids that have climbed to $290 million since 2010, writes Daniel Menefee in MarylandReporter.com. The Senate approved the fee increase in 28-18 vote late Saturday, with an amendment that exempts some areas in far western Maryland and Ocean City that are not part of the Chesapeake Bay drainage area. The House, which has already passed the measure, is likely to agree to the amendment.

SEPTIC BILL: A bill that limits the future use of residential septic systems passed the House on Friday with support from some Republicans. Opponents consider the bill a “big brother” power grab that will handicap farmers, while supporters argued the legislation will curb growth and protect the Chesapeake Bay, Dave Collins reports for WBAL-TV.

LAND CONTROL: Floor debate in the House over the administration’s signature land preservation bill invoked common themes from Republicans about growing state control over rural and agricultural land use, but the bill passed with a vote of 93-45, Daniel Menefee of MarylandReporter writes.

ARORA BETRAYAL: David Moon of Maryland Juice outlines and dissects what he says is the betrayal of the LGBT community by state Del. Sam Arora.

McCONKEY CONFLICT: Earl Kelly of the Annapolis Capital follows up a Washington Post story about Del. Tony McConkey, who is trying to get legislation passed that would benefit him by helping to restore his revoked Maryland real estate license and cut interest rates on the fines he has to pay.

PROM LIMO WARNING: The Maryland Public Service Commission is asking Maryland teens to exercise caution when reserving limousines for prom night, warning that unlicensed vehicles try to garner promgoers’ business, Lisa Gartner writes for the Washington Examiner.

SAME-SEX PETITION: Cumberland area leaders of the Maryland Marriage Alliance plan a petition drive beginning tomorrow aimed at gathering the required signatures to bring Maryland’s same-sex marriage law to a referendum vote in November, according to a report in the Cumberland Times-News.

NEW NEWSITE: Blogs and websites come and go these days, but Maryland got itself a new comprehensive news website on Friday with the launch of the Baltimore Post-Examiner, blogs Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

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