April 27, 2012

State Roundup, April 27, 2012

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SPECIAL SESSION VS FUND-RAISING: John Wagner of the Post reports that with the possibility of a pair of special sessions in coming months, fund-raising rules for Maryland lawmakers have become a little more tricky to navigate. Under Maryland law, legislators are prohibited from raising campaign money during their annual 90-day sessions, and guidance by an ethics committee in 2008 suggests lawmakers treat them no differently because “the appearance of improper influence can be just as great.”

SPECIAL SESSIONS: If there are two special sessions of the legislature, some groups want other issues besides gambling to be taken up, Danielle Gaines writes in the Gazette. But a session on gaming could spell trouble for the issue, reports Daniel Leaderman.

Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar writes that two special sessions make sense politically.

Questioning the leadership at the State House, Laslo Boyd in his Gazette column says Gov. Martin O’Malley was damaged by the budget impasse, but Senate President Mike Miller was too.  In an op-ed, Allan Lichtman lays the blame on Miller, as others have done.

NAACP BACKS TWO SESSIONS: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s suggestion that the General Assembly hold two special sessions this year has earned him derision from Republicans but the support of at least one group — the state NAACP, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

ROCKY GAP GETS SLOTS OK: A Maryland commission approved a slot machine license yesterday for a casino at the Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort, according to a report in the Cumberland Times News.

The Video Lottery Facility Location Commission voted unanimously to issue the license to Evitts Resort LLC, the sole remaining applicant after the panel eliminated a group led by former Democratic Party Chairman Nathan Landow in January, Hanah Cho and Michael Dresser report in the Sun.

After awarding the license for a slots casino at Rocky Gap, in Allegany County, slots commission Chairman Donald Fry said Baltimore’s may not be far behind, blogs Alexander Pyles in the Daily Record.

JUNE OPENING FOR ARUNDEL CASINO: Meanwhile, Maryland’s largest planned slots casino will open June 6 at Arundel Mills mall, its developer said, promising a “world-class gaming experience” enhanced by a half-dozen new restaurants and a live music venue, writes John Wagner of the Post.

HOGAN, CRAIG, MADDEN: The budget mess that has led to plans for a special legislative session has further emboldened Republicans to seek fiscally conservative solutions to what they see as failed policies of the Democratic monopoly, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

DELEGATES FEAR MORE TAXES: “There is a budget,” said Del. Steve Hershey. “It’s just not the one the governor wants.” He and fellow Republican Dels. Michael Smigiel and Jay Jacobs expressed concern to the Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce that if the legislature returns for a special legislative session it will approve additional taxes, Jack Schaum reports for the Easton Star Democrat.

FREE REVIEW DRAWS CROWD: Some Washington County delegation members expressed their appreciation Tuesday night for the sizable crowd — about 60 people — that attended a forum reviewing the recent Maryland General Assembly session, Andrew Schotz writes in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Del. Andrew Serafini and other delegation members preferred this year to have an evening meeting at no charge, breaking from the tradition in which the delegation publicly reviewed the 90-day session at a chamber of commerce breakfast in which the public paid to attend.

SIERRA CLUB BLOCKS TERMINAL EXPORT: The Sierra Club says it will block an energy company’s plan to export liquefied natural gas from the booming Marcellus Shale formation through a terminal in Maryland, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

Citing a unique Carter-era agreement, the Sierra Club says it will veto plans by energy giant Dominion to build the first natural gas liquefaction and export facility on the East Coast, a site that would handle booming supplies from the Marcellus Shale and other vast deposits for shipment to Asia and elsewhere, Ben Wolfgang reports in the Washington Times.

TOUTING THE PORT: Donald Fry writes for Center Maryland that Maryland’s working port continues to be a major driver of the regional and statewide economies. This was decisively underscored by Gov. O’Malley’s recent announcement that cargo business at the Port of Baltimore is surging in a big way – an economic outcome that, in order to continue nurturing, touches on a chronic fiscal challenge facing lawmakers in Annapolis.

CIGARETTE SMUGGLING: Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger joined forces with Comptroller Peter Franchot yesterday to announce success in prosecuting cigarette smuggling cases in the county. The two also pledged further enforcement against the crime, Jon Meoli writes for the Towson Times.

The comptroller was in Towson calling attention to the increase in the smuggling of cigarettes that have not been taxed in Maryland, Bryan Sears reports for Patch.com. “We’ve got an epidemic of this smuggling in our state,” Franchot said.

DNA RULING: Dan Rodricks of WYPR-FM takes a look at the recent Maryland Court of Appeals ruling on DNA data collection, among other legal topics, with Julie Rubin and Jim Astrachan.

COMMITMENT TO CITY SCHOOLS: Bess Keller reports in Baltimore Brew that the state is asking Baltimore City to prove its financial commitment to city schools before it provides an multi-million annual stipend that could be turned into a major building plan.

CYBER-SECURITY BILL FACES OBAMA VETO: David Moon at Maryland Juice writes about U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s “Internet snooping” bill that just passed the House. He says President Obama is threatening to veto it should it pass the Senate.

ALEC: Conservative advocacy group, American Legislative Exchange Council, turns away from social issues to economic ones, writes Benjamin Ford in the Gazette.

DNA RULING: A push to pass a new version of a state DNA law, which was overturned this week by the state’s highest court, will be hotly contested, Benjamin Ford reports in the Gazette.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: If same-sex marriage survives the challenge expected at the ballot box this fall, money spent on weddings and related costs such as catering could boost Maryland’s economy by more than $90 million per year, according to economic analysts, Daniel Leaderman writes in the Gazette.

ICC: The number of vehicles using the Intercounty Connector is meeting projections, but a spokesman for AAA says the state could be doing more to promote the toll road by touting how it could save drivers money, Benjamin Ford reports in the Gazette.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on the breakfast meeting about the special sessions; Freeman Hrabowski; Roscoe Bartlett’s science award; and Brian Feldman.

  • Until the Legislature addresses the increasing regressivity of the state’s revenue system, future budget shortfalls from the so-called structural deficit will only get worse. Past annual budget fixes have increased the tax burden on those least able to pay and whose discretionary real incomes continues to decline. Their reduced puchasing power can be seen by observing the increasing number of vacant storefronts in shopping centers and local strip malls.  Extracting even more of their income by increasing the number of slot machines around the state and imposing sales tax on gasoline further reduces their ability to make other expenditures for their necessities for survival.  Sooner or later, gross receipts taxes on the corporations that pay no state income taxes will have to be implemented to ‘level the playing field” for those businesses that do and begin to make the state’s revenue structure more progressive, fairer, and economically
    beneficial. Regressive taxes ultimately destroy the taxation base they exploit, as the increasing number of empty stores and other closed businesses around the state undeniably proves.  When they close, their owners and employees suffer reduced incomes and their ability to participate in the economy AND PAY TAXES also declines.  It doesn’t take a degree in Economics to understand this reality!