May 11, 2012

State Roundup, May 11, 2012

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OBAMA & GAY MARRIAGE: Annie Linskey of the Sun writes that advocates trying to uphold Maryland’s same-sex marriage law hope President Barack Obama’s new stance will boost their efforts by firing up supporters and nudging black voters who have been resistant to the idea. But opponents played down the significance of the president’s position.

Groups on both sides of the issue — which will likely be decided by Maryland voters — have weighed in on the president’s pronouncement. Not surprisingly, blogs John Wagner in the Post, they have come to different conclusions.

Nicholas Stern of the Frederick News Post interviews Frederick County folks as they weigh in on Obama’s announcement for gay marriage.

The Gazette has more reaction to Obama’s same-sex marriage endorsement. “The wild card in everything is the African-American vote,” said Todd Eberly, political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “That’s where opposition is strongest in the General Assembly and in key polls.”

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, has announced his support for gay marriage, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

TAX HIKES EXPECTED: When the General Assembly’s special session opens Monday, Gov. Martin O’Malley will introduce a budget that includes tax increases for earners in the higher income brackets. Those tax increases will raise about $196 million.

Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that, while the governor has touted Maryland’s comparatively low tax burden on its high income populace, some groups are concerned that the income tax hikes proposed for next week’s special session will harm Maryland’s national rankings on taxes and business climate.

Don Fry, in Center Maryland, writes that, “we’ll have to wait for Governor O’Malley to file the specific legislation on Tuesday, but if the income tax proposal includes the conference committee’s most recent proposed tax rates, it would impose substantial tax increases on major segments of the state’s taxpayers.”

This budget also begins shifting some of the costs of teacher’s pensions to the counties, John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports.

The Gazette’s Danielle Gaines has more on the income tax hike.

LEVYLAND, THE FEE STATE: Gazette columnist Blair Lee calls it “Levyland, the Fee State” as he lists 17 taxes and fees raised in the last five years, as compiled by Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland. Fox 45 has a video report on Lee’s list.

DISTRICTING SUIT COST: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times reports that the Carroll County attorney will crunch numbers next week so the Carroll County Board of Commissioners know how much it can expect to spend by petitioning Maryland’s highest court to challenge the state legislative redistricting.

LET COMPETITION IN: The editorial board of the Sun opines that the ban on grocery store sales of alcohol has one purpose — preventing competition, to the benefit of liquor distributors and retailers and to the detriment of consumers.

STAFF-VEHICLE RATIO QUESTIONED: According to an audit conducted last year but just released to the Post, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission has a large percentage of take-home vehicles for its staff – 1,300 for 2,000 employees – and failed to secure its gas stations, leaving open the possibility that unauthorized personnel could fill up for free, writes Miranda Spivack.

Raye Baye of the Washington Examiner offers more details about the audit.

O’MALLEYS HONORED: Gov. O’Malley and first lady Katie O’Malley will be honored by the National Wildife Federation for their pro-environment efforts, writes Pamela Wood in the Capital-Gazette.

CHICKEN & THE GOV: Wicomico County Exec Richard Pollitt, in an op-ed in the Salisbury Daily Times, writes that the so-called “cozy relationship” between O’Malley and an attorney for Perdue Farms Inc. isn’t problematic, as critics would say, since it is good to have a governor who understands how important the poultry industry is to the Eastern Shore.

HENSON JURY DELIBERATES: The jury in the robo-call trial of political consultant Julius Henson spent yesterday considering the case, and will resume deliberations today, according to an AP story in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Henson worked for Republican former Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s campaign during his rematch with Democratic Gov. O’Malley.

UNSCIENTIFIC RULINGS: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar said two recent rulings from Maryland’s Court of Appeals on DNA and pit bulls are not based on scientific evidence.

UNIVERSITY COOPERATION: Laslo Boyd in the Gazette writes that how to make the state’s universities more significant drivers of the economy being actively and creatively addressed at both ends of Interstate 95 by two University of Maryland presidents.

COUNTY BUDGETS: County budget officials are waiting on the legislature to act on the state budget as they put the final touches on local spending plans.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on an Annapolis film shoot; a reporter’s floor shot; the health secretary’s Halloween costume; Martin O’Malley’s “eviction notice”; and Mike Miller’s dynamite.

NO GAS TAX: Gov. Martin O’Malley regrets that transportation funding and a gas tax increase won’t be on the agenda for the special session, Danielle Gaines reports in the Gazette.