May 23, 2012

State Roundup, May 23, 2012

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CHAMBER WARNS ON MO CO TAXES: The state chamber of commerce is saying that Maryland’s income tax hike on high earners will affect more residents in Montgomery County than elsewhere in the state, could inhibit its small business growth and would hinder employee recruitment at larger corporations, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette.

BILLS FOR CHICKS, PLANMARYLAND: Maryland next year will become the first state to ban an arsenic additive in chicken feed. Gov. Martin O’Malley signed the measure into law yesterday along with scores of other bills, including reforms to Maryland’s estate tax to help protect family farms and an increase of the allowable high school dropout age from 16 to 17 in 2015 and to 18 in 2017, a story in the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports.

Frederick County officials are praising clarifications to PlanMaryland, a statewide development plan criticized by many local officials from rural parts of the state, according to an AP story in the Daily Record. Those changes were signed into law yesterday.

The Hagerstown Herald Mail also reports that the governor signed four bills sponsored by members of the Washington County delegation.

In the Sun, Michael Dresser highlights a new law requiring teaching and testing of social studies.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports on the massive bill signing that took place yesterday and looks ahead to the second special session.

GAMBLING STUDY: The editorial board for the Sun opines that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s announcement of a work group to study expanded gambling in time for a possible special session of the legislature July 9 does nothing to erase its qualms that there had been insufficient public debate about all of the changes slots boosters wanted to institute and that there was too little reliable information about the performance of Maryland’s existing gambling program.

Here’s a reminder about who will sit on the study group, from Pamela Wood of the Capital Gazette.

And Lindsey McPherson writes for the Laurel Leader that while Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch each picked three representatives to a state work group that will consider gambling expansion, neither selected legislators from Prince George’s County, the proposed location for a sixth state casino.

FOOD AID RISES: More than 700,000 Marylanders receive food assistance, the most in state history, with a record 70,000 depending on emergency cash assistance. And the demand for the state’s child care subsidy program has caused officials to impose an indefinite freeze on new applicants. Caitlin Johnston, Carl Straumsheim and Kate McGonigle report the Capital News Service story in MarylandReporter.com.

TRANSIT LINES: State financial documents recently submitted to the Federal Transit Administration show that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s promise to build two light-rail lines — the Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line in the Washington suburbs — will be difficult if not impossible to keep, Katherine Shaver writes in the Washington Post. The General Assembly’s recent inaction on the governor’s proposed gas tax hike makes it increasingly likely that the state will have to choose to build one of the lines before the other, state and local transportation officials say.

NAACP & GAY MARRIAGE: The Rev. Anthony Evans, leader of the National Black Church Initiative, and Aisha Moodie-Mills, advisor of LGBT Policy and Racial Justice at the Center for American Progress, appear on Marc Steiner’s show on WEAA-FM to discuss the political implications of the NAACP’s endorsement of gay marriage.

MCDONOUGH WANTS REC CENTERS: Del. Pat McDonough, who continues to stand by his comments about black youth mobs, at a press conference yesterday called for the creation of a fund that would solicit donations in exchange for tax breaks, with money given to recreation centers and other programs, Peter Hermann reports in the Sun.

In a detailed report, Jayne Miller of WBAL-TV offers background of the issue, reports that Baltimore City says it will step up police presence at the Inner Harbor and that people gathered to protest during McDonough presser.

Mike Hellgren of WJZ-TV also reports on the Inner Harbor “security enhancements.”

INJURY PREVENTION: Liz Farmer of the Washington Examiner reports that some of the region’s residents can breathe a small sigh of relief as Maryland received one of the best scores in the country for its injury prevention policies while the District and Virginia fell behind.

SCHOOL WAIVER PULLED: Calum McKinney reports for the Salisbury Daily Times that Wicomico County’s application for a waiver from new state school funding laws has been withdrawn, as the $14 million mandated increase in spending on local schools it sought to avoid is no longer a threat,

SMART METER PROTEST: Smart meter opponents are asking state regulators to allow ratepayers to say “no” to new digital, wireless devices because of safety, privacy and security concerns, writes Hanah Cho for the Sun.

BGE said during a Public Service Commission hearing that customers who want to keep their existing, analog meters could, provided they pay a $50 one-time fee and $10 to $60 a month for upkeep, reports Sara Blumberg for the Capital Gazette.

3rd PARTIES FIGHT FOR BALLOT SPACE: The Sun’s Luke Broadwater writes that the Green and Libertarian parties are launching new petition drives to get their candidates for president and other offices on Maryland’s November ballot after losing a battle before the state’s highest court.

FRANKING MY DEAR: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris spent $109,454 sending out 384,519 pieces of mail to constituents. That cost ranked 100th among House lawmakers and 45th among freshmen, reports Ledyard King and Nicole Gaudiano in the Salisbury Daily Times.

PATCH: The Wall Street Journal weighs in on the financial situation at Patch.com, of which there are four dozen sites in Maryland.