June 19, 2012

State Roundup, June 19, 2012

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GAMBLING GROUP BEHIND CLOSED DOORS: The state work group on expanding gambling met behind closed doors Monday, agreeing to recommend that Maryland allow table games at its casinos and keep its current cap of 15,000 slot machines statewide, reports Annie Linskey in the Sun. Still unresolved, according to three sources, are the thorny questions of whether to allow a casino in Prince George’s County in addition to the five now approved and whether the state’s 67% tax rate on slots revenue should be reduced.

In the Post, John Wagner reports that, under a plan discussed by the O’Malley-launched work group, the two casinos that stand to lose the most market share to a Prince George’s facility — in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County — would see an automatic, 5 percentage-point bump in the slots proceeds they may keep.

With legislative staff members and members of the media barred from the meeting, writes Earl Kelly for the Capital-Gazette. Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin issued a withering statement after his staff member was excluded: “The workgroup is operating in the privacy of a windowless, third floor conference room in the Lowe House Office Building without a single member of the public present. If this isn’t a sad example of the proverbial ‘smoky back room,’ I don’t know what is.”

PENSION LIABILITY: Maryland has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country, with its retirement and health liabilities growing to $71 billion, after lawmakers paid less into the system than what was owed for years, according to a report from the Pew Center on the States. Maryland had paid only 64% of what it owed to retirees in pension benefits, writes Hayley Peterson for the Washington Examiner. By comparison, Virginia’s pension funding level ranked in line with the national average, at 72%.

SHORE LAWMAKERS ON REPORTS: Daniel Menefee of the Chesapeake Spy reports that Shore lawmakers are all over two recent reports. One praises Maryland for its business-friendliness while the other shows that the state has experienced a large slide in jobs over the past two months.

PIT BULL STUDY: A legislative task force studying pit bulls holds its first meeting today in Annapolis, Robert Lang reports for WBAL-AM.

CAMPAIGN DONATIONS: A commission studying Maryland’s campaign finance laws appears likely to recommend raising current limits on campaign contributions, which haven’t been increased in 19 years, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

BROWN’S SKYBOX USE: Annie Linskey of the Sun outlines how Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown used 18 tickets to the state skybox at FedEx Field to entertain friends, family, polticians and business people. Records from 39 games from August 2007 to December 2011 show Brown spent $20,330 of taxpayer funds on food and non-alcoholic beverages.

POULTRY INSURANCE: Elected officials from Maryland and Delaware are hoping to gain approval to study whether poultry farmers would benefit from insurance to protect poultry growers from disease outbreaks or bankruptcies of poultry companies, Jennifer Shutt reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

O.C. FUNDER FOR SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch plan to co-host a fundraiser next week in Ocean City to benefit the campaign for same-sex marriage, John Wagner blogs in the Post.

HEALTH BENEFITS: Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes about Bill Taylor, a gay librarian in Washington County who, with the help of Lambda Legal, fought to get his spouse covered under his health insurance plan.

RESTORE SENATE CHAMBER: The editorial board for the Carroll County Times is urging anyone who can to help the Maryland State Archives as it seeks more information in its efforts to restore the Old Senate Chamber in the Maryland State House to how it appeared to visitors in the late 18th century.

ALLEGANY STAYS IN PENSION SYSTEM: The state of Maryland told Allegany County officials that the county could leave the state pension plan, writes Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times-News. It would just have to pay $6 million first. County Finance Director Jason Bennett told commissioners last week that the move was no longer feasible because the county couldn’t afford the exit fee.

REMOVING FROM OFFICE: With former Anne Arundel County Council member Daryl Jones about to be released from federal prison for not filing tax returns and County Executive John Leopold fighting allegations of misusing his police security detail, council members proposed measures to allow removal of members for a conviction and tweaking those for removing an executive to mirror them, Andrea Siegel reports in the Sun.

PAGNUCCO RESIGNS: David Moon of Maryland Juice blogs that political blogger Adam Pagnucco has resigned from his post as the treasurer of the District 18 delegation of Montgomery County, which includes Sen. Rich Madaleno and Dels. Al Carr, Ana Sol Gutierrez and Jeff Waldstreicher. Moon reprints what appears to be the email of resignation, in which Pagnucco cites the teacher pension shift, the income tax hike that will hit Montgomery residents most and lack of support for transportation funding.

COUNCIL CHIEF’S SON DIES: A 20-year-old Darlington man, the son of Harford County Council President Billy Boniface, died in an accident early Monday morning at his family’s farm, writes Kayla Bawroski of the Aegis.