November 14, 2012

State Roundup, November 14, 2012

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A BRIGHTER – BUT RED – FISCAL OUTLOOK: After years of budgetary gloom and shortfalls in the billions of dollars, Maryland’s fiscal forecasters offered lawmakers a brighter outlook yesterday, saying the state’s operating budget could be just $27 million in the red next fiscal year, Annie Linskey reports in the Sun.

BUT NOT FOR ROADS: But, reports Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner, the state’s top budget analyst told lawmakers that Maryland has no money to build new transportation projects and in five years won’t have enough money to maintain its roads and transit.

TOBACCO TAX: Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative is proposing another dollar-per-pack increase to the state’s current $2 dollar cigarette tax, Sam Smith writes in MarylandReporter.com. The cigarette tax has been raised three times in the last 15 years and has coincided with a 32% drop in cigarette smoking during that time, which is double the national average.

STACKED DECK: Columnist Marta Mossburg, writing for the Frederick News-Post, derides Gov. Martin O’Malley’s calling the state’s referendum procedure “a little too easy,” asking “with all the decks stacked in O’Malley and his party’s favor, why would he spend even a second worrying about ballot measures?”

BISHOPS TO STAND FIRM ON MARRIAGE: Meeting for the first time since voters in Maryland and two other states legalized same-sex marriage, members of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said yesterday that they have no plans to soften their position that genuine marriage can occur only between one man and one woman, reports Jonathan Pitts in the Sun.

A VOTE FOR DIGNITY: Larry Perl of the Baltimore Messenger writes that Lisa Polyak had mixed feelings as voters sent a close but clear message in approving same sex marriage, saying that passage is “good for the dignity” of gays and lesbians, but adding, “Voters shouldn’t have had to vote for something that’s a fundamental right.”

REVAMP EARLY VOTING: With the popularity of early voting, the editorialists for the Frederick News-Post are urging that states make adjustments in early voting programs, including Maryland, where some jurisdictions, including Baltimore and Prince George’s counties, reported mobs and long waits.

BLACK CAUCUS CONFERENCE: Maryland state Del. Aisha Braveboy joins Marc Steiner on WEAA-FM to discuss the Maryland Black Caucus Foundation’s 2012 Legislative Conference, happening this weekend in Annapolis.

ALSTON GETS PBJ: Former state Del. Tiffany Alston’s conviction earlier this year for misusing General Assembly funds was stricken from her record yesterday, and her lawyers say she’ll fight to reclaim her seat, reports Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

She was convicted in June of stealing $800 from the Maryland General Assembly to pay an employee of her private law firm. But yesterday, her attorneys suggested that she was the one who had been robbed — of her seat, writes the Post’s John Wagner.

BREAST-FEEDING RECOMMENDATIONS: More than nine months and 150 public comments later, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released its basic breast-feeding recommendations for hospitals to follow — and Carroll Hospital is on par with the 10 listed, Rachel Roubein of the Carroll County Times reports.

DUTCH ON PETRAEUS: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger plans to ask tough questions about the David Petraeus sex scandal today, as he and other members of the House Intelligence Committee hold closed talks to discuss how the affair unfolded, Sarah Blumberg of the Capital-Gazette reports. “It comes down to a safety issue. He wants to make sure there was no breach in national security,” said Ruppersberger spokeswoman Heather Molino.

A BULLY PULPIT? Erin Cox is reporting in the Sun that several voters have complained that Republican Anne Arundel County Councilman John Grasso bullied and berated them as they waited in line to cast a ballot, in one case, yelling at the voter and jabbing a finger into his face while his children stood nearby.

FARMLAND PRESERVATION: Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Earl Hance told legislators Tuesday that if the applications of a Howard County landowner to terminate agricultural easements for three farms are approved it could “open the floodgates” for more landowners to do the same, reports Sam Smith in MarylandReporter.com.

LEGISLATORS TOUR SHORE: Chris Polk of the Easton Star-Democrat writes that state legislators came to town yesterday afternoon for their annual meeting with Talbot County Council during a whirlwind meeting tour from Caroline to Talbot to Dorchester.