January 4, 2013

State Roundup, January 4, 2013

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NO DEEP CUTS: The 433rd session of the Maryland General Assembly might be as notable for what isn’t on the agenda as for what is, reports John Wagner of the Post. For the first time in years, legislative leaders are not considering tax increases or deep spending cuts to balance the state budget.

The editorial board of the Sun opines that it makes for sense for the state to raise the gas tax than the sales tax but the state is leaning toward raising the sales tax.

SESSION: While Maryland’s structural deficit is nearly eradicated and Congress has taken a step back from the fiscal cliff, state lawmakers still are expected to take a cautious approach to this year’s budget process when the General Assembly reconvenes next week, Daniel Leaderman writes in the Gazette.

BUSINESS HOPES: Leaders of business groups hope the state’s improved revenue picture will help to improve the chances for economic initiatives, reports the Gazette’s Kevin James Shay.

ENOUGH ALREADY: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that, after several years of pummeling by state government, through cuts in aid, offloading of state expenses and unfunded mandates, county officials gathered in Cambridge for their annual conference believe that “enough is enough,” according to the new president of the Maryland Association of Counties.

CITY SCHOOLS PRIORITY: The Sun’s Luke Broadwater reports that an ambitious plan to secure tens of millions of dollars in state funding to fix Baltimore City’s dilapidated school buildings is the priority for city officials in the General Assembly session that begins next week.

SEN. MUSE MOVED: Maryland Senate President Mike Miller is moving Sen. Anthony Muse off the Senate Finance Committee, which should allow a wind-energy bill — a major priority of Gov. Martin O’Malley — to advance in the chamber. But Muse, who has opposed previous wind-energy bills, calls the move a strong arm tactic, reports the Post’s John Wagner.

PRE-SESSION FUND FRENZY: Lawmakers, according to one tally, have scheduled more than 40 fund-raising events in the week leading up to the start of their 90-day session Jan. 9, writes John Wagner for the Post. That’s when an annual ban on raising campaign cash kicks in and stays in place until mid-April.

DEATH PENALTY IN COURT: The Maryland Court of Appeals heard a new argument against the death penalty yesterday, when attorneys for a man convicted of a 1997 murder argued that the state constitution only allows capital punishment in cases of treason, writes Ian Duncan for the Sun.

GAY MARRIAGES: Turnout was lower than expected at the Anne Arundel Circuit Courthouse on Wednesday as three same-sex couples were married, writes Heather Rawlyk. As of last Friday, 44 marriage licenses had been issued to same-sex couples, five of which indicated they would get hitched at the courthouse Wednesday.

Two same-sex couples were joined in marriage at the Allegany County Courthouse on Wednesday in civil ceremonies, according to the Cumberland Times News.

BAY MODEL DEFENDED: Maryland’s top environmental official disagrees with those who call the Chesapeake Bay model used to establish pollution reduction goals flawed and he wants the state to continue moving forward with efforts to clean up the watershed, Dan Divilio writes in the Easton Star Democrat.

WATERKEEPER SUIT: Marc Steiner, on WEAA-FM, who has been following the Waterkeeper/Perdue-Hudson lawsuit, interviewed the parties involved soon after the trial in federal court came to a conclusion last week.

BIZ TAX CHANGES: Kelcie Pegher of the Carroll County Times reports on the changes in their taxes that businesses should expect to see with the American Taxpayer Relief Act, the federal legislation that prevented the country from falling off the “fiscal cliff.” The legislation also included tax credits and extenders from the small and helpful to the downright strange, Pegher also writes.

O’MALLEY INTOLERANT: Columnist Marta Mossburg, writing in the Sun, calls out Gov. O’Malley for thuggish behavior, saying that he has canonized himself in the progressive movement for championing gay marriage and in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants among other issues, but also cannot tolerate those who oppose his political viewpoints.

DELANEY SWORN IN: Maryland’s newest member of the House of Representatives, Democrat John Delaney, was sworn into office yesterday amid a flurry of symbolism and celebration but also apprehension over issues left unresolved by the last Congress, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

Ben Pershing, reporting for the Post, writes that, having just passed a small-scale deal to avert the worst effects of the “fiscal cliff,” Congress – complete with its new members – will in the coming months face new fights over raising the nation’s debt ceiling and averting steep automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending, known as the “sequester.”

JOB LOSS DELAYED: Miranda Spivack of the Post reports that the Treasury Department has agreed to delay for five years a plan to relocate 450 jobs out of Prince George’s County to Parkersburg, W.Va., after Maryland lawmakers pressed federal officials to abandon the plan.

WIND POWER: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s third try for legislation to incentivize offshore wind energy development could be more viable, observers said, as federal action this week extended a tax credit for wind developers, according to the Gazette’s Holly Nunn.

POLLUTION LAWSUIT: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar says the decision by a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit pressed against an Eastern Shore farm by the University of Maryland law school clinic should be a teachable moment for the school.