January 25, 2013

State Roundup, January 25, 2013

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MILLER OFFERS GAS TAX PLAN: Michael Dresser and Erin Cox of the Sun report that Baltimore and Maryland’s counties could impose their own 5-cents-a-gallon tax on gas to pay for local roads and buses under a proposal by Senate President Mike Miller.

Miller said the idea is to let counties with specific transportation needs assess a tax to pay for those needs, reports Bryan Sears of Patch.com.

Other provisions of Miller’s plan include levying a 3 percent sales tax on gas in addition to the per-gallon gas tax; and creating regional authorities with the ability to raise property taxes to help pay for rail projects, writes John Wagner in the Post.

Alex Jackson of the Capital-Gazette reports that Miller acknowledged that his plan, expected to be introduced next week, is still in the working phase. But he said it could generate $300 million a year in new revenue and the framework is in place to give it a chance.

Miller proposal to give authority to raise revenues locally for transit projects could hurt less wealthy jurisdictions, Daniel Leaderman reports in the Gazette.

TOUGHER OPEN MEETINGS LAW: Legislation introduced yesterday by Del. Dan Morhaim that grants additional enforcement powers to the Open Meetings Compliance Board, allowing it to levy fines and provide court testimony against government bodies that illegally deny people access to public events has bipartisan support blogs Ilana Kowarski for MarylandReporter.com.

HEALTH ENTERPRISE ZONES: Health care systems in Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, Dorchester and Caroline counties as well as Annapolis and West Baltimore have been awarded funding under a new state “Health Enterprise Zone” program to increase access to medical services for the disadvantaged, reports Kate Havard for the Post.

PIT BULL LEGISLATION: Legislation overriding a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that made landlords liable for pit bull attacks, and put owners at risk of being evicted or having to give up their dogs, will be heard Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee, reports Hannah Anderson of Patch.com.

BEER REFILLS: The growing popularity of microbrewed beers is motivating state lawmakers to loosen up alcohol restrictions locally so liquor store owners can partake in the craft beer boom, reports Elisha Sauers in the Capital-Gazette. Del. Ron George has introduced House Bill 145, which would allow Annapolis liquor stores to refill customers’ growlers with draft beers.

70 ON 68: Recently filed legislation by state Sen. George Edwards would allow the speed limit on Interstate 68 in Maryland to be increased from a maximum of 65 mph to 70 mph, Matthew Bieniek writes in the Cumberland Times-News.

GUN CONTROL: With the recent surge in support for gun control measures, Montgomery County politicians are moving quickly to take advantage of the moment, writes David Moon of Maryland Juice.

DWYER ON BOATING ACCIDENT: Del. Don Dwyer talks with both WBFF-TV and WMAR-TV about his drunken boating accident that occurred last year, saying that he felt betrayed over the marriage equality issue and that openness is important to his recovery.

WOMEN’S ISSUES: The Maryland congressional delegation put women’s issues at the forefront of its agenda Wednesday with the reintroduction of both the Violence Against Women Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, write Lauren Kirkwood and Anamika Roy for the Salisbury Daily Times. Sen. Barbara Mikulski took the lead in the Senate, reintroducing the VAWA while House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer publicized the bill at a news conference Wednesday. Mikulski also reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act on Wednesday.

GUN CONTROL: Lawmakers are predicting that a statewide ban on military-style assault weapons will garner enough votes to pass the General Assembly this year, but a proposal for stricter handgun licensing is likely to meet with more resistance, writes Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

DELANEY ON GUNS: Newly sworn in U.S. Rep. John Delaney told Western Maryland state legislators that he favors common-sense limitations when it comes to guns and gun violence, including restrictions on accessibility to violent video games, better monitoring of those with mental health issues and their access to guns, Kaustuv Basu reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

LEOPOLD TRIAL: Annys Shin of the Post reports that Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold’s campaign had more than a half-million dollars in the bank in the weeks leading up to the 2010 election, when prosecutors say he was having his security detail put up campaign posters.

Leopold’s defense attorneys will begin making their case today, arguing that his alleged use of county staff for personal errands and political gain does not amount to a crime, Andrea Siegel reports in the Sun.

But prosecutors say the county’s top elected official, a Republican in his second term in office, racked up thousands of dollars in overtime costs by ordering his detail to carry out personal and political favors, writes Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette.

BENOIT WON’T RUN: Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit, frequently mentioned as a candidate for county executive, told supporters in an email this week that he will not be running for any office in 2014, according to a story Tim Lemke in Odenton Patch that includes Benoit’s full letter.

MIKE MILLER: The January issue of Baltimore magazine has a long profile of Senate President Mike Miller by Justin Snow, a Washington reporter who has worked at MarylandReporter.com. No great revelations, but at the end, Miller hints at how long he will stay in the Senate. “I come from a family of workers,” Miller says. “I’ve always had two jobs. My father died in the saddle in terms of working and my grandfather did, too.”

MINIMUM WAGE: Legislation that would raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $10 by 2015 from $7.25 would hurt restaurants and other businesses, business officials said this week, according Kevin James Shay in the Gazette.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on “temporary learning shacks”; SuperBowl and Wheat Thins; Barbara Mikulski’s attire; and Jim Brochin’s voting button.

DELEGATE APPOINTMENT: The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee suggested three new names to fill a vacant delegate seat last week, but some lawmakers from the county are urging the governor to appoint a fourth choice  — Darren Swain who has held the office previously.

O’MALLEY BUDGET: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar writes that once you wade through the back-slapping puffery and propaganda, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 2013 budget plan signals a turning point in Maryland’s seven-year economic plunge and recovery. Finally, there’s lots of light coming from the end of the budget tunnel.