February 8, 2013

State Roundup, February 8, 2013

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FOR JOB GROWTH: Gov. Martin O’Malley testified before two legislative committees yesterday, seeking to draw attention to some of the least controversial measures he is backing this year that he said could have the biggest benefits for job growth, writes Aaron Davis in the Post.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM: Some lawmakers are seeking to close a loophole in state campaign financing law that allows wealthy business people to donate to politicians through all of their corporations. They hope to introduce a bill today that would close the loophole and make other sweeping changes to the laws governing money and elections, writes Michael Dresser of the Sun. House and Senate sponsors were seeking to work out differences yesterday so they could adopt a common approach.

ANTIBIOTICS LABELS FOR MEAT: If a piece of legislation proposed by six state senators passes the Maryland General Assembly, packages of meat and poultry will have to begin listing any antibiotics the animal was given while alive, Jennifer Shutt reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

SEPTIC BILL FOES: Residents of the Eastern Shore and other parts of rural Maryland are up in arms to defend their land rights that they believe are under threat as a result of last year’s environmental legislation commonly referred to as the Septic Bill, writes Becca Heller of MarylandReporter.com. And they have the backing of a couple dozen state delegates.

Among those testifying for repeal were Kent Commissioner Ron Fithian and Clean Chesapeake Coalition Attorney Chip MacLeod, reports Daniel Menefee for the Chestertown Spy.

Almost half of Maryland counties are resisting drawing the maps to limit growth of development with septic systems, Margie Hyslop is reporting in the Gazette.

POLLUTION FINES: Legislators on the House Environmental Matters Committee were considering a bill that would require water pollution fine money to go to restoration work — not salaries and administrative overhead at the Maryland Department of the Environment, Pamela Wood reports in the Capital-Gazette.

NATURAL GAS SURCHARGE: Lawmakers earlier this week voted to give natural gas companies the ability to seek a surcharge of up to $2 on monthly natural gas bills to help pay for aging pipes. The Senate moved the legislation forward by voting 34-13. The House agreed, passing a similar bill with a 119-18 vote, reports the Capital-Gazette’s Alex Jackson.

MOVE OVER ORIOLE: In the wake of the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl win, some lawmakers are arguing that it is now time for the state bird, the oriole, to move over a bit to make way for a second state bird, the raven, John Wagner of the Post writes.

RECOVERY CUTS PROTESTED: Drug treatment advocates and addiction counselors testified at a budget hearing Wednesday to protest a proposed $4.5 million cut to the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration budget, which they said would have a devastating impact on Maryland’s cash-strapped drug treatment programs, Ilana Kowarski reports for MarylandReporter.com.

POWER PLANT POLLUTION: A consortium of Northeastern states including Maryland has agreed to reset a power plant emissions cap to current levels and to tighten it annually starting in 2015, an action officials said would increase investment in energy efficiency and slightly raise electricity prices, besides cutting pollution, reports the Sun’s Scott Dance.

FIXING TRANSPORTATION: Gridlocked traffic and aging bridges weigh on the minds of both state senators from Frederick County, but the two men are mapping out different courses for tackling the state’s transportation woes, Bethany Rodgers writes in the Frederick News-Post.

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GAS TAX: Senate President Mike Miller’s proposal to allow Maryland’s counties to impose their own 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax to pay for transportation projects is receiving an icy reception in some counties, where officials say anti-tax anger would be directed at them, reports Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

Len Lazarick’s column in this month’s Business Monthly analyzes why passing a gasoline tax is such a hard slog for a tax-weary legislature.

In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar criticizes the governor for his lack of leadership on transportation funding.

SHUT OUT OF HEARING: Maryland’s Senate Minority Leader claims that many opponents of Gov. O’Malley gun control bill were shut out from testifying at a marathon public hearing in Annapolis on Wednesday, reports John Rydell for WBFF-TV.

GUN TIDBITS: David Moon of Maryland Juice serves up some tidbits and bites from the gun control debate: state Sen. Jamie Raskin allegedly playing chess during testimony; Sen. Nancy Jacobs defending him and their bathroom and sandwich breaks and the fact that even though gun control advocates were in the minority during the hearing, they remain in the majority in polls.

DISPARITY GRANT: Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes that a Washington County lawmaker has introduced a bill in the House that seeks to provide the county a gradually increasing proportion of a wealth-based grant with every passing year. That wealth-based grant is known as the Disparity Grant, and Washington County hasn’t been able to receive it after the program was frozen in 2010.

FEDERAL HELP: As federal budget cuts loom, a state task force is suggesting how Maryland might get more bang from the bucks spent by federal agencies in the state, the Sun’s Jamie Hopkins reports.

FEES SOUGHT FROM WATERKEEPERS: The Sun’s Tim Wheeler is reporting that lawyers for poultry producer Perdue and an Eastern Shore farmer are asking a federal judge to award them more than $3 million in attorneys’ fees and expenses from the Waterkeeper Alliance, the New York-based environmental group that failed to prove they were polluting a Chesapeake Bay tributary.

OBAMA’S VISIT: Pat Furgurson of the Annapolis Capital writes about the preparation that it took to ensure that President Obama‘s Annapolis visit went of safely and smoothly.

Tim Wheeler of the Sun blogs that Senate President Mike Miller was sorely disappointed that President Obama didn’t drop by the state capitol on his Wednesday visit to Annapolis.

BROMWELL OUT OF PRISON: Former state Sen. Tom Bromwell has been released from federal prison to a residential re-entry program after serving seven years on a federal bribery conviction, Ian Duncan reports in the Sun. His son, Del. Eric Bromwell, posted the news on his Facebook page.

HENSON TO RUN: Julius Henson, the longtime democratic kingmaker who is known to many as the James Carville or Karl Rove of Maryland politics, is now running against an 18-year incumbent, state Sen. Nathaniel McFadden, according to the Hassan Giordano for the Examiner in a month-old story.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on Anthony Brown wearing Ravens jersey; stadium vote vindication for Kopp, Franchot; Mike Miller’s role and his computer-generated bust.

TRANSGENDER BIAS: Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette writes that with the battle over same-sex marriage over, attention has turned to prohibiting discrimination against transgender people.

DOG BITES: There is now dueling legislation in the House of Delegates over pit bulls and how to deal with dog bites, reports Holly Nunn in the Gazette.