February 13, 2013

State Roundup, February 13, 2013

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TRANSIT FUNDING HOPE: Senate President Mike Miller reported progress in discussions with Gov. Martin O’Malley on the issue of raising money for roads, bridges and transit projects, saying the governor could submit legislation of his own to fund transportation, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

Gov. O’Malley met with Senate Democrats yesterday in a closed door meeting as part of a continuing effort to craft a bill to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue for transportation projects, John Wagner writes in the Post.

But Senate President 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, C. Benjamin Ford reports in the Gazette.

CREDIT RATING: As fiscal brinkmanship continues in Congress, state Treasurer Nancy Kopp warned a Maryland Senate committee that a federal sequester and the resulting cuts to the state budget could result in a downgrade of Maryland’s Triple-A credit rating from Moody’s Analytics, one of America’s three major credit rating agencies, Ilana Kowarski reports in MarylandReporter.com.

PENSIONS: For years, the trustees of the pension system have been urging the legislature to phase out the “corridor” method of funding, Len Lazarick writes in MarylandReporter.com. This year the General Assembly’s Joint Pension Committee has agreed to go along, and approved a plan to phase it out over the next 10 years.

Kopp testified in favor of a House bill to require the state to phase out a faulty pension funding system within 10 years and would potentially eliminate the $21 billion unfunded liability within 25 years, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

SEPTIC BILL REPEAL: Decreases in property value and the stripping of local planning authority are cited as the reasons why the Maryland General Assembly should repeal a law limiting new residential developments with septic systems, writes Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on a bill that would repeal the septic bill, signed into law last May.

More than a dozen tractors rolled through the streets of downtown Annapolis yesterday morning, to raise awareness of legislation in the General Assembly that would undo the bill  limiting new housing developments that use septic systems, Pamela Wood reports in the Capital-Gazette.

Farmers who oppose the law say it devalues their land by reducing development potential, writes the AP’s Brian Witte in the Salisbury Daily Times.

GUN CONTROL BILL: One week after a Senate committee held a marathon public hearing on Gov. O’Malley’s comprehensive gun control bill, a group of state delegates has begun examining details of that proposal and, reports John Rydell of WBFF-TV, there could be major changes to it.

ETHICS BILLS: In hopes of slowing the political revolving door out of government and into lobbying, House Minority Leader O’Donnell testified yesterday for package of four measures he’s introduced to renew or tighten the ethics code, particularly as it relates to former government officials becoming lobbyists to advocate for issues they worked on and where their influence remains, Becca Heller of MarylandReporter.com writes.

COMBINED REPORTING: Montgomery County Del. Heather Mizeur wants to implement combined tax reporting in Maryland and use the additional revenue that would be collected to ease the tax burden on small businesses in the state, Gary Haber reports in the Baltimore Business Journal.

HELMET LAW EXTENSION: A bill in the General Assembly would make Maryland the first state in the country to extend helmet-wearing requirements to any person of any age on any bike, Scott Dance reports in the Sun.

SNIFFER DOGS: The Maryland Department of Agriculture is proposing requiring companies that use scent dogs to detect bug infestation to show proof of training. It would also require test conductors to have at least five years experience in dog scent handling, training and evaluation, Shantee Woodards reports in the Capital-Gazette.

OFFSHORE WIND: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Tim Wheeler of the Baltimore Sun talk about the prospects for offshore wind in Maryland on WYPR-FM.

BOWIE’S PARK POSSIBILITY: Bowie’s racetrack had been the site of horses, stables and tickets, but a General Assembly proposal may soon replace it with a public park, Alan McCombs is reporting in the Gazette.

MIZEUR ON EASTERN SHORE: The Chestertown Spy videotapes an address given by Del. Heather Mizeur last week, in which she speaks to the Queen Anne’s County Democratic Club about her achievements. This is Part I of a two-part piece. Mizeur is widely believed to be running for governor.

HOUSE GOP LEADERSHIP VOTE: Maryland House Republicans have decided to hold a special election in April in which members could consider replacing the leadership team of Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell and Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio after some had cited unhappiness with the direction of O’Donnell’s leadership and concern about the party’s prospects in 2014, when members will be running under new district maps, the Post’s John Wagner reports.

SUPER BOWL TICKETS: Gov. O’Malley had access to eight Super Bowl tickets to see the Ravens beat the 49ers, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun. So, what did he do with them and how were they paid for?

EHRLICH’S EXEC BID: Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette talks with Kendel Ehrlich about running to fill out John Leopold’s term as Anne Arundel County executive and former candidate Dan Bongino and whether Ehrlich’s foray into these waters prompted him to pull out.

MO CO SMOKING BAN: Bill Turque of the Post reports that Montgomery County, which already bars smoking in restaurants and workplaces, has extended the ban to most county-owned or leased property, including county parks and bus shelters.

FEEDING MO CO COUNCIL: Kate Alexander of the Gazette reports on what the Montgomery County Council spent from their council budgets, as a whole and individually, on food costs.