March 19, 2013

State Roundup, March 19, 2013

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GAS TAX HIKE PASSES HOUSE PANEL: Motorists in Maryland would pay higher prices at the pump — although somewhat more gradually than initially proposed by Gov. Martin O’Malley — under a plan approved Monday by a key committee of the House of Delegates, writes John Wagner for the Post.

Maryland motorists will pay nearly 4 cents more per gallon of gasoline this summer if the bill becomes law, the Capital-Gazette’s Alex Jackson reports. A sidebar to the left of the article outlines the changes to the bill.

Marylanders could expect to pay 3.8 cents more per gallon on July 1 as the state applies a 1% wholesale tax on gas. One more percent would be phased in Jan. 1, 2015, with another percent being phased in July 1, 2015, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

FLIMSY LOCKBOX: The lockbox for the Transportation Trust Fund provided in Gov. O’Malley’s proposed gas tax hike is about as secure as the metal cash box at a PTA bake sale, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

WIND PLAN APPROVED: Gov. Martin O’Malley achieved a long-sought victory Monday night as the General Assembly gave final approval to his bill to encourage development of a wind energy industry featuring dozens of giant turbines off the state’s Atlantic Coast, report Michael Dresser and Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

EARLY VOTING: A Maryland House committee approved a measure Monday to expand early voting in the state and allow same-day registration and in-person voting during the early voting period. The bill now goes before the full House, Andy Brownfield writes for the Washington Examiner. The Senate passed its own version March 11.

CITY SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: General Assembly leaders have agreed on a financing plan to allow Baltimore City to spend nearly $1 billion on a sweeping program to replace and repair dilapidated school buildings over the next seven years, Erin Cox and Luke Broadwater write for the Sun.

EQUITABLE EDUCATION AID: A bill introduced by the O’Malley administration has the potential to bring an estimated $11.2 million more in state aid to the Washington County Board of Education over the next five fiscal years, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The bill is an attempt by the state to make a more accurate calculation of local wealth, and make the distribution of state education aid more equitable, said Del. Andrew Serafini.

GENDER ID BIAS BILL: Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette reports that a Senate committee voted down a broadly supported bill prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity last week, but advocates say they’ll keep fighting.

SPEED CAMERA CONTROLS: The state Senate could vote as soon as today to bar the state and local governments from paying speed camera contractors based on ticket volume and to require that all automated speeding tickets issued in Maryland give drivers enough information to fact-check their citations, Scott Calvert of the Sun reports.

PLASTIC BAG TAX: John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports on the pros and cons of a proposed tax on plastic bags, mostly from the consumers’ point of view.

DEPOSIT BOTTLES: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks ponders the proposal to promote recycling and get the trash out of landfills using deposit bottles. But not every politician is behind the idea.

SENATE OKS LOCKHEED EXEMPTION: The Maryland Senate voted 37 to 9 Monday to exempt Lockheed Martin from paying about $450,000 a year in hotel taxes to Montgomery County related to a training center that the giant defense contractor operates in Bethesda, writes the Post’s John Wagner.

KLINE RUNS FOR GOP CHAIR: Greg Kline, of Red Maryland, is running for Maryland Republican Party chair. In this 22-minute video, he outlines his vision for the state party.

STATE SENATE 2014: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland looks ahead to the 2014 elections and ponders the possible makeup of the state Senate then: who’s out, who’s a frontrunner and other scenarios that could occur.

6,700 JOBS: The U.S. Department of Labor says Maryland employers added 6,700 jobs in January, picking up the pace from the end of last year, writes Jamie Smith Hopkins for the Sun.

NO CHEERIOS FOR LEOPOLD: Anne Arundel County officials on Monday issued a statement denying claims that former County Exec John Leopold was receiving special treatment in the county jail, where he is incarcerated for misconduct in office. The superintendent for the detention facility said in a statement that Leopold “has burdened staff with multiple special requests and needs that have not and will not be provided,” such as Cheerios, bananas and orange juice for breakfast.

Leopold has also asked for his electric toothbrush, electric shaver and dental floss, all of which he will have to live without until he is released after his 30-day jail sentence, writes Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette.

LEOPOLD DROPPED FROM SUITS: Two federal retaliation lawsuits filed by former county employees will move forward, but without Leopold as a defendant, reports Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette. A judge on Monday threw out parts of both lawsuits, one filed by former Leopold spokeswoman Karla Hamner and another by former constituent services specialist Joan Harris. The counts that remain are only against Anne Arundel County

The two civil lawsuits are not tied to Leopold’s recent criminal trial, in which he was found guilty of two counts of misconduct in office, Andrea Siegel writes in the Sun.

POST PAYWALL COMING: This summer, The Washington Post will start charging frequent users of its website, asking those who look at more than 20 articles or multimedia features a month to pay a fee, although the company has not decided how much it will charge, Steven Mufson reports for the Post.

LIBERAL MEDIA: Towson University Professor Richard Vatz, in an op-ed for the Sun, contends that there is a liberal bias in the media, citing the Sun’s coverage of the 2006 gubernatorial election. The Sun did not print one op-ed page sentence — much less an entire article — that supported incumbent Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich by name. By contrast, there were many articles that year on that page (not just the editorial page) complimentary to the Democratic candidate, Martin O’ Malley.