March 21, 2013

State Roundup, March 21, 2013

Print More

GAS TAX FAST TRACK: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed gasoline tax hike that was late arriving for this year’s General Assembly session is now clearly on a fast track for passage. The House of Delegates gave it preliminary approval Wednesday night — just five days after its first hearing, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

As they turned back several proposed amendments, supporters argued that the measure is needed to fund new highway construction and mass transit projects at a time when Maryland’s transportation fund is close to depleted and congestion continues to worsen, writes John Wagner of the Post.

Wagner also reports that a group led by some allies of Gov. Martin O’Malley has been raising money and trying to mobilize public support for legislation to increase transportation funding.

The plan would raise gas taxes by about $600 million a year when fully implemented in 2017. It is the result of painstaking behind-the-scenes negotiations among Gov. O’Malley, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch over a way to raise revenue for the state’s roads, bridges, transit and other transportation needs, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.

Republicans lawmakers excoriated the plan as a $2 billion drain on taxpayers’ wallets over the next six years. House Republicans called a news conference to promise to fight the plan to raise revenue for roads, bridges, mass transit and other transportation needs, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

BUDGET PASSES SENATE: Alex Jackson of the Capital-Gazette reports that the Maryland Senate on Wednesday OK’d Gov. O’Malley’s $36.8 billion fiscal 2014 operating budget. In a process that compared to last year was quick and trouble-free, senators voted 42-5 to pass House Bill 100, with amendments.

The budget bill sailed through the Senate on Wednesday after an unusually brief debate, seen by some as a sign of the state’s improved fiscal condition, writes the Sun’s Michael Dresser. “I can’t remember any time the budget was adopted by a larger margin,” said Senate President Miller.

After about $400 million in cuts, both houses have approved a $36.8 billion budget for fiscal 2014. The budget bill will now be sent to a conference committee, where state legislators will have to hash out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, writes – Ilana Kowarski for MarylandReporter.com.

Carroll County could end up with $1.6 million more in education funding from the state than was originally proposed for this upcoming fiscal year if two amendments adopted by the state Senate hold up in the budget bill, reports Alisha George for the Carroll County Times.

BREAKING RANKS ON BUDGET: In a legislative session that has highlighted partisan splits on issues such as gun control and the death penalty, two GOP lawmakers from Frederick County decided the governor’s budget proposal is something they can stomach, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News-Post.

GUN VIOLENCE: In a video with Damien O’Doherty of Center Maryland, Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson, chair of the National Law Enforcement Partnership, details different ways gun violence can be reduced both nationally and statewide.

GUN SENSE: Sen. J.B. Jennings, Baltimore County Republican, has introduced a bill that would bar public school principals from suspending young children for carrying pictures or objects resembling guns or for making gunlike hand gestures, reports David Hill for the Washington Times.

RANKLED OVER SUPPORT: Three regional governments are up in arms over the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ support of a police position paper concerning gun violence. The Frederick County Board of County Commissioners is one of two members of the council that promised to withhold dues for 2014 if the council does not withdraw its support for the International Association of Chiefs of Police position on firearm violence, writes Patti Borda for the Frederick News-Post.

EARLY VOTING: Facing the prospect of same-day registration for early voters, Republican delegates battled Wednesday to pass amendments intended to safeguard elections from fraud, Becca Heller reports for MarylandReporter.com.

CITY SCHOOL PLAN DELAY: A minority of lawmakers convinced the House of Delegates to delay voting on a landmark plan to invest about $1 billion in building and replacing Baltimore schools, writes Erin Cox for the Sun. About 40 delegates, mostly Republicans, asked for another day to examine the proposal that relies on spending $20 million a year in state lottery cash to help the city and its schools borrow up to $1.1 billion.

DREAM ACT LOOPHOLES: Jen Bondeson of the Gazette writes that two bills seek to close loopholes in the Maryland Dream Act, which allows some illegal immigrants to be eligible for in-state college tuition.

SMOKING IN CARS: The Maryland Senate voted 27 to 20 on Wednesday to ban smoking in cars when there is a passenger younger than age 8, John Wagner of the Post reports.

EVERYBODY CLICK IT: Andy Brownfield of the Washington Examiner writes that all passengers in a motor vehicle would be required to wear a seat belt under a bill given preliminary approval by Maryland’s Senate on Wednesday.

RX POT: Legislation to allow academic centers to dispense medical marijuana is headed to the House of Delegates after two committees endorsed the proposal Wednesday, the Sun’s Erin Cox reports. The bill would allow doctors and nurses to give the drug to cancer patients, those with intractable pain and others.

POLICING INFORMATION: An operation by Maryland State Police near Sharpsburg last year prompted two Washington County legislators to introduce a bill in the General Assembly requiring the chief of the primary law enforcement agency in a county to be notified before an officer from another agency serves a warrant in areas within a county’s jurisdiction. That bill died in committee, but the two legislators are supporting another bill with amendments they say would achieve some of the same objectives, Kaustuv Basu reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

WHY NO REPRIMANDS? Del. Tony McConkey was reprimanded by the State House in February for trying to change legislation last year to make it easier to get his real estate license back. Why then, asks columnist Marta Mossburg, writing in the Frederick News-Post, not a peep from the ethics watchdogs about self-dealing in regards to the pit bull legislation passed in the Senate last week? As passed, the law would be a boon for personal injury lawyers, including Sens. Brian Frosh and Bobby Zirkin, whose Judicial Proceedings Committee is the one who crafted the bill.

HAGERSTOWN REVITALIZATION: Efforts to get state money for the revitalization of downtown Hagerstown are continuing with two prominent city residents meeting with top officials from the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s office Wednesday to appraise them of developments, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

SNOWDEN TO REPORT TO JAIL: Annapolis civil rights leader Carl Snowden will report to jail on Friday to begin serving a 10-day sentence for violating his probation in a 2010 drunken driving case, writes Ben Weathers of the Capital-Gazette.

NEW SUN EDITOR: Triffon Alatzas, who has served The Baltimore Sun as head of digital media and also led the sports and business departments, was named top editor of the 176-year-old news organization Wednesday, writes Matthew Hay Brown for the Sun.