March 25, 2013

State Roundup, March 25, 2013

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HOUSE PASSES GAS TAX: The House of Delegates voted 76 to 63 Friday to raise taxes on gas to help replenish a state transportation fund that is rapidly running out of money for highway construction and long-planned mass-transit projects, writes John Wagner for the Post.

The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that the legislation would raise an estimated $600 million a year in additional revenue for transportation projects when fully implemented in 2016. Motorists would see its first effects July 1, when the price of a gallon of gas would rise by almost 4 cents.

The bill would mean motorists could expect to pay 13 to 20 cents more for a gallon of gas by the time it is fully implemented in 2016, writes the Washington Times’ David Hill.

The intensely debated gas tax hike electrified the House floor, moving many delegates to speak who had not planned on standing up, Becca Heller writes for MarylandReporter.com.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who proposed the bill late in session, said the bill will add jobs that will strengthen the middle class. Opponents, such as Del. Steve Hershey, however, tell a different story, writes Josh Bollinger for the Cecil Whig. “This bill will hurt job creation as businesses will have to cut costs in order to absorb these increased taxes. The costs of goods and services will rise, especially for those transported to the Eastern Shore,” he said.

Confusion and anger reigned in the House as votes were taken, delegates tried to speak and were thwarted and the Republicans walked out to caucus, blogs Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

Acting Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation Leif Dormsjo takes Center Maryland under the hood of the transportation infrastructure bill that just passed through the House of Delegates, in the Inside-Out video feature.

A RAVEN SWOOPS IN: The Capital-Gazette’s From the Dome column leads off with a visit to the House of Delegates from Torrey Smith of the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. He was able to stop the arguing of the delegates during debate over O’Malley’s transportation funding plan.

BILLS MOVE: The Maryland House advanced more than 125 bills on Saturday, including measures to legalize medical marijuana and to make “cyber-bullying” a crime, as the 90-day legislative session headed into a very busy home stretch, John Wagner and Aaron Davis of the Post report.

CYBER-BULLYING: The Sun is reporting that the cyber-bullying bill seeks to outlaw the use of Internet-based sites such as Facebook and Twitter, taking existing law banning harassment by email and applying it to open-forum social media as well.

CITY SCHOOL BILL: The House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a $1.1 billion plan Friday to rebuild Baltimore City’s deteriorated school buildings, sending the bill to the Senate, write Tim Wheeler and Michael Dresser for the Sun. The vote was 107 to 30, with about a dozen Republicans joining all Democrats in supporting the bill.

SEPTIC MANDATE COST: A proposal to levy storm-water fees on many state-owned properties has cleared the House, setting the stage for shrinking a loophole in the year-old law that requires private landowners pay to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay, writes Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette writes about how the septic law is expected to impact business and industry, since commercial owners will pay a yearly fee based on the amount of impervious surface — such as parking lots — on their properties. The 10 largest jurisdictions have to meet state mandates.

BAG FEE DEAD: In a setback for environmentalists, writes the Sun’s Michael Dresser, a House committee killed a bill Saturday that would have enabled counties to impose a fee on disposable plastic and paper bags given out by stores to carry merchandise.

CRAFT BEER TASTING: Craft beer drinkers could pull up a stool and have a pint at Maryland production breweries this summer under legislation passed by the House of Delegates on Saturday, reports the Daily Record’s Alexander Pyles.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The potential medical benefits of marijuana are clear to Annapolis physician Richard Bernstein. The drug can curb nausea and increase appetite for cancer patients on chemotherapy, writes Tina Reed in the Capital-Gazette. What’s not so clear — even as the House of Delegates gave a preliminary OK to a medical marijuana measure on Saturday — is what health professionals should tell patients about marijuana and its effect on health when the inevitable questions pour in.

Here’s a video report from WBFF-TV, in which Del. Dan Morhaim advocates for making medical marijuana legal to help those suffering with chronic pain.

POT POSSESSION: Caleb Calhoun of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail interviews area residents on the decriminalization of marijuana and finds that while views differ, a number believe it is a good move.

VETERANS & GUNS: Aaron Davis of the Post reports that recent war veterans have become more influential among the minority of gun advocates who are trying to get O’Malley’s gun control proposal watered down since some use their automatic weapons as a catharsis to get rid of tension.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS & DRIVING: Illegal immigrants would be allowed to obtain a Maryland driver’s license and get behind the wheel legally in the state under a measure that advanced Friday in the state Senate, writes Aaron Davis of the Post.

This Senate legislation was sponsored by Sen. Victor Ramirez, a longtime advocate for Maryland’s immigrant community who sponsored the bill allowing state residents to receive in-state tuition regardless of their immigration status, writes Ilana Kowarski for MarylandReporter.com. That bill passed in last year’s referendum.

Vocal opponents of the bill equate it to rewarding people for breaking the law and warn the measure could turn Maryland into a haven for illegal immigrants, while supporters say the legislation is needed to make sure the streets are safe and everybody on the road has proved their ability to drive, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

DISTRACTED DRIVING: Derek Valcourt of WJZ-TV reports that talking on a handheld cell phone while driving is already against the law in Maryland. But the punishment for doing it could get a lot tougher if some lawmakers get their way.

PREGNANT WORKER PROTECTION: Legislation close to passing the General Assembly seeks to strengthen the rights of pregnant women in the workplace. Companies would have to adjust the duties of women who can’t perform their normal jobs because they are pregnant, under the legislation that easily passed in the House of Delegates on Wednesday, Andrea Walker reports in the Sun.

VOTER IDS: A bill currently being discussed in the state legislature would require voters to show identification at the polls to be able to cast a ballot, writes Mark Bittle in the Cecil Whig. It would prevent individuals without a government-issued photo ID, voter notice card or specimen ballot from voting on a regular ballot.

MITCHELL UNSPUN: Del. Keiffer Mitchell is the next legislator that Kate Havard of the Post unspins, as he speaks about being a 4th generation politician and about the rising tension during crossover – when bills have to go from Senate to House and visa-versa to get passed, and what happens when they don’t.

DINO DWYER: Del. Don Dwyer said that his announcement earlier last week that he is considering changing his affiliation from Republican to Democratic in a movement called “Operation DINO” – for Democrats in name only – is no joke and that he plans to seek re-election regardless of his party, Michael Dresser blogs for the Sun.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: Victim advocates say that locally and statewide, the systems set up to protect people from domestic violence are failing the victims, the Sun’s Alison Matas and Carrie Wells write.

FAA TO CLOSE 5 TOWERS: The Federal Aviation Administration plans to close five air traffic control towers in Maryland — among 149 nationwide — to comply with across-the-board budget cuts mandated by Congress, a move that could clog operations at BWI Marshall Airport, Candy Thomson reports for the Sun.

O’M IN SC: Erin Cox of the Sun writes from Charlestown, S.C., that Gov. Martin O’Malley took the stage Saturday at a high school in this early presidential primary state, telling an auditorium of South Carolina Democrats that his principles worked in Maryland — and they’d work elsewhere. There’s video on top of the story.

O’Malley lambasted South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley during the trip, calling her a “tea party Republican” who has shortchanged her constituents on jobs, health care and education, writes John Wagner for the Post.

HARRIS LISTENING MEET: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris will host a constituent town hall event from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Combined Technology Solutions, 2 N. Maple Ave., Ridgely, to listen to concerns and answer questions about the work he is doing on behalf of the 1st District, according to the Easton Star-Democrat.

MoCo EXECUTIVE RACE: MoCoVox has a four-minute video with Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews on his race to become the next county executive.

  • JGwen

    “Gov. Martin O’Malley – telling an auditorium of South Carolina Democrats that His Principles Worked in Maryland — and they’d work elsewhere” What principles could those be? Cultivate a Drive-by Main Stream Media that reliably delivers only his messages? Shift and reward the legislators based on their voting for his initiatives? Crush and pillage the private sector? Play to and for the Administration to garner grants? Haley has shown some moderate tendencies … none the less, hopefully SC and the Nation will have more sense than to follow the California, Illinois, New York, Maryland lead down the trail to a liberal nirvana!

  • Retired Chief Petty Officer

    The “principles” that worked are the fact of location next to the confiscation capital of the world with much of the salary money spilling into Maryland. It had nothing to do with his anti-people legislative program.