March 26, 2013

State Roundup, March 26, 2013

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MEDICAL POT: The Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a bill Monday that would legalize medical marijuana, although under such limited circumstances that it remained unclear how many distribution centers would open and when, the Post’s John Wagner and Aaron Davis report.

The House bill will allow a small number of academic medical centers to distribute marijuana to patients beginning in 2016, creating a commission through which academic medical research centers could apply to operate medical marijuana programs, writes Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

Maryland’s plan of having the program administered by teaching hospitals allows the effects of medical marijuana to be researched by the people dispensing it, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.

Patients likely would not start to receive marijuana through the program until 2016, if hospitals apply at all to run the programs, Holly Nunn reports for the Gazette.

CORPORATE WELFARE: Progressive Maryland released a report highlighting gaps in Maryland’s tax policy that prevent the state from bringing in almost $60 million in annual tax revenue from corporate sectors, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com.

For the second-consecutive year, a Maryland Senate committee has defeated a bill that would have altered the way businesses that operate in multiple states pay corporate income taxes to Maryland, writes Kevin James Shay for the Gazette. The current system allows some companies to hide profits from Maryland by transferring money to out-of-state subsidiaries, says the advocacy group Progressive Maryland.

LOCKHEED WELFARE: What do hungry children and the world’s largest military contractor have in common? Not much, it seems, writes history professor emeritus Lawrence Wittner for the Huffington Post. At the very time when (thanks to sequestration) state governments are cutting back aid to low income women and their children, the government of the state of Maryland seems en route to providing the Lockheed Martin Corp. with a handout worth millions of dollars.

GAS TAX HIKE & THE POOR: The editorial board for the Sun lambasts opponents of raising the gas tax, citing their arguments such as that mass transit should be self-sustaining. What makes this claim particularly laughable, writes the editorial board, is that gas tax opponents insist they want to look out for low-income families. They argue that working people end up paying a higher percentage of their income toward gasoline taxes than high-earners — and that’s true, although the same could surely be said of the sales tax and many other consumption-related taxes and fees.

HEALTH EXCHANGE FUNDING: The Maryland House of Delegates has approved a measure to further implement federal health-care reform in the state, creating a dedicated funding stream for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which is a new insurance market that will offer residents a choice of private health plans, the AP’s Brian Witte reports in the Salisbury Daily Times.

UNION FEES: Service fees for representation by teachers unions in over half of Maryland’s counties would have to be negotiated under a bill that passed the House of Delegates last week and has a Senate hearing Tuesday, writes Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com. The fees would have to be paid by non-union members for  bargaining and other services provided by the unions.

DISTRACTED DRIVING: Motorists in Maryland could be pulled over and ticketed for driving while talking on hand-held phones even if they weren’t breaking another law under legislation that is poised for final passage in the General Assembly, reports Michael Dresser of the Sun.

PAPER MILL SUBSIDIES: A bill that would curtail millions in renewable-energy subsidies for mostly out-of-state paper mills comes to the Senate floor Monday, after being killed last week and then revived with a special deal for Maryland’s only paper-making plant, writes Tim Wheeler for the Sun.

DRIVER’S LICENSE FOR ILLEGALS: Illegal immigrants will continue to be allowed to obtain a Maryland driver’s license under a measure passed by the Senate on Monday, reports Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette. Senators voted 29-18 to pass SB 715, which would require Maryland to establish a second-class driver’s license that applicants could obtain without a Social Security number or proof of lawful status. The House gave a similar bill preliminary approval on Saturday.

SPEED CAMERA REFORM: The Maryland Senate on Monday overwhelmingly passed a weakened speed camera reform bill that would bar local governments from paying vendors based on the volume of citations but wouldn’t ensure motorists had enough information to fact-check their citations, the Sun’s Scott Calvert writes.

BOTTLE BILL DIES: A bill meant to boost recycling of drink cans and bottles by charging a nickel deposit on them died in the House Environmental Matters Committee Monday, Tim Wheeler of the Sun reports.

SHARK FIN BAN: A measure banning the trade of shark fins in Maryland has cleared the House of Delegates, according to an AP story at WMAR-TV. The bill passed on a 115-17 vote Monday. The measure now goes to the Senate, where there is a similar bill pending.

UM-BIG TEN CONTRACT A NO-SHOW: The University of Maryland did not retain a copy of the contract that its president signed with the Big Ten Conference in November, which reportedly contains the terms of the public institution entering into a long-term business deal with the private athletic conference, reports Jenna Johnson for the Post.

SEQUESTER CLOSES TOWER: The closing of Frederick Municipal Airport’s new control tower by the FAA due to sequestration cuts will be a setback in the city’s long-term goals to attract more corporate flights and business, reports Kelsi Loos for the Frederick News-Post.

SEQUESTER & SECTION 8: If the federal sequester remains in place, families in Section 8 housing in Howard County might have to begin paying more by mid-2014, reports Blair Ames for the Howard County Times.

TUBMAN MONUMENT: President Barack Obama signed a proclamation on Monday designating five national monuments, including one commemorating Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad on the Eastern Shore, writes Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette. The designation protects land in Dorchester County from development. Gov. O’Malley’s administration requested the designation last year. The National Parks Service will manage the monument.

O’MALLEY NEWS CHANNEL: Red Maryland goes after the website Center Maryland, saying that “for all intents and purposes Center Maryland is the O’Malley News Channel, run by the folks who get paid to help Democratic special interests raid your wallet.”

  • Guest

    Regarding the driving while talking bill, is there a reason our esteemed delegates didn’t out law the sale of handheld phones with hands-free equipment to persons possessing Maryland Driver Licenses?

    Oh, yes, and I am shocked, shocked I tell you that someone thinks Center Maryland is an O’Malley and Democratic Party of Maryland tool. Who would be behind such a besmirching of the O’Doherty name. Yes, shocked, I am.

    On the other hand, can anyone name the elected Republicans who work so hard to support their supporters?

    • JGwen

      “can anyone name the elected Republicans who work so hard to support their supporters”

      Republican’s, in Maryland, do work hard to support their chief ‘involved and identified supporters’ (plus many who feel they need to remain anonymous) – We the abused and maligned citizens/voters — YES! I can, but I have to doubt you have a legitimate interest in an answer to your question.

  • Regarding the Driving While Talking Prohibition sailing through the General Assembly, is there a reason they didn’t pass a prohibition on the sale of hand held phones without hands-free equipment for use by possessors of Maryland Driver’s Licenses?

  • Regarding the O’Malley News Channel item, I am shocked, shocked, I tell you, that the obviously vicious people at Red Maryland would cast such aspersion on the fine Maryland Democratic political name of O’Doherty. Who could believe there are any but pure motives behind the actions of Damian and his brother, “Shade'” O’Doherty. Center Maryland’s work with the grassroots to ensure the success of small business, I speak here of the speed camera vendor supporters they nourished, should be the ultimate exemplar of their commitment to the people in the battle against special interests.