March 13, 2014

State Roundup, March 13, 2014

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BUDGET APPROVAL: With minimal debate, the Maryland Senate rejected a half dozen Republican attempts to further trim Gov. Martin O’Malley’s $39 billion budget Wednesday, and gave preliminary approval to the spending plan that will be sent to the House this week, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee ultimately cut $492 million from the current budget and O’Malley’s proposal for next year, partly to make up for lowered revenue estimates in both years.

POT DECRIMINALIZATION: The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to a bill that would decriminalize marijuana, reports Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital. After adopting several amendments to the bill, the Senate sent Bill 364 to a final vote. The bill would decriminalize pot by making possession of up to 10 grams a civil offense, punishable by up to a $100 fine.

GUN DATABASE BILL: The editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times is backing a piece of legislation that aims to help Maryland State Police better enforce existing state laws by linking the state’s gun ownership registry to its criminal database. It would give State Police an easy and more-accurate way to prevent at-risk state residents from purchasing regulated firearms, including those who have been convicted of certain violent crimes or whose mental state creates a risk to the community, the editorial says.

HOORAY FOR HARRIS: WYPR’S Fraser Smith says “Hurray for the GOP gentleman from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is showing the importance of a two-party state – a state in which someone would be demanding transparency and accountability when it matters.

***Tonight’s the night. Don’t forget MarylandReporter.com’s annual happy hour fundraiser. Can’t make it? Make a donation and we’ll buy you a drink some other night.***

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KITTLEMAN ON MILLER: Sen. Allan Kittleman called it a show of “the arrogance of power” when Senate President Mike Miller ruled he was in violation of  the “single subject” rule for legislation. In the end, their fellow senators supported Miller’s ruling. The confrontation came when Kittleman tried to amend a bill about scholarships to remove the power of each senator to award $138,000 in legislative scholarship each year, reports Margaret Sessa-Hawkins for MarylandReporter.com.

UNDERAGE GAMBLERS: A bill that will create penalties for underage gamblers who are caught inside any of Maryland’s casinos is close to becoming law, Freedom Du Lac reports in the Post. The Maryland House passed its version of the legislation unanimously, without discussion or debate, on Wednesday — two weeks after a similar bill was unanimously approved by the Maryland Senate.

BLIGHT FIGHT: A blight-fighting proposal that would allow governments to slap recalcitrant property owners with fines triple the amount of their tax bills came before lawmakers Wednesday for consideration, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. Sen. Ron Young’s bill would authorize local governments to require property owners to spruce up their buildings or offer them for sale. If the owners fail to do either within a certain period of time, they would be liable to face heavy fines.

DREDGE-WATER PLAN: State Sen. Steve Hershey has introduced a bill in the General Assembly to require the Maryland Port Authority to file a complete water remediation plan for the residents of the Earleville communities surrounding the Pearce Creek Dredge Material Containment Area before it could resume disposing of spoils at the site, Jacob Owens reports in the Cecil Whig.

REDSKINS CONTROVERSY: The AP’s Nick Tabor writes, in the Salisbury Daily Times, that state Senate President Mike Miller says the state government shouldn’t push the Washington Redskins to change their name. Two delegates have proposed a resolution urging Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name to something not offensive to Native Americans.

PHOSPHORUS STUDY: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times reports state Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance said Wednesday that a look at the economic impacts of phosphorus regulations will be completed in early July, after which a peer review will take place.

CHECKS & BALANCES: Baltimore County Public Schools could be forced to abandon its practice of contracting roofing repairs through a Pennsylvania-based government consortium under a bill being considered in the Maryland General Assembly, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

SPEED CAMERA BILL: The House of Delegates has approved a speed camera reform bill intended to give drivers new protections against erroneous tickets and to impose higher standards on the vendors who operate the programs. The measure, which in part responds to problems with Baltimore City’s speed camera program, now goes to the Senate, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

GOP YOUTH SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE: Michael Golden of the Sun reports that a new Pew Research Center survey finds that 61% of Republicans under 30 — a clear majority — favor allowing same-sex marriage, while 35% oppose it. That’s a marked difference from both their older counterparts and the party at large. Only 27% of Republicans over 50 support allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed, according to the poll, compared with 39% approval from Republicans overall.

RUPPERSBERGER ON DATA COLLECTION: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is proposing to end the bulk collection of telephone data by the National Security Agency — the program at the center of the controversy over the reach of government spying, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

CRAIG WANTS GUN LAWS ROLLED BACK: Republican Harford County Executive David Craig said that if elected governor, he would roll back Maryland’s strict gun-control laws and push a sales tax exemption for goods manufactured in the state, Erin Cox writes in the Sun. The article is topped by a video interview.

MIZEUR WANTS MORE MEDICAID SIGNUPS: Amid all of the shortcomings and embarrassments of the Maryland health insurance exchange, Gov. Martin O’Malley and other leaders have pointed to one bright spot: The number of people signing up for Medicaid has exceeded their expectations. But Del. Heather Mizeur, who is running for governor, says Maryland is still not doing enough to get as many low-income families and individuals as possible signed up for Medicaid, reports Jenna Johnson in the Post.

GANSLER SAYS HE’S A FIGHTER: Attorney General Doug Gansler continued to portray himself as a fighter Wednesday as he hit the airwaves with the first radio ad in his campaign to become governor, Erin Cox of the Sun writes.

BROWN WANTS TUITION CAP: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Wednesday promised that he would cap annual tuition increases at public universities at 3% throughout his four-year term if elected governor. Brown’s pledge would maintain the same policy goal of his boss, outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has made college affordability a priority since taking office in 2007, writes John Wagner for the Post.

  • Vidi

    Shame on the Senate for its decisions on the FY 2015 budget. Deferring payment to the pension fund and giving state employees a 2% payraise (the Feds are getting a 1% payraise) proves that the unions have much more power than we impute to them. Note 2% payraise (current Union members), note $100 million deferral to pension fund (non-Union members). Also a 1% across-the-board reduction is described as a “meat cleaver” approach. One percent is not even a pinprick.

  • BT

    I have big concerns about the cuts in the pension fund in order to balance the budget. Certainly Md. must keep it’s financial obligations secure. If this cut endangers this, that’s bad for Md.