ESTATE TAX CUT: In an effort to ensure Maryland’s millionaires don’t flee the state for cheaper pastures, the General Assembly approved Thursday a cut to the state’s estate tax, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf of MarylandReporter is reporting. After spirited debate and a 36-10 vote from the Senate, the bill was sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is likely to sign the bill.
- As passed, the bill would hike the estate tax exemption annually, beginning on Jan. 1, 2015, in amounts of $1.5 million, $2 million, $3 million and $4 million before being coupled with the federal exemption level in 2019, writes Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital.
- The Maryland Senate passed a bill Thursday to allow affluent residents to avoid taxes on a greater portion of the wealth they leave when they die, Frederick Kunkle and John Wagner report in the Post. The Senate also passed a bill to increase penalties for drivers who cause serious crashes while using a handheld mobile device. Both bills had passed the House and will go to Gov. Martin O’Malley to be signed into law.
- Curiously, writes Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley urged lawmakers to raise the minimum wage in a statement Thursday on legislation that passed to ease the estate tax.
WAGE HIKE RALLIES: Lauren Loricchio of the Sun reports that a group of more than 50 joined Gov. Martin O’Malley and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings to rally in support of raising Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in Catonsville on Thursday afternoon, just one of many being held across the state to support pending legislation in the state Senate. A video of O’Malley speaking at the rally tops the article.
- Just two weeks are left before the end of the legislative session in Annapolis, and the governor’s proposal to raise the minimum wage is stuck in a Senate committee. Advocates for the wage hike are ratcheting up the pressure on key lawmakers to move the bill along, reports Christopher Connolly for WYPR.
- The editorial board for the Sun is urging Gov. O’Malley to negotiate higher salaries for caregivers for the developmentally disabled because it’s the right thing to do — and the expedient one.
RX POT MARKETPLACE: As state lawmakers try to get Maryland’s medical marijuana program off the ground, the focus has turned to the practical matter of establishing an industry to provide the drug — and the details are proving daunting, report Michael Dresser and Erin Cox in the Sun.
DISTRACTED DRIVING: The Maryland Senate unanimously approved a bill on Thursday that stiffens penalties for injuring or killing someone while texting and driving, writes Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. If convicted under the new law, drivers would receive 12 points on their license at which time it would be revoked. They would also face up to three years in jail and $5,000 in fines.
TRANSGENDER PROTECTION CHALLENGE: Opponents of a bill to include gender identity in Maryland’s anti-discrimination laws are warning it could be challenged in a referendum if the measure passes this session, writes Kate Alexander for the Gazette.
OPEN SPACE FUNDING FIGHT: Environmental and land conservation advocates, along with county officials across the state, are gearing up to fight a Senate Budget Committee proposal to limit Program Open Space funding to $100 million a year, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.
GREEN CONSTRUCTION: The budding industry of energy-efficient home building could get some encouragement to grow if state officials decide to establish a low-cost construction loan program, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. A bill now before the Maryland General Assembly seeks to set up the program, which state housing officials hope will be up and running before the year’s end. With the proposal, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development aims to foster development of green communities.
SPACEY SCHMOOZE: Kevin Spacey, the star of the hit TV show “House of Cards,” will visit Annapolis to schmooze with legislators tonight as they weigh the fate of a film tax credit that has contributed millions to the show during its two years of production in Maryland, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.
- Spacey’s appearance comes as Media Rights Capital, the California-based production company behind “House of Cards,” is threatening to pick up its cameras and leave Maryland, writes Alex Jackson for the Sun. A sidebar to the left of the article details the tax credits for recent productions.
GENETIC LABELING: In urging the General Assembly to pass a law to force labeling of genetically modified foods, Danielle Nierenberg and Michael Colella of Food Tank write in an op-ed for the Sun that GM crops are failing to live up to their promises to produce higher yields at less environmental cost, yet they are showing up in everyday food without customers even knowing it.
REGULATING REGULATIONS: The Maryland House of Delegates on Monday approved a measure that business advocates say would make state regulations easier to deal with, writes Kevin James Shay in the Gazette. Under the bill, regulations would be released quarterly, rather than letting agencies release changes on a daily basis. The Senate passed its own version earlier in March.
GROUND RENT: The House of Delegates will likely approve a Senate-passed bill to permit ground-rent owners to collect attorneys’ fees and other costs of ejecting the building owner only if such costs are authorized under the ground lease, Steve Lash is reporting for the Daily Record.
COMMON CORE TESTS: Tens of thousands of students in Maryland and the District are slated to log on to computers this spring to take practice versions of a new standardized test, exams meant to gauge their performance on new national academic guidelines known as the Common Core State Standards. Emma Brown and Lyndsey Layton report in the Washington Post.
WIND FARM TUG OF WAR: Normally allies, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore are poised to oppose each other during the final two weeks of the 90-day session. At the center of the conflict is a bill that would delay or kill a wind project in Somerset County, depending on who you talk to, writes Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.
- Concerns over losing a multi-million dollar wind farm in Somerset County have led Senate President Mike Miller and Lower Shore Sen. Jim Mathias to re-examine a potential 800-job Wal-mart distribution center, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.
TIRE DUMP CLEANUP FUNDED: The Board of Public Works approved $2.5 million to fund the long-awaited cleanup of a tire dump in Crownsville, reports Alex Jackson for the Annapolis Capital. The board voted without discussion to clean up the site more than 11 years after it approved the same project. A cleanup of the property was approved in 2003 but never started. The death of the property owners and permitting hurdles kept the project on hold.
UB-PO LAND SWAP OK’D: The Board of Public Works gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a land-swap deal that would give the University of Baltimore 2.5 acres in the heart of its campus in exchange for finding a new location for a U.S. Postal Service truck repair facility.
MIZEUR PUSHES WOMEN’S ISSUES: John Wagner of the Post writes that Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Heather Mizeur on Thursday proposed plans to ensure equal pay for women and to provide workers with paid family leave time, an agenda she said would help women“control their own finances, work lives and fertility.”
- Under her plan, state aid to those who need to take off work would be financed by a surcharge on workers’ paychecks, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.
- Mizeur also would reduce the 15-cent pay gap between men and women in Maryland, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.
DUNCAN HAMMERS LEGGETT: Bill Turque of the Post reports that Doug Duncan continues to press his message that time is running out for Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett to answer questions on the Silver Spring Transit Center. In this new video, the Democratic primary challenger uses the familiar “Final Jeopardy” theme to make his point that time is slipping away. Accompanying the music are references to events, from the collapse of Lehman Brothers to the firing of Mike Shanahan, that have come and gone since ground was broken in 2008. The ad tops the story.
DOLAN MEDIA FILES FOR BANKRUPTCY: The Dolan Company, the parent company of the Daily Record, is filing for bankruptcy with all its creditors on board with the situation, according to an article in the Daily Record written by Danny Jacobs. Company reps say the bankruptcy will not affect Daily Record operations.