State Roundup, March 18, 2016

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SENATE PASSES $42 BILLION BUDGET: The Maryland Senate Thursday unanimously passed Gov. Hogan’s $42 billion budget. That earned praise from the Republican governor mixed with concern about reductions in the Rainy Day fund and highway user revenues, as well as $132 million in funds fenced off for legislative priorities, Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com.

TAX RELIEF: The Senate Budget and Taxation committee approved a tax relief package that will save Marylanders about $100 million a year when fully implemented, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. The dollar amount was based on the total proposed in Gov. Larry Hogan’s package of tax reductions, but it was based more on the recommendation of the Augustine business competitiveness commission to reduce the top tax rate.

CUTTING GREENHOUSES GAS: The House of Delegates on Thursday approved a new goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Delegates voted 100-37 to approve a bill that requires the state to cut greenhouse emissions such as carbon dioxide by 40% by 2030. The goal uses 2006 as the baseline for measuring emissions. The state Senate approved a similar bill last month on a 38-8 vote.

SONG WITH NEW LYRICS: The Maryland Senate voted Thursday to strip pro-Confederate lyrics from the state’s song, “Maryland, My Maryland.” Senators voted 38-8 for a compromise bill that would keep the old verses written in 1861 as Maryland’s “historic state song” but replace lyrics denouncing Abraham Lincoln and referring to “Northern scum” in the version to be used on official occasions, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

DEER CULLING ERROR: During the 2015 General Assembly, state lawmakers relaxed deer hunting with a rifle south of I-70 in Frederick County to allow farmers with Deer Management Permits to thin herds and defend their fields. Yet, once it came time for the rifle regulations to be published, something may have gone awry. What took effect allowed any and all hunters in the zone to use rifles during the state’s firearm hunting season for deer, reports Danielle Gaines for the Frederick News Post.

HEALTHY SNACK BILL DIES: Legislation that would have mandated state buildings, parks and colleges toss treats that exceed 200 calories per package from their vending machines will have to wait until next year for reconsideration, the measure’s sponsor said this week. Eliana Block of CNS writes the story that appears in the Daily Record.

HELPING BALTIMORE CITY: The editorial board for the Sun is urging Gov. Hogan to help Baltimore City, writing that if ever there was a time when the rest of the state would step up to do something about the chronic social and economic problems that plague inner city Baltimore, you’d think this would be it. The 2016 General Assembly session will adjourn just two weeks shy of the anniversary of the riots that followed Freddie Gray’s death, and the two top leaders in the legislature are backing a package of bills worth $290 million over five years to help the city.

HOGAN LIKES KASICH: Gov. Larry Hogan still isn’t saying whether he would support Donald Trump if the billionaire wins the GOP presidential nomination. Hogan told Brian Witte of the Associated Press on Thursday evening at an Irish pub during St. Patrick’s Day festivities that “probably” out of the remaining Republicans in the race he likes Ohio Gov. John Kasich the best.

UNFAIR INSURANCE: Consumer advocates Marceline White and Tom Feltner, in an op-ed in the Sun, opine that research this year from the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition found that a driver with a poor record living in a wealthy neighborhood would pay much less than a driver with a perfect record who lives in a poorer neighborhood. Common sense tells us that someone with a spotty driving record should pay more, but insurance firms’ pricing policies mean that bad drivers in wealthier ZIP codes pay less. And the General Assembly has the opportunity to fix this disparity.

INDICTMENTS EXPECTED: Attorney General Brian Frosh and Comptroller Peter Franchot plan to announce criminal indictments related to alleged tax fraud at a press conference today, reports Natalie Sherman for the Sun. The charges come as state officials have raised alarms about increasing tax fraud, especially by preparers. In the last few months, the comptroller’s office has stopped accepting returns from about 60 private tax preparers at multiple locations.

HOGAN POWER OVER CITY LIQUOR BOARD: The state Senate approved legislation Thursday that could strip the governor of the authority to appoint members to Baltimore’s liquor board, Michael Dresser and Pamela Wood report for the Sun.  The bill would require the mayor and Baltimore City Council to select the board’s commissioners if Gov. Larry Hogan doesn’t appoint new members by the end of the General Assembly session April 11.

SENATE HOPEFULS DEBATE: Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen will face off today in the first debate of the Democratic primary contest to fill an open Senate seat in Maryland, with polls showing a highly competitive race The debate, hosted by WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi, will take place during “The Politics Hour” at noon, airing on the radio station and online, writes Rachel Weiner in the Post.

THEN MEET AT FORUM: When the Prince George’s County Young Democrats and the Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt Democratic Club won the right to host a Senate candidates’ forum tonight, they never expected a hassle over who could attend. But organizers said that in negotiating the terms of the forum featuring Reps. Donna F. Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, the candidates insisted on making it a ticketed event and bickered over the details of who would receive them, Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports.

‘HARDBALL’ DONATIONS QUESTIONED: Opponents of Maryland congressional candidate Kathleen Matthews are questioning campaign donations she’s received from guests on “Hardball,” the MSNBC talk show hosted by her husband, Chris Matthews, writes Bill Turque of the Post. Three candidates in the 8th District — two of them Democratic primary opponents of Matthews’s and the other a Republican she could face in the general election — say the donations from Washington A-listers raise questions about whose interests Matthews will represent if she wins the April 26 primary and is elected in November.

WITHOUT THE GAZETTE: In a four-part series for Seventh State, Adam Pagnucco writes about the difference in politics after Maryland lost the Gazette newspapers, which had been bought by the Washington Post. a A decade ago, financial pressures led the Post to start trimming the Gazette. Here’s Part 1.  Part 2. Part 3.  We’ll have Part 4 for you on Monday.