Relief for toll road penalties put on hold, Senate chairman says

A Senate bill to address “predatory” toll penalties, technical problems with transponders and poor customer service at E-ZPass will die in the Senate Finance Committee this session, its chairman said Tuesday, along with a watered down House version that delegates supported unanimously on Monday. Instead, Senate Finance Committee Chair Thomas “Mac” Middleton said he is holding off legislation for a year to give the Maryland Transportation Authority time to improve customer service and pursue new contracts with vendors to operate Maryland’s toll system.

Senate approves extra funding for Md. Public TV if Trump cuts aid

Starting next year live C-Span style deliberations of the Maryland House and Senate could be televised and live streamed during the last two weeks of each session, under a provision in a bill to support Maryland Public Television should Congress cut funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as President Trump has proposed.

Open Source textbooks could save students a bundle

As the cost of college has skyrocketed, students and parents could soon get relief on expensive textbooks under the Textbook Cost Savings Act of 2017 that would provide funding to develop free open source learning materials.“The state is moving rapidly towards free textbooks online,” said the bill’s sponso rSen. Jim Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s, in an interview. “If the bill passes it will be state policy that we want to move in that direction as much as possible.”

Md. retailers want online merchants to charge sales tax

Maryland retailers are again pushing for the state to collect sales taxes from online merchants not based in Maryland, helping them and potentially raising hundreds of millions for the state. Brick and mortar stores are struggling to compete with online sellers in other states, retail business interests testified in Annapolis on Wednesday in support of the Main Street Fairness Act of 2017.

Extra pension fund payment from state surplus would continue under bill approved by House

A bill to pre-fund future pension and health insurance liabilities for state workers passed overwhelmingly in the House of Delegates last week in a 130-5 vote — and now waits in the Senate Budget and Tax Committee for a hearing. The bill, HB28, sponsored by Del. Carol Krimm, D-Frederick, would require 50% of the general fund balance in excess of $10 million be split equally between the pension system and the Postretirement Health Benefits Trust Fund, up to $25 million for each fund.

New septic bill struggles in the Senate

A bill to require Best Available Technology (BAT) for all new construction on septic everywhere in Maryland is struggling to survive in the Senate.

The bill, SB266, sponsored by Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D-Baltimore City, would establish a 2012 regulation issued under former Gov. Martin O’Malley into law that required BAT systems for all new construction in the state, even beyond the critical areas. Gov. Larry Hogan killed the O’Malley-era regulation last summer and limited BAT system requirements to the critical areas only.

Dems move to rescind Md. calls for U.S. constitutional convention

Responding to fears about how President Trump and a runaway constitutional convention might tamper with the U.S. Constitution, Democrats at the State House are moving closer to rescinding decades-old calls for a constitutional convention to deal with issues of the day. A Senate resolution that would “rescind, repeal, cancel, void, nullify, and supersede” four historical applications to the U.S. Congress for a convention was adopted in the Senate on Thursday. Republicans fought in vain for an amendment to keep the 1975 call for a balanced budget open for seven years.