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O’Malley gas tax lockbox is easy pickings

March 19th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

The lockbox for the Transportation Trust Fund provided in Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed gas tax hike is about as secure as the metal cash box at a PTA bake sale. The House Ways & Means Committee approved a gas tax increase with some amendments to O'Malley's plan on Monday, but apparently without changing the lockbox provision

Hearing on gas taxes draws hundreds to Annapolis

March 17th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

The House Ways and Means Committee heard four hours of testimony about HB1515, a bill that would boost gas taxes and vehicle registration fees in order to raise revenue for Maryland’s transportation network. If passed, the legislation would provide billions of dollars to maintain Maryland roads, bridges, and public transit and would fund the construction of new rail lines and highways.

Gas tax hike would make Maryland rate fifth highest in country

March 17th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

Dozens of people gathered outside the State House Friday to protest a proposed hike on the gas tax. Wielding paper stop signs that said “Stop the Gas Tax,” the group rallied around their spokesman, Nick Loffer, a grassroots director for Americans for Prosperity. “We’re talking about a 60% gas tax hike which, if enacted, will give us the fifth highest gas tax in the country,” said Loffer.

Senate budgeters cut pension contribution by $100 million

March 14th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee voted Thursday to cut $100 million in contributions to the State Retirement and Pension System for fiscal 2014. The committee tied the unexpected move to passage of legislation that will eventually ensure the state puts aside enough money for employee and teachers pensions. But the cut also adds a year to achieving long-term funding goals for those pensions

Democratic committee chair surprised when Republicans oppose pro-business bill

March 14th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

A Democratic committee chairman in House debate Thursday said that he felt like he was in the “twilight zone” because he was arguing on behalf of business, and his Republican opponent was voicing concern for state consumers. Del. Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s County, was stunned by the resistance he faced from Anne Arundel County Republican Herbert McMillan during the debate over a bill which halves the number of free 411 calls that Verizon’s customers can make from their residential land-line phones

Poll: Slight majority still supports death penalty; overwhelming support for gun control measures

March 14th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

A new Goucher College poll finds a slight majority of Marylanders (51%) oppose ending executions -- even though many overestimate how often it is used and a majority says it does not deter murder and would prefer life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. An overwhelming majority of Marylanders -- more than four out of five -- support the major provisions of Gov. Martin O'Malley's gun control proposal, despite the fierce opposition of a gun-owning minority that has flooded Annapolis hearing rooms

House of Delegates rejects proposal to return $1 billion taken from highway funds

March 14th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

During floor debate over the state budget, the Maryland House of Delegates rejected an amendment that would restore $1.1 billion in funds that had been taken from highway user revenues to pay the state’s bills during budget shortfalls since 2003. Del. Susan Krebs, R- Carroll, who introduced the amendment, argued Wednesday that the state had an obligation to restore these highway revenues before asking motorists to pay additional tolls and gas taxes

Another tax hike on cigarettes and cigars gets kicked around

March 14th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

Tobacco lobbyists and anti-smoking advocates went head to head in a high-stakes hearing Wednesday on the legislature’s latest proposal to raise the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $2 to $3.The tax rate on cigars would triple from 30% to 95%.

Voters’ Rights Protection Act passes despite Republican objections on First Amendment grounds

March 13th, 2013 | by Len Lazarick

A bill intended to prevent voter suppression was passed by the House of Delegates 90-46 on Tuesday, after a heated argument between Democrats and Republicans about the impact of the legislation on Marylanders’ civil rights. HB220, which passed along party lines, would enable the attorney general to go to court and seek injunctive relief in cases where the attorney general believes voter intimidation and ballot fraud has a high probability of influencing the results of an election

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