State Roundup March 1, 2010

Today, there may be a deal on unemployment insurance reform. O’Malley and Ehrlich spar over the governor’s weekend visit to Iraq, and local governments might get some relief from state spending mandates. So, are we getting table games in Maryland?

UNEMPLOYMENT DEAL: Business groups could get behind a legislative proposal to expand unemployment benefits as soon as Monday, but they were still waiting to hear from members about the heavily-amended plan as last week drew to a close. Nick Sohr has the story for The Daily Record. A key senator says he thinks a deal is near, Julie Bykowicz writes for The Baltimore Sun.

O’MALLEY IN IRAQ: Gov. Martin O’Malley traveled to Iraq over the weekend on the U.S. Department of Defense’s dime. Former governor and potential candidate Bob Ehrlich didn’t like the timing, John Wagner reports for The Washington Post. Rob Lang and The Associated Press add some audio on Ehrlich’s criticism for WBAL Radio.

JOBS CREDIT: The Senate passed a $5,000 tax credit for businesses who hire workers off of the unemployment rolls on Friday, Scott Dance writes for the Washington Business Journal. Here’s Julie Bykowicz’s take from The Sun. John Wagner has more for The Washington Post.

MONTGOMERY FINE: Michael Birnbaum in The Washington Post writes that the state is closer to waiving a $23 million fine on Montgomery County, after a measure that passed the Senate on Friday. The penalty would have come after the county cut school funding this year. The state typically uses its purse strings to discourage such measures. Julie Bykowicz with The Sun takes a step back and looks at the state’s school funding education mandates. Her story examines why some of the restrictions are thawing in a tight budget year.

EDUCATION FIXES: Youth Advocate Matthew Joseph writes an op-ed in The Sun with a prescription of 10 things Maryland can do to improve education for free.

HALFWAY POINT: The 2010 session of the Maryland General Assembly is halfway over, with just six weeks left to go. Little of importance has been accomplished, which could be either bad or good depending on your point of view. Len Lazarick has the story for

Legislators have a plethora of things to do before the end of the 90 day session. WYPR’s Joel McCord joins Erich Wagner and editor Len Lazarick of to talk about the five biggest items lawmakers need to take care of.

SEX OFFENDERS: Dan Rodricks writes in his column for The Sun that some of the legislative measures against sex offenders may amount to piling on, and could make it difficult for people who have changed their ways to get back on their feet.

MADALENO ON NORTHROP: Openly-gay Sen. Richard Madaleno is using Virginia’s stand on gay marriage as a reason that Northrop Grumman should move to Maryland instead of our neighbor to the South. Rosalind Helderman has the story in the Post. Maryland Politics Watch reposts his letter.

HARRIS AIDE: Sen. Andy Harris’s chief of staff, who has been running for the House of Delegates, will get to keep her job under a compromise reached with Senate President Mike Miller, Len Lazarick reports for

MARBELLA: Jean Marbella writes in her Sun column that it may be worthwhile for the state to push forward on hot legislative topics such as same sex marriage and medical marijuana.

TABLE GAMES: Adam Kerlin of Capital News Service has the latest on efforts to legalize casino-style table games in Maryland. Don’t count on it just yet. But Senate President Mike Miller supports an expansion, Liz Farmer writes in The Daily Record. She has a story about a bill that would allow poker rooms at Rosecroft, the struggling Prince George’s County Harness track.

PENSION TRAVEL: The state retirement agency defended its foreign travel expenses from criticism by state lawmakers Friday, saying the spending is a necessary part of their duties. Erich Wagner has a piece on

GAY MARRIAGE: Erica Kritt of the Carroll County Times has a profile of two women who are planning an out-of-state wedding in the wake of last week’s opinion  by Attorney General Doug Gansler that same-sex marriages from other states could be recognized here.

Aaron Davis with the Post analyzes Gansler’s decision, writing that it’s not typical of Maryland’s slow-moving, more socially conservative liberalism. In an op-ed for the Post, former Gov. Bob Ehrlich writes that the gay marriage issue is one where leadership in Annapolis is not aligned with voter sentiment. He also talks about a 2007 sales tax hike.

O’MALLEY AGAINST EHRLICH: A new poll puts O’Malley ahead of Ehrlich in a potential matchup this fall, by a margin of 49-43 percent, William Flook writes for the Washington Examiner.

WARGOTZ: Larry Carson with The Sun writes a profile of Eric Wargotz, the Queen Anne’s County Republican who wants to challenge U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski.

STORMWATER: Advocates are trying to work out a deal on controversial stormwater management regulations for developers, and lawmakers have been meeting with interest groups. The story is on the Maryland Association of Counties’ Conduit Street blog.

WELCOME CENTERS: Doug Donovan writes for Center Maryland that some lawmakers are upset with state moves to close eight of 12 highway welcome centers.

MANURE: David Fahrenthold of the Post writes about why manure is becoming one of the biggest problems for the Chesapeake Bay, and what federal officials are trying to do about it.

COMBINED REPORTING: Joel McCord at WYPR in Baltimore has an audio report on state efforts to implement a controversial corporate tax reporting change.

PRISON CLOSING: Legislative analysts are recommending that the state cut back on its prison population so it can close a jail to save money, The Associated Press reports.

GOP CUTS: Republican budget proposals could decrease Washington County’s budget by about $8 million, Erin Julius reports for The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail.

BIG CHILL: Melinda Roeder at Fox 45 has the latest on the effect on the economy from last month’s blizzards.

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