State Roundup March 10, 2010

Today we’ve got stories on Senate passage of two bills that have caused some contention lately, the heritage tax credit’s outlook is uncertain, and the Attorney General wants to eliminate elections for Circuit Court judges.

HERITAGE TAX CREDIT: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan to expand a popular tax credit for renovating old buildings faces resistance from House leaders, Annie Linskey writes for The Baltimore Sun. House Majority Leader Kumar Barve and Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Sheila Hixson expressed concerns with the proposal to both renew and expand the tax credit.

CHILD SUPPORT: The state Senate passed legislation Tuesday changing the guidelines courts use to set child support payments, Steve Lash writes in The Daily Record. But the bill faces greater scrutiny in the House, where opponents say more time is needed to study the guidelines. John Wagner has the story for The Washington Post’s Maryland Politics blog.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: The Senate unanimously approved changes to Maryland’s unemployment insurance system, sending the compromise between labor and business organizations to the House, the Associated Press reports. Julie Bykowicz points out in The Sun’s Maryland Politics blog that the bill acts as a way to tap into almost $127 million in federal stimulus money.

VA SALARY: The Senate budget committee chairman said he expects the panel to approve the continued payment of the $145,000 salary of the chief of staff for the secretary of Veterans Affairs, despite a staff recommendation to cut the new post that pays 80 percent more than the salary of the secretary himself. Erich Wagner has the story for

JUDGES: Attorney General Doug Gansler wants to eliminate contested elections for Circuit Court judges, but critics say it would give the governor too much control over the judicial system, Daniel Leaderman writes at Capital News Service.

CITY ROADS: Lawmakers are seriously considering a $30 million reduction to Baltimore City’s share of the state aid that local jurisdictions share for road maintenance, Andy Rosen writes for

PENSION FUND: Lawmakers are pushing to require that $50 million of the state’s pension money be invested in new bioscience and green technology companies, Hayley Peterson reports in the Washington Examiner. But the fund’s managers say such investments are risky and have low returns.

OYSTERS: Watermen converged on the State House on Tuesday to voice their support for bills that would drastically diminish the Department of Natural Resources’ ability to regulate oyster harvesting, Jennifer Hlad writes for Capital News Service.

STORMWATER: Joel McCord at WYPR has a look behind the compromise between environmentalists, local government officials and builders, citing House Environmental Matters Committee Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh’s use of “pizza and soda” to bring stakeholders together to discuss the issues at hand. David Fahrenthold has the story for The Washington Post.

DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES: Ian Paregol writes in a commentary for that as the developmentally disabled wait for assistance, the network of community providers whose mission it is to meet their needs grows increasingly threatened by years of chronic underfunding.

ARE WE THERE YET?: Michael Dresser looks at the State Highway Administration’s newly unveiled plan to use variable message signs on highways to inform drivers of how long it will take to reach important interchanges or landmarks in his Getting There blog for The Sun.

NORTHROP GRUMMAN: Nick Sohr does a bit of analysis in his Eye On Annapolis blog on the prospects of Northrop Grumman coming to Maryland and its political implications, in light of a Washington Post column that puts the state in a pretty bad, well, light.

FERTILIZERS: Del. Galen Clagett says he expects his bill placing greater restrictions on phosphorous in lawn fertilizers to pass the House this week, Meg Tully writes in The Frederick News-Post. But some are concerned that reducing phosphorous could make fertilizer less effective and contribute to soil erosion.

GUN CRIMES: Carroll County Republican Sen. Larry Haines’ bill creating a minimum mandatory sentence for the use of any gun in a crime is gaining bipartisan support, particularly with Baltimore Democrats, Adam Bednar writes for the Carroll County Times.

ELECTRIC REREGULATION: David Collins reports for WBAL-TV on what he calls a “zombie bill”–a bill that never goes away, despite dying each year–in electric re-regulation. Supporters say re=regulation of utilities will lower electric costs for consumers, but opponents say that competition will drive rates down, not government regulation.

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