State Roundup March 22, 2010

Senate budget cuts hit counties, auto insurance rates might go up, and Maryland might have to move its primary earlier than September. Plus, Maryland moves out of the south. And check out our weekly podcast!

SENATE BUDGET: The Senate budget committee has taken the first step toward passing half of the state’s massive burden for teacher pensions onto local governments, as part of the budget it voted to send to the Senate floor on Monday. Andy Rosen has the story for

Education advocates were surprised by the outcome of the vote, Sean Sedam writes for The Gazette. Here’s The Associated Press story, which focuses on the proposed elimination of 500, mostly vacant jobs. The AP also writes that the state might lean on an income tax reserve fund if federal aid doesn’t come through.

The Maryland Association of Counties had a lot of coverage of the cuts on its Conduit Street blog. This post points out that a permanent change to state road aid to local governments will cost jurisdictions more than $350 million each year.

SUNSHINE: Len Lazarick writes in his weekly column for that lawmakers could be more transparent about how they come to major budget decisions.

JOBS CREDIT: Both chambers of the General Assembly have now passed a bill to reward businesses who hire off of the unemployment rolls, Scott Dance writes for the Baltimore Business Journal.

AUTO INSURANCE: The Baltimore Sun’s editorial page points to a proposal before the General Assembly that could raise minimum coverage requirements for car insurance. This would likely raise costs to drivers.

PRIMARIES: State primaries may have to be moved earlier than September, as the state adapts to a new law designed to make it easier for overseas troops to vote. Tim Craig writes for The Washington Post.

DISPARITY GRANTS: Prince George’s County is poised to reclaim $18 million in state aid for next year under a Senate budget proposal, Erich Wagner writes for, but county lawmakers are still pushing for a permanent solution to an issue they say could continue to jeopardize both local and school aid.

OUT OF THE SOUTH: Maryland has changed its designation within the Council of State Governments from southern to “eastern,” a move that Brian Witte of The Associated press notes is one sign of the state’s cultural shift since the Civil War.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Scott Calvert of The Sun writes about same-sex couples who are flocking over the border to get married in Washington, D.C. The recent attorney general’s opinion that Maryland should recognize out-of-state gay marriages, coupled with the recent legalization of the unions in the district has caused the influx.

EDUCATION: For our weekly podcast, Len Lazarick and Andy Rosen of sat down with Liam Farrell of The Capital to talk about some of the top education issues before the General Assembly. Topics include the BOAST tax credit for private school donations, teacher pension costs and more.

CHESAPEAKE BAY: Pamela Wood in The (Annapolis) Capital writes a concise description of the problems with the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The main issue:  “There’s been an exponential growth of people living on the land that drains into the bay.”

CARD GAMES: The Senate is moving closer to approval of a plan that would make card games legal at Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County, Annie Linskey writes in The Baltimore Sun. Attempts to expand card games further have been discussed, but rejected. John Wagner with the Post writes that the measure would need voter approval.

Nick Sohr writes on his Eye on Annapolis blog for The Daily Record that a bid to put card games in Baltimore City failed.

ARUNDEL SLOTS: Sohr also points out that Anne Arundel County residents are split on a potential referendum question about whether to ban slots at Arundel Mill mall. A Sun editorial says the horse racing business is hurting itself by holding up the project because a big share of slots revenue goes to that industry.

SCOFFLAWS: Jeff Clabaugh writes in the Baltimore Business Journal about Comptroller Peter Franchot’s release of the state’s top 50 “tax scofflaws.”

SEX OFFENDERS: The House voted on Friday to approve a package of laws designed to make laws tougher on child sex predators, Julie Bykowicz writes for The Sun. Joel McCord has audio for WYPR in Baltimore.

RENEWABLE POWER: Maryland could get to its goal of making renewable resources 20 percent of the state’s energy mix within a dozen years, Adam Kerlin writes for Capital News Service, but it’s not going to be easy.

STORMWATER: Salisbury is one of many jurisdictions struggling to put new stormwater restrictions in place to conform with shifting state law, Laura D’Alessandro writes for The (Salisbury) Daily Times.

DOGS AT RESTAURANTS: Meg Tully of the Frederick News-Post writes about the Senate’s passage of a bill that would allow dogs in outdoor dining areas in Frederick County.

NEW JERSEY ON MARYLAND: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is making fun of Maryland’s budget, as O’Malley used many one-time transfers and some borrowed capital funds to craft his spending plan, Annie Linskey writes for The Sun blog. But New Jersey’s got way bigger budget problems.

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