State Roundup March 24, 2010

Today, Pimlico is off the auction block, the governor’s unemployment insurance reform passes, and we could be voting on card games in November.

BUDGET: In a marathon five-hour session Tuesday night, the Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s $32 billion budget, cutting only about $100 million from his spending plan for fiscal 2011, Len Lazarick reports for Steve Fermier has more for WBAL.

The House budget plan that is taking shape would put back more money into road maintenance than the Senate version that is now on the floor, according to the Maryland Association of Counties blog.

PIMLICO: The race tracks at Pimlico are no longer on the auction block. Magna Entertainment Corp., the bankrupt company that owned the facility, notified six potential bidders that its parent company, MI Developments, agreed to pay $114 million to secure Magna’s assets. Liz Farmer reports for The Daily Record. Ryan Sharrow has the story for the Baltimore Business Journal.

UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE: Nick Sohr at The Daily Record writes that the the House passed an unemployment insurance reform measure Tuesday. He reports that its form differs greatly from O’Malley’s original plan, but the gov’s still pleased with its success. Julie Bykowicz has more for The Baltimore Sun. A day earlier, House lawmakers moved toward passage of unemployment insurance reform, despite Republican efforts to scale back coverage and reduce taxes, Erich Wagner reports for

DEATH PENALTY: John Wagner of The Washington Post writes that a loosening of death penalty restrictions sought by Senate President Mike Miller seems derailed, citing a “poison pill” amendment tacked on by Judicial Proceedings Committee Chairman Brian Frosh. Frosh added language to make it tougher for prosecutors to convince a jury to execute someone, Julie Bykowicz reports in The Sun.

SLOTS CONTRACT: The state is poised to approve an up to $800 million contract that would allow officials to begin ordering the 15,000 slot machines that could eventually be installed around Maryland, writes Andy Rosen with

CARD GAMES: The state Senate gave preliminary approval to letting citizens vote on bringing card games to Prince George’s County, The Associated Press reports.

FALSE CLAIMS: The Senate passed legislation Tuesday to combat Medicaid fraud, only a year after rejecting a similar measure, Annie Linskey reports for The Sun. In a compromise with hospitals, the bill encourages whistle-blowing lawsuits, but the state must sign onto the suits for the cases to move forward. Here’s the Associated Press’ take.

TRAFFIC COURT: A bill that would take away the automatic court date for drivers to challenge traffic tickets has passed the Senate, Michael Dresser reports on his Getting There blog for The Sun. The Conduit Street blog by the Maryland Association of Counties writes that the bill was changed before it passed. It would require drivers to ask to appear before a judge.

CELL PHONES: The state Senate gave initial approval to legislation banning holding a cell phone while driving, Annie Linskey writes in The Sun. The bill withstood a barrage of amendments by Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who tried repeatedly to weaken the bill Monday night.

HEALTH CARE: Attorneys general from 13 states have already entered a lawsuit with the federal government, mere minutes after President Obama signed the historic health care overhaul into law, the Associated Press reports. But Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler called the lawsuits premature, though his office will review the new legislation for any constitutional issues.

CHILD CARE UNIONS: The House of Delegates on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill allowing family child care providers to unionize, despite arguments that it would put some day care operators out of business, Nick DiMarco reports for

WINE: Nick Sohr writes on his blog for The Daily Record about a failed plan to tie a legalization of the direct shipment of wine to another piece of legislation.

IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT: Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in the state opposing legislation mandating a federal program allowing local police officers to arrest illegal immigrants, Hayley Peterson writes for the Washington Examiner. But Montgomery County lawmakers argue immigration is a federal issue, not local, and they fear the bill would encourage racial profiling.

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