State Roundup April 12, 2010

SINE DIE: The General Assembly’s 2010 session concludes today at midnight. The Baltimore Sun takes a look at some of the bills that are awaiting action, including measures that would legalize card gambling in Prince George’s County and place ignition interlocks on drunk driver’s cars. The Washington Post’s State House team writes that the last day, or “sine die,” could be a cliffhanger.

Brian Witte with The Associated Press writes that differences between the House and Senate on how to boost solar energy consumption are also a key issue on the last day. writes that the two chambers disagree on how much to penalize utilities that don’t meet stricter increases.

The Maryland Association of Counties takes readers through the priorities that it’s tracking Monday on its Conduit Street Blog. The top issue is a bill that would make it easier for local governments to avoid penalties if they are forced to cut education spending by revenue declines.

MARIJUANA: A bill to legalize medical marijuana passed the Senate on Saturday, Aaron Davis reports for the Post. The House is not going to act on the bill this week, though, so it is likely to die Monday. Still, Annie Linskey of The Baltimore Sun writes that the Senate move has heartened supporters.

BOAST: Late changes by a House Ways & Means subcommittee to a Senate-passed bill aiding private schools “guts the bill,” and excludes Jewish schools, according to upset religious advocates who have been pushing for the tax credit program, Andy Rosen writes in

BUDGET FINAL: The state’s $32 billion operating budget became law Saturday after a compromise measure with the House passed on an essentially party-line vote. Andy Rosen with writes about the partisan bickering over the state’s overall budget picture. Here’s Alan Brody’s take for the Gazette.

Brady Holt with Capital News Service examines the state’s long-term budget problems, and looks at partisan disagreements about what they really mean. A Post editorial argues that budget makers essentially decided to give up on local road funding instead of shifting teacher pension costs to counties. Drivers will feel the influence of the state’s teacher’s union, the piece argues.

ROSECROFT CARDS: The Senate is pushing to legalize card games at Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County. A proposal to do that is stalled in the House, John Wagner writes for The Post, but Senators are trying to improve its chances by adding the measure to a House-passed bill that allows nonprofit slot machines in Worcester County.

HISTORIC CREDIT: The House passed legislation renewing and expanding the tax credit for the rehabilitation of historic buildings Friday, despite Republican objections to new spending during a budget crisis, Erich Wagner writes for Nick Sohr in The Daily Record writes that supporters argue that the bill brings in much more in economic activity than it costs. The bill needs quick Senate approval to become law.

CELL PHONES: The House passed a ban Friday on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, which means the measure heads to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who’s planning to sign it. Michael Dresser with The Sun writes that drivers are wary of the plan. Maryland joins six other states and Washington, D.C. in requiring hands-free devices, according to Ashley Halsey III of The Washington Post.

MEDICAID FRAUD: A measure that stiffens penalties for Medicaid fraud also got final passage in the House, Annie Linskey writes in the Sun. It would reward whistleblowers for bringing fraudulent health charges to light. The measure is on its way to the governor’s desk.

BONUS: A budget measure to carve out a bonus for the chief investment officer of the state pension fund during a pay freeze met with criticism as the Senate gave final approval to the state budget Friday, Andy Rosen writes for

TEACHER ARBITRATION: A bill passed the House Friday that would create an independent arbitration unit to deal with teacher labor issues, according to the Maryland Association of Counties.

REDHEADED ESKIMOS: Annie Linskey in The Sun takes a look at “redheaded eskimos,” or bills that are narrowly crafted to benefit just a few constituents.

BUSCH: Liam Farrell with The (Annapolis) Capital takes a look at how his local legislator, House Speaker Mike Busch, runs the chamber and shepherds bills of local importance into law.

INTERLOCK: The Sun’s editorial page writes that two key public safety bills – one that would require ignition interlock devices for drunk drivers and others that would stiffen oversight of sex offenders – still need attention. Michael Dresser has more on the interlock bill in his tranSportation column.

FORECLOSURE MEDIATION: Lawmakers still have to iron out differences on a bill that would enable homeowners to request mediation during the foreclosure process, Nick Sohr writes for The Daily Record.

EHRLICH: Gov. Martin O’Malley and Bob Ehrlich couldn’t agree on terms for a debate on Saturday, so Ehrlich and Democratic primary hopeful George Owings got together on the show of former governor turned challenger.

The Post reports O’Malley is accusing Ehrlich of “scaremonger politics,” because Ehrlich says O’Malley is plotting to raise taxes if he wins another term. O’Malley says he has no plans to do so, but wouldn’t rule it out.

Former Ehrlich speechwriter Richard Cross recommends how the ex-governor should change some aspects of his campaign if he wants to win re-election.

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