State Roundup, February 25, 2011

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: After two days of civil and restrained debate, a bill allowing same-sex marriage passed the Senate on Thursday night.

Here’s the vote tally from the Washington Post.

Openly gay Sen. Richard Madaleno told Brian Hughes of the Examiner that Thursday was a “memorable day that will improve thousands of families around the state.”

Minority Leader Nancy Jacobs immediately promised a referendum on the issue, telling The Daily Record’s Steve Lash, “You will see it again, and you will see it at the ballot box.” Jacobs told Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette that she would work personally to collect the more than 55,000 signatures needed for a referendum.

Today, the fight really begins as the bill begins debate in the House of Delegates, reports Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz of the Baltimore Sun. Chief opponent Del. Don Dwyer Jr. said the House may not be so civil, and promised to “take off the gloves.”

The Laurel Leader runs a story from Capital News Service’s Maggie Clark, who writes that a bill supporter found the vote to be “epic.”

The Post’s John Wagner said that House leaders are still counting votes, and are confident – but not overconfident – that the bill will pass their chamber.

The Washington Times’ David Hill reports that the one missing vote on Thursday – Sen. Joanne Benson – was called away from the chamber on an emergency phone call, but she would have voted against the bill.’s Megan Poinski looks at the economic portion of the issue and a report saying same-sex marriage would be a $94 million boon to the economy.

The Herald-Mail’s Andrew Schotz looks at the different viewpoints in the debate from Sen. Ronald Young – who strongly supported the bill in a floor speech – to opponents Sen. Christopher Shank and Sen. George Edwards. The paper also runs the Associated Press story on the vote.

Meg Tully of the Frederick News-Post gets area lawmakers’ reactions to the Senate vote.

Baltimore County’s senators voted mostly along party lines, reports Bryan Sears of

The Sun has a video at the top of its story, as well as here. WBAL, ABC 2, DC’s ABC 7 also has video.

The Post’s John Wagner writes that this vote – and the anticipated House approval and signature from Gov. Martin O’Malley – comes despite the fact that O’Malley, Senate President Mike Miller, and House Speaker Mike Busch are all Catholic.

People in three Frederick and Baltimore County districts that tend to be conservative, but have Democrat senators received robocalls leading up to the vote, reports the Frederick News-Post’s Meg Tully.

The Senate vote came a day after President Barack Obama concluded the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act was illegal. Looking at those two things together, Sun opinionators conclude times have changed.

Outside of Annapolis, the issue of same-sex marriage dominated the annual public hearing on statewide issues held by the Howard County delegation on Wednesday night, reports The Sun’s Larry Carson.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING: Maryland union leaders are waging a pre-emptive battle to protect collective bargaining rights, which are being threatened in Wisconsin and other states, Erin Cunningham reports in the Gazette.

RELIABLE POWER: The Public Service Commission drew fire on Thursday from lawmakers who accused it of being “absent” on regulating the reliability of Pepco and other utilities, reports The Post’s Aaron Davis. Utility executives are objecting to some of the provisions of a bill that would set strict standards for reliable electricity in the wake of large power outages, according to Margie Hyslop in the Gazette.

VEHICULAR MANSLAUGHTER: A bill making it easier to prosecute drivers in fatal crashes got its first hearing in the House of Delegates, reports The Capital’s Liam Farrell.

FORT DETRICK CANCER CLUSTER: Del. Anthony Muse is sponsoring legislation for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to investigate the environment around Fort Detrick, where many people have reported cases of cancer reports the Frederick News-Post’s Meg Tully.

FARM DEATH TAX: Del. Kathy Afzali has persuaded Gov. Martin O’Malley to testify for her bill, which would exempt the first $5 million in a farm’s from estate taxes, then tax the rest at 5%, reports Len Lazarick of

SEPTIC SYSTEMS: Conservative Democrats are joining Republicans in sounding the alarm about Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to prohibit most new septic systems across the state, Alan Brody writes in the Gazette.

SLOW AT STATE HOUSE: Some legislators are worried about the slow pace in the House of Delegates, which passed its very first set of bills on Thursday, half-way through the legislative session, writes Alan Brody in the Gazette.

BALTIMORE COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD: The county delegation defeated a bill that would allow for some elected members of the school board, instead supporting a bill that would appoint a commission studying having some elected members, reports The Sun’s Raven Hill.

PAROLE, PROBATION REFORM: The Herald-Mail’s Andrew Schotz writes about a pair of measures pushed by Sen. Christopher Shank that would assess prisoners’ risks upon release and provide a graduated scale of penalties for parole and probation violations for swift administrative punishments.

YOUTH GROUP HOMES: Operators of private group homes serving youth asked the General Assembly to end a forthcoming requirement that their employees be certified, saying it is expensive and unneeded, reports the Sun’s  Scott Calvert.

PENN NATIONAL SALE? Penn National Inc. is considering selling its 49 percent stake in the Maryland Jockey Club, meeting with O’Malley administration officials to discuss the possibility on Wednesday, reports The Daily Record’s Rachel Bernstein.

O’MALLEY AND OBAMA TALK JOBS: Gov. Martin O’Malley and 12 other Democratic governors will meet with the president to discuss job creation, according to an Associated Press story on ABC 2’s website.

TOLL HIKES: Sen. Ron Young, the former mayor of Frederick, wants to raise tunnel and bridge tolls and give the money to municipalities, which have lost most of their highway user funds in the last two budgets. Jeff Newman reports in the Gazette. Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley told a Senate budget subcommittee that increases will be coming to all toll roads in the next fiscal year.

ARUNDEL MILLS SLOTS: Construction can once again begin on the Arundel Mills slots casino after opponents withdrew a legal challenge that dealt with the traffic the casino would create, reports The Sun’s Nicole Fuller.

MARCELLUS DRILLING: Environmental officials said the state needs up to two years to determine whether it should drill for natural gas in Western Maryland’s Marcellus share deposits, according to an Associated Press story in the Daily Record.

FEDERAL METRO FUNDING: Maryland’s Congressional delegation is prepared to fight hard to prevent a $150 million budget cut to the DC Metro, reports Ben Pershing of The Post.

HARRIS SALISBURY OFFICE: Freshman Congressman Andy Harris opened an office in Salisbury on Thursday, promising to be in that office at least once a month, reports the Salisbury Daily Times’ Greg Latshaw.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on the ICC, Sam Arora, Tony O’Donnell, songster Chuck Brown, Ike Leggett, and the write-in votes for state treasurer.

REMEDIAL ED: Andrew Ujifusa in the Gazette reports that remedial education is costing nearly $90 million annually at Maryland’s two- and four-year colleges and universities, a recent report from the state’s Higher Education Commission indicates.

RACIAL POLITICS: Gazette columnist Blair Lee, back from the Keys, takes a hike up Negro Mountain and along the Underground Railroad. Fellow columnist Barry Rascovar ruminates on the changing face of Maryland politics as its minority population grows.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

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