State Roundup, March 7, 2011

FEDERAL BUDGET CUTS: The Sun’s Jamie Smith Hopkins and Andrea Walker outline the the worst case scenario in Maryland should budget cuts proposed by House Republicans go through. They say it would mean a month-long furlough of 13,000 Social Security employees; the closing of every government-run center that connects out-of-work residents with job help; and the shut down of AmeriCorps and other organizations that have 170,000 positions statewide, including teachers in poor neighborhoods and those who deliver meals to homebound elderly residents.

SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: The House of Delegates is set to debate this week whether to legalize gay marriage, after a sharply divided committee voted Friday in favor of the plan, Julie Bykowicz blogs for the Sun.

The bill was approved by a House committee only after the panel’s chairman, who rarely votes and has opposed the idea in the past, augmented the final tally, giving it the bare minimum needed, writes John Wagner of the Post.

Megan Poinski of reports that the delegates resisted amendments that would have changed the title of the bill or would further change the definition of marriage to allow incest, polygamy, or civil unions.

Passage would make Maryland the sixth state to legalize gay marriage, Sarah Breintenbach writes for the Gazette.

If passed, the law would go into effect Oct. 1, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

The Post’s John Wagner writes that personal appeals from constituents have made the difference in how legislators decided to vote on the issue.

Robert Lang of WBAL-Radio recaps and looks ahead at several important issues in Annapolis, including same sex marriage, immigrant tuition and several gun bills. You can listen to an interview with Del. Keiffer Mitchell, who supports same-sex marriage, as he recaps last week’s events and talks about what could happen this week.

In the Dagger, Del. Kathy Szeliga urges Harford and Baltimore County residents to contact their delegates to express their views on gay marriage, which could come before the House for a vote tomorrow. She adds, “No need to contact me!” since she is voting against gay marriage.

ILLEGAL STUDENTS: A Senate committee reached a compromise on a plan to give in-state tuition to students who are illegal aliens: Undocumented students can receive the in-state discount at community colleges and, after earning an associates degree or 60 credits, they can transfer to a four-year state university and pay the lower rate, Annie Linskey blogs for the Sun.

To qualify, students must attend a Maryland high school for at least two years, provide proof that their parents or guardians have paid taxes, and apply to be legal permanent residents, Len Lazarick writes on

Hayley Peterson of the Washington Examiner writes that if the bill passes it will cost taxpayers about $3.5 million by fiscal 2016, according to an independent fiscal analysis.

WINE SHIPPING: The BBJ’s Alexander Jackson writes that the House Economic Means Committee heard three bills Friday regarding the direct shipment of wine to Maryland. One would allow wineries and retailers to do so. Another would allow wineries to ship in and out of state and permit retailers to do so in-state. The third bill would keep a current ban on retailers shipping but allow wineries to mail customers their favorite wine.

CAR SMOKE: Twenty-five delegates are co-sponsoring a bill that would make it illegal to smoke in a car when a child under the age of 8 is present, writes Steve Schuster for the Towson Times. A hearing is set for tomorrow.

READING WHILE DRIVING: The state Senate is set to vote today on a bill that would ban reading text messages while driving. The House passed a bill making it illegal, according to WMAR-TV.

GAS TAX HIKE: Americans for Prosperity protested proposed gas tax hikes in Towson on Saturday, reports Steve Schuster of the Towson Times.

The demonstrators have been pleased with the public response. It only took an hour for Bob Date of Americans for Prosperity to get 100 people to sign a petition protesting the bill, writes Nayana Davis of

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that if you don’t like the potholes, you better raise the gas tax to pay for a smoother ride.

RETIREE BENEFIT: Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that Gov. O’Malley is proposing to raise the amounts current and former state workers must pay for prescription drug coverage, an increase that would be much sharper for retirees. He talks to a family facing that change.

FARM TAX: The Frederick News Post’s editorial board comes out in support of a bill that would cap the estate tax on farms worth less than $5 million as long as the land continues to be farmed.

ALFRESCO WITH FIDO: A bill sponsored by Del. Dan Morhaim would free Maryland to join Florida, California and Minnesota in allowing dining outside with dogs, in an attempt to give the state’s restaurant industry a boost, reports Jill Rosen for the Sun.

Read what viewers of WBAL-TV think about this proposal.

PANHANDLE BILL: Montgomery County’s delegation in Annapolis delayed a vote Friday on legislation that would allow the county to require panhandlers and others to have a permit to solicit money at intersections, Erin Cunningham reports for the Gazette.

MICROBREW: The editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times urges state legislators to help Salisbury bring another successful microbrewery and restaurant to its town.

DEMS PICK BRO: The Maryland Democratic Party on Saturday chose the brother of Gov. Martin O’Malley to be the chairman of the party, an AP story in reports.

The governor had nominated Peter O’Malley, who managed his 1999 mayoral campaign and was one of the top aides on his gubernatorial campaign last year, blogs Justin Fenton of the Sun.

THREAT TO UNIONS: Columnist Eric Hartley of the Annapolis Capital writes that while Maryland’s governor and legislature have shown no indication of undercutting union rights – unlike in Wisconsin, New Jersey, Ohio and Indiana – local government employee unions take only some comfort in that fact.

ELECTION CONSEQUENCES: Gazette columnist Laslo Boyd assesses the consequences of state elections, comparing Wisconsin and Maryland.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online newspaper, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at:

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