State Roundup, March 18, 2011

NO COMMUTATION: Gov. Martin O’Malley ruled that seven inmates serving life in prison will stay there as a Senate committee approved a bill that would limit the governor’s time frame to take action on these decisions, reports The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz.  These are the governor’s first actions on parole requests since 2007.

The cases all date back to the 1970s or earlier, reports The Post’s John Wagner.

GAS TAX, BUDGET: Kevin James Shay in the Gazette writes that debate on the gasoline tax and the state budget are likely to dominate the remaining three weeks of the legislative session. The slow pace of budget action is likely to cause a crunch in the coming weeks, Alan Brody reports.

TAX CREDITS: Lawmakers hoping to raise more funds are looking at making several tax credits expire, reports The Daily Record’s Nick Sohr.

Will Burns blogs about the issue – which the Maryland Chamber of Commerce opposes – on the Chamber Action Network blog.

PANDERING: Barry Rascovar in his Gazette columns says Gov. Martin O’Malley is pandering to unions as he backs off his own budget proposals, failing to recognize the continuing problems with the state economy.

STATE PENSIONS: Gazette columnist Laslo Boyd takes a different tack, contrasting how O’Malley is handling state workers compared to other governors.

SLOTS PROPERTY TAXES: After receiving an attorney general’s opinion saying that the land where slots casinos are located is eligible for personal property taxes, a group of senators is trying to exempt the slots casinos, according to an AP story in The Daily Record.

ANNAPOLIS MARCH MADNESS: NCAA basketball? What’s that? Members of the GOP have set up their own “March Madness” brackets with eight of the “worst” new taxes being considered by the General Assembly, reports The Sun’s Annie Linskey.

NEW PRIMARY DATES: A bill that would move presidential primaries to early April and state primaries to June is gaining bipartisan support in the General Assembly, reports the Associated Press’s Tom LoBianco in The Capital.

LIBERAL SENATE: Sarah Breitenbach in the Gazette writes about the liberal drift in the Maryland Senate.

NO SEATBELT REQUIRED: The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee voted down a bill that would require back seat vehicle passengers to wear seatbelts, reports The Sun’s Michael Dresser in his transportation column.

SPECIAL ALCOHOL TAX: State advocates pushing for new alcohol taxes in Maryland recently learned that Washington, D.C. has its own special taxes on alcohol, taking away the competitiveness argument against increasing the taxes, reports the Sun’s Julie Bykowicz.

NEW TAXES: The Cumberland Times-News’ Matthew Bienieck runs down several new taxes that are being discussed by the General Assembly and their chances of becoming law.

FREDERICK SLOTS: Owners of the Cracked Claw, a restaurant and off-track betting facility in Urbana, asked the House Ways and Means Committee to redraw the lines on a bill that would allow slots in Frederick County – but only to a point about a mile and a half from their restaurant, reports the Frederick News-Post’s Meg Tully.

Del. Michael Hough later tells Tully that he is going to lobby the Frederick County delegation to oppose the bill, since it was proposed by a Prince George’s County delegate.

RACE TO THE DEADLINE: In a marathon voting session, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee approved several bills, including mandatory ignition interlocks for drunk drivers, a commission to oversee use of medical marijuana, and restrictions on tasers, writes’s Len Lazarick.

STOP TUITION HIKES: Sen. James Rosapepe proposed legislation that would prevent excessive tuition hikes and dedicate a portion of the state budget to higher education, reports The Diamondback’s Rachel Roubein. The bill is intended more to make a statement than to win passage, he said.

WIND POWER: Cost concerns are jeopardizing Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to subsidize development of offshore wind farms — even as advocates hoped new estimates would quell worries, Margie Hyslop reports in the Gazette. An op-ed discusses the unusual alliance between environmentalists and unions over wind power.

SENATE CIVILITY: Contentious debate in the Senate over tuition for illegal immigrants raised questions about motives of some senators, Sarah Breitenbach writes in the Gazette.

TRANSPARENCY: Maryland received a C for its online spending transparency in a report released by PIRG this week, reports’s Megan Poinski

Jeff Newman in the Gazette has more reaction to the Maryland PIRG report on transparency.

TOLL INCREASES: While the House Appropriations Committee is going to be busy finalizing its version of the budget today and much attention will be focused on bigger items, the Daily Record’s Nick Sohr blogs about other decisions that will be made, like whether to put a commission together as Maryland prepares to increase tolls.

REPORTING DRUG POSSESSION: A bill came before the House Judiciary Committee that would require authorities to tell a child’s school about an arrest on drug possession, reports The Herald-Mail’s Andrew Schotz. Drug possession was left out of a long list of offenses that must be reported back to school districts that became law last year.

DRUNK DRIVING: Lawmakers are looking to make alcohol servers responsible for drunken crashes liable for the accidents they contribute to, Jen Bondeson reports in the Gazette.

CLOSING TIME: Del. LeRoy Myers Jr. has withdrawn a bill that would change the closing time for establishments that sell alcohol that must be consumed somewhere else, reports the Herald-Mail’s Andrew Schotz.

BACO BUSINESS FEES: The Senate Finance Committee approved fee increases for Baltimore County businesses so the cost would range from $20 to $1,600, reports the Baltimore Business Journal’s Gary Haber.

HARFORD HOTEL BILL: A bill that would have assessed a 5% hotel tax in Harford County was scrapped after local leaders learned that some of the bill’s proceeds would go toward a tax break for a planned continuing care community near Ripken Stadium, reports the Baltimore Business Journal’s Scott Graham.

An article in the Dagger states that the developer then withdrew his plan for the new community.

MEDEVAC MONEY: With revenues diminishing and a new fleet of helicopters on the way, the state may be looking into billing medevac patients, reports WBAL-TV’s David Collins.

COAL SUBSIDY: Red Maryland’s Mark Newgent takes a close look at the O’Malley administration’s push to end the coal subsidy.

FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES: A Senate bill is advancing that would establish strict state regulations for for-profit colleges, reports The Washington Examiner’s Hayley Petersen.

FREDERICK ROADSIDE SOLICITATION: A bill that would allow the Frederick County Commissioners to issue permits for roadside solicitation passed the House and is headed to the Senate, reports the Frederick News-Post’s Meg Tully.

NO CONFLICT: Baltimore City Solicitor George Nilson ruled that Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake did not have a conflict of interest when voting on contracts to Johns Hopkins University, which employs her husband, according to an AP story in the Baltimore Sun.

LEOPOLD UPDATE: While Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold made no statements on Thursday about an investigation into whether he used his security detail to carry out campaign duties, a Leopold spokesman said that he will produce schedules from 2008 on, which were subpoenaed by state prosecutors, reports The Sun’s Nicole Fuller.

Scott Daugherty of The Capital reported that Leopold’s security guards made $62,000 in overtime last year – more than twice what they got in 2009.

WHO WORE IT BETTER? For St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, wardrobes of state legislators got a little green. The Sun’s Annie Linskey reports that two senators – Sen. Nathaniel McFadden and Sen. Norm Stone – wore the same green tie and asks: who wore it better?

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on St. Paddy’s Day antics; freshmen legislators party plans; the spelling of Ike Leggett’s name; Pat McDonough; the stinky counter-protest; Tiffany Alston; Bill Ferguson; Doug Duncan; and the Gallup poll on Maryland’s blueness.

ANTI-ABORTION RALLY: Abortion opponents held their annual rally in Annapolis on Monday night, Jeff Newman reports in the Gazette.

GAY MARRIAGE: In his Gazette column, Blair Lee examines how the speeding train for gay marriage got derailed.

MEDEVAC MONEY: With revenues diminishing and a new fleet of helicopters on the way, the state may be looking into billing medevac patients, reports WBAL-TV’s David Collins.

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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