BUDGET AGREEMENT: A joint House-Senate conference committee finished work yesterday on the $14.6 billion budget, which includes provisions to make state workers pay more toward their pensions, as well as to pay more for prescription drugs in retirement, reports Pamela Wood for the Annapolis Capital.
BOOZE TAX FOES: Saying it would push Maryland deeper into recession, leaders from three major alcohol organizations sent a letter to Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch urging him to reject raising the state’s alcohol tax, Alexander Jackson reports for the Baltimore Business Journal
The proposed increase in Maryland’s alcohol tax isn’t going down smoothly with Baltimore County delegates who say their constituents will be paying the tab for a levy whose revenues are earmarked for Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, Bryan Sears reports for Patch.com.
The editorial board for the Frederick News Post is urging the legislature to kill the booze tax.
PET PROJECTS: Tucked into Maryland’s capital budget for far-reaching bricks-and-mortar projects are millions of dollars for smaller-ticket pet programs — for athletic arena lights in Germantown, a giraffe conservation center north of Baltimore, a water park in Gaithersburg and a replica of a historic lighthouse on the Eastern Shore, reports Ann Marimow of the Post.
DRUG COVERAGE EXTENDED: The Board of Public Works yesterday approved a one-year extension of a disputed contract providing prescription drug coverage to state employees while the Board of Contract Appeals considers the protest, reports Megan Poinstki of MarylandReporter.com.
TRASH TO ENERGY: The Baltimore Brew offers readers a different view on trash-burning energy plants, which could be legalized by the state legislature this week.
CREDIT CHECK: Legislation that would limit employers’ ability to use a job applicant’s credit history in making hiring decisions passed the state Senate 33-13 yesterday, Gary Haber reports for the BBJ. The bill now goes to Gov. Martin O’Malley for his signature.
Similar credit check legislation failed last year under heavy lobbying from business interests that view credit histories as one of the few concrete pieces of information they can obtain about prospective employees, reports Nick Sohr for the Daily Record.
SOCIAL MEDIA CHECK: Sen. Ron Young, lead sponsor of a bill that would prevent employers from asking applicants or employees to provide access to social media accounts, is objecting to a state division’s decision to continue to ask job applicants for access to social media accounts, reports Meg Tully for the Frederick News Post.
NICE CASINO COMPETITION: The General Assembly is scheduled to approve legislation today that would require Maryland’s casino owners to play nice, barring them from preventing or delaying the opening of other gambling operations in the state, writes Nick Sohr in the Daily Record.
IN-STATE TUITION FOR ILLEGALS: Legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates at state community colleges looks like it will be headed to O’Malley’s desk by tomorrow, reports Alexander Jackson of the BBJ.
Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com writes that when state delegates begin debating and amending the bills this morning, they may be starting down what other states have found to be a thorny path.
John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports on the debate.
Meg Tully of the Frederick News Post reports that a spokesman for Frederick Community College said the Board of Trustees has not taken a position on the bill.
FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES: The General Assembly has passed a bill that would regulate for-profit colleges, according to an AP report in the Annapolis Capital.
TRANSGENDER BIAS: The Post’s Ann Marimow reports that legislation to extend anti-discrimination protections to transgender people faces an uphill challenge in the Senate in the final days of the General Assembly session.
BIAS BILL DEAD: A fiercely debated bill allowing lawsuits in state courts over discrimination in stores, restaurants and airports was sent back to a Senate committee yesterday, effectively killing the bill, as about 20 blind people who had lobbied for the measure sat disappointed in the gallery, blogs Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.
WA CO BILLS: Three Washington County bills are awaiting the governor’s signature: adding the county to the list of counties that may issue a micro-brewery license; repealing the requirement that the county make an annual $500,000 contribution to a water and sewer debt-reduction fund; and establishing a special wine festival license for up to two weekends a year in the county, writes Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
SERAFINI NEW CHAIR: After nearly five legislative sessions as the Washington County delegation’s chairman, Del. LeRoy Myers is handing control over to Del. Andrew Serafini, Andrew Schotz reports for the Herald Mail.
NEW FORMAT: Local lawmakers and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce are planning a new format for recapping the Maryland General Assembly session, writes Andrew Schotz for the Herald Mail.
HOWARD HOTEL TAX HIKE: Visitors to Howard County will soon see an increase in their hotel room bills, as the Maryland General Assembly yesterday passed a bill to increase the county hotel tax rate from 5% to 7%, writes Lindsey McPherson for the Columbia Flier.
HAIRSTON MEETS: Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Joe Hairston is scheduled to meet with some state legislators tomorrow but the meeting will not be public. Legislators expressed concern about the hiring of an assistant superintendent for a salary of $214,000 and Hairston’s refusal to release salary information to Patch, Bryan Sears reports for Patch.com.
PLAY BALL: About a dozen House lawmakers took advantage of a rare lull in legislative debate – and the spring weather – to strike up a friendly game of Wiffle Ball yesterday n in the concrete courtyard of the House office building, affectionately known as Busch Field, writes Ann Marimow for the Post.
FEDERAL SHUTDOWN: The last time a budget crisis forced the federal government to close its doors, Social Security Administration paralegal Elaine Mitchell relied on a credit card for some expenses, made partial payments on monthly bills and burned through savings to keep her family afloat while she was out of work. She is among thousands of federal workers in Maryland who are bracing for a shutdown, writes John Fritze for the Sun.
With a government shutdown looming, Maryland U.S. Rep. Andy Harris said it’s important for Republicans to stick to their guns and not budge on roughly $62 billion in spending cuts, reports Greg Latshaw for the Salisbury Daily Times.
STATE CENTER IN COURT: A group of downtown building owners defended their efforts to block a $1.5 billion redevelopment of State Center yesterday, pleading with a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge the state violated its own procurement laws in allowing the project to move forward, reports Daniel Sernovitz for the BBJ.
The project has been billed as a public-private venture, and documents have shown developers could seek up to $314 million in tax increment financing to help pay for construction. Few other details have been made available about the private financing for the project, writes Melody Simmons for the Daily Record.