SAME SEX MARRIAGE: Senate President Mike Miller may bring the bill allowing same-sex marriage – which passed in his chamber last year, but was not voted on by the full House of Delegates – for a vote early in the session, reports John Wagner of The Washington Post.
MarylandReporter.com has a podcast on the issue with Sen. Rich Madaleno and Del. Emmett Burns.
ETHICS COMMITTEE AND CURRIE: The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics met behind closed doors on Thursday, presumably discussing how to proceed in the ethics probe on Sen. Ulysses Currie, reports Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.
Common Cause Maryland is urging that the Ethics Committee’s further business happens in open meetings, according to an Associated Press story in The Daily Record. Here’s the Gazette’s version of the meeting no reporters were allowed to attend.
REDISTRICTING: The Fannie Lou Hamer political action committee told The Washington Times’ David Hill that they will file a lawsuit against Gov. Martin O’Malley’s latest legislative redistricting plan if it is not amended to create 14 majority black districts.
Some lawmakers voiced frustration this week that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s legislative redistricting map doesn’t do enough to address minority representation, reports Sarah Breitenbach in the Gazette.
SUPPORT FOR HEALTH CARE LAW: More than two dozen lawmakers have signed an amicus brief supporting President Obama’s universal health care law, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.
GARAGIOLA ATTACK: Almost everyone in the General Assembly got an e-mailed editorial cartoon about Senate Majority Leader and 6th Congressional District candidate Rob Garagiola’s past employment at the same law firm as disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff on Thursday, reports The Post’s Ben Pershing.
GARAGIOLA’S TAX RETURNS: Garagiola voluntarily released a decade’s worth of federal tax returns this week, and challenged his opponents in the 6th District Congressional race to do the same, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.
BLUE DOG DEMS: Del. Mary Dulaney-James is behind the push to start a group of centrist – also known as “Blue Dog” – Democrats in the General Assembly, reports The Sun’s Michael Dresser.
BREAKFAST WITH O’MALLEY: Gov. Martin O’Malley had several Democratic leaders at Government House for breakfast on Thursday, reports The Washington Post’s John Wagner. Attendants said breakfast was less about bringing forward new ideas, and more about feeling out possibilities.
MILLER ON SALES TAX HIKE: Senate President Mike Miller told members of the Maryland Economic Development Association at their winter conference that a 1-cent increase in sales tax proposed by O’Malley will not happen, according to an Associated Press story in The Daily Record.
FRACKING CONCERNS: At the same meeting, Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin criticized the long study and approval process in place before the state can begin drilling for natural gas in a layer of Marcellus Shale, according to an AP story in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING PLAN: Gov. Martin O’Malley announced a plan to put $15 million in the capital budget toward a program called “Rental Housing Works,” reports The Capital’s Pamela Wood. The funds would be used to buy bonds, which would in turn be used to renovate or build rental housing statewide.
In a story appearing in The Daily Record, O’Malley told the Associated Press that the funds will allow for projects in up to 20 affordable rental communities, creating about 1,100 jobs.
Republican Party officials, meanwhile, are criticizing O’Malley for making spending promises when there’s still a financial shortfall in the state, reports The Examiner’s Brian Hughes.
ECONOMIC ISSUES: Bryan Sears of Patch.com writes that economist Anirban Basu told economic leaders that the state’s business climate is shaped by governments trying to work with officials who don’t agree with them instead of getting them out of office.
FIX TRANSPORTATION: The Daily Record’s editorial board urges the General Assembly to take action to secure transportation funding during this legislative session.
CHESAPEAKE POLLUTION CONCERNS: On its Conduit Street blog, the Maryland Association of Counties summarizes a letter it sent to U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski outlining concerns with the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load process.
MORE ON DOVER BRIDGE: The Easton Star-Democrat’s Kelley Allen provides details on the decades-long fight to rebuild the Dover Bridge, cited by Senate President Mike Miller on Wednesday as a project that he plans to support.
JAIL PHONES: The Maryland Association of Counties’ Conduit Street blog gives an overview of testimony about inmate telephone services in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
FREDERICK HOTEL TAX: Del. Galen Clagett will be proposing legislation raising Frederick County’s hotel tax – currently 3% — to 5%, reports the Frederick News-Post’s Bethany Rodgers. The increased revenues, estimated at $700,000 a year, would be spent on economic development in the city of Frederick.
CRISFIELD SEEKS ETHICS EXEMPTION: Crisfield plans to seek exemption to a state law requiring candidates for office to file lengthy financial disclosures, reports the Salisbury Daily Times’ Liz Holland. The paperwork is viewed as too intrusive, and may limit the number of candidates for office.
BALTIMORE COUNTY TRANSGENDER BILL: In light of a proposed Baltimore County bill addressing transgender discrimination, Patch.com’s Bryan Sears posts audio of Del. Sonny Minnick’s floor debate last year about his encounter with a man dressed as a woman in a public restroom.
MONTGOMERY BAG TAX CONFUSION: After being implemented on January 1, The Sentinel’s Christa Puccio writes that Montgomery County’s new 5-cent tax on shopping bags has created lots of confusion among county retailers.
FREDERICK NOTEBOOK: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post writes about Del. Michael Hough’s GOP presidential primary predictions and Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola’s support for wind power.
CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATES: The Gazette’s Benjamin Ford explores the motivation of some of the 53 candidates running for 9 seats in Congress this year.
HEY LOOK ME OVER: Some legislators will use this year’s session to draw attention to themselves in order to run for higher office, Sarah Breitenbach reports in the Gazette.
NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on Howard County government’s playoff puns; Del. Tom Hucker’s baby; a non-visit to the White House; Beyonce at the Dems luncheon; O’Malley’s bet with Rick Perry; and Roscoe Bartlett’s new consultant.
CONSUMER RATINGS: The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition says not quite one-third of the Maryland Senate and less than half of the House got perfect scores for their votes on behalf of consumers during the 2011 session, Margie Hyslop writes in the Gazette.
DEMOCRATS EMBOLDENED: State House Democrats were emboldened to expand their power and their tax-and-spend policies by the results of the 2010 election, opines Gazette columnist Blair Lee.
TAXES: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar speculates on which of the many options for tax hikes lawmakers will choose.