MARRIAGE DEBATE: They have the governor’s backing and a rewritten bill, but advocates of legalizing same-sex marriage in Maryland have made little progress in quieting the concerns of many faith leaders who adamantly oppose the legislation. Annie Linskey of the Sun reports about testimony for and against yesterday before the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.
The Post’s John Wagner writes that opponents argued that the legislation is an affront to their religious sensibilities and that reworked “religious exemptions” included in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s bill are still insufficient to protect their rights.
“The best dad I ever had is a woman,” one man said in testifying for the bill, while another said, “I’m gay and I’m opposed to this legislation,” in testifying against it. Earl Kelly has that story in the Annapolis Capital. “A vote for this is not an endorsement of one religious belief over another religious belief, it is an acknowledgment of the need to protect households equally,” Kelly quotes O’Malley as saying in the Annapolis Capital.
Speaking at a prayer breakfast before testimony yesterday, House Speaker Michael Busch said the push for legalizing same-sex marriage is “clearly an issue of civil rights,” John Wagner blogs in the Post.
John Rydell speaks with one couple who had to travel to Vermont to get married, as well as to opponents.
And MarylandReporter.com offers a podcast of the proceedings.
In Washington County, Del. John Donoghue, a Democrat who opposed the bill last year, is still opposed, Andrew Schotz reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. The delegation’s six Republicans are opposed, while the only other Democrat, Sen. Ronald Young, supports same-sex marriage.
PENSION SHIFT: The administration of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker is estimating that it will cost the county $34 million in fiscal year 2013 to absorb the cost of shifting teacher and library pensions from the state to local jurisdictions, blogs Miranda Spivack for the Post. By fiscal year 2022, the county estimates the cost will be as much as $98 million annually.
FOSTER CARE: Maryland’s second-largest foster care provider failed to track background checks, training and other requirements for its foster parents, putting the children at risk, according to the Department of Human Resources who are moving to suspend new placements in its homes, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports.
GAS TAXES: Referencing an American Petroleum Institute chart, Jay Hancock of the Sun writes that, assuming no other states change their gas taxes between now and when the new Maryland tax would be fully phased in, O’Malley’s tax would make Maryland’s combined gas taxes the fifth highest in the country.
The editorial board for the Cumberland Times News writes that O’Malley may be asking for a 6% sales tax for gasoline, but our guess is that he will gladly settle for half of that.
STATE OF THE STATE: The Sun editorial board writes that when Gov. O’Malley gives his annual State of the State address today, he will officially unveil his plan to apply a 6% sales tax to gasoline. The public’s mood about gas prices being what it is, the governor probably shouldn’t expect huge applause — despite the fact he deserves it.
And the opinion-makers at the Salisbury Daily Times writes that we can expect a lot from O’Malley’s speech at noon today – except any notion of lowering taxes.
ONLINE LOTTERY: The Maryland State Lottery Agency hopes to make more money, get more exposure, and have more people playing when it takes ticket sales online – $2.2 million more in fiscal 2013, writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.
BYOB: Scott Graham of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that some Maryland restaurateurs and lawmakers are again hoping to pop the cork on a state law that prohibits customers from bringing their own bottles of wine to eateries that have a license to sell alcohol.
DAY IN COURT: In the wake of the Penn State sex abuse scandal, Del. Michael Hough is pushing legislation that he said would make it tougher for people charged with crimes such as child molestation to skip their court dates, Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post writes.
COLLEGE DEBT: A University of Maryland, Baltimore forum on college debt, featuring U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, students and school officials, heard speakers say that too many students are making career decisions based on the debt they have to pay off rather than on their passions, writes Childs Walker for the Sun.
PRISONER ACCESS TO DATA: A Maryland corrections division that provides inmate labor has backed out of a data entry contract with the state health department after state auditors found that prisoners had access to some patients’ personal information, which was supposed to have been redacted from documents, but occasionally wasn’t, the Sun’s Tricia Bishop writes. Megan Poinski reports on the audit in MarylandReporter.com.
SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS: Opinionators at the Frederick News-Post write that if a reduction in suspensions can be achieved by school staff working harder or smarter, we’d be all for it. It would be a mistake, however, to simply lower the bar on what is acceptable behavior to pare suspension numbers.
BARTLETT RACE: Democratic state Sen. Rob Garagiola, who was among the first Democrats to enter the race to unseat GOP Rep. Roscoe Bartlett in the 6th congressional district, raised $344,061 in the fourth quarter of 2011, John Fritze reports in the Sun. Bartlett, who is seeking an 11th term, raised $104,140 over the same period.
Meanwhile, Ben Pershing writes in the Post that the National Republican Congressional Committee was including Bartlett in its main incumbent protection program, a signal that the party believes the veteran Maryland lawmaker is among the most endangered Republicans in the country.
Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com quotes Bartlett as saying, “National Republicans have made it clear that I am the best and only Republican that can win this seat in November.” Sen. Rob Garagiola is also demanding his opponent, John Delaney, release his financial disclosure statement.
CARDIN CASH: Ben Pershing of the Post writes that U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin has 175 times as much cash as his best-known Republican opponent, while a new Post survey shows the Maryland Democrat to be in solid shape for re-election.
TAKE-HOME CARS: Montgomery County is tightening up its take-home car policies, creating more stringent requirements for employees who get to take a taxpayer-funded vehicle home with them, Rachael Baye reports for the Washington Examiner.
BA CO BUDGET: Bryan Sears of Patch.com writes that Baltimore County’s budget could grow by 3% next fiscal year under a recommendation approved by the county Spending Affordability Committee.