BUDGET APPROVAL: With minimal debate, the Maryland Senate rejected a half dozen Republican attempts to further trim Gov. Martin O’Malley’s $39 billion budget Wednesday, and gave preliminary approval to the spending plan that will be sent to the House this week, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee ultimately cut $492 million from the current budget and O’Malley’s proposal for next year, partly to make up for lowered revenue estimates in both years.
- The spending plan, due for a final Senate vote Thursday, increases overall expenditures by 3% over the current year, but less than the $39.2 billion budget Gov. Martin O’Malley proposed for fiscal 2015. When the measure clears the Senate, it will go to the House of Delegates, which is likely to adopt its own changes, writes Timothy Wheeler in the Sun.
- State Sen. David Brinkley pushed to trim state spending by 1% across the board and withhold $500,000 from the state health exchange until auditors look into Maryland’s glitch-filled system. But Brinkley’s fellow legislators batted down each of the suggested changes, writes Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.
POT DECRIMINALIZATION: The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to a bill that would decriminalize marijuana, reports Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital. After adopting several amendments to the bill, the Senate sent Bill 364 to a final vote. The bill would decriminalize pot by making possession of up to 10 grams a civil offense, punishable by up to a $100 fine.
- The state Senate did approve two amendments from Sen. Christopher Shank to the marijuana decriminalization bill, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. One would let judges order treatment for frequent pot users. The second would allow the state to use revenue from a civil penalty to fund drug programs.
- GOUCHER POLL: Margaret Sessa-Hawkins of MarylandReporter.com writes that a Goucher poll released Wednesday finds Maryland residents are split on whether or not to support the legalization of marijuana, but do support decriminalizing marijuana. The poll, which interviewed 861 residents last week, comes just as multiple bills on the legal status of marijuana are being considered by the legislature. Almost 46% of those surveyed in the poll admitted to having tried marijuana themselves at some point in their lives.
- Among citizens who say they’ve tried pot, 67% think it should be legalized, the Goucher Poll found. That figure drops to 35% for those who say they have not tried the drug, write Frederick Kunkle and John Wagner in the Post.
GUN DATABASE BILL: The editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times is backing a piece of legislation that aims to help Maryland State Police better enforce existing state laws by linking the state’s gun ownership registry to its criminal database. It would give State Police an easy and more-accurate way to prevent at-risk state residents from purchasing regulated firearms, including those who have been convicted of certain violent crimes or whose mental state creates a risk to the community, the editorial says.
HOORAY FOR HARRIS: WYPR’S Fraser Smith says “Hurray for the GOP gentleman from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.” U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is showing the importance of a two-party state – a state in which someone would be demanding transparency and accountability when it matters.
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KITTLEMAN ON MILLER: Sen. Allan Kittleman called it a show of “the arrogance of power” when Senate President Mike Miller ruled he was in violation of the “single subject” rule for legislation. In the end, their fellow senators supported Miller’s ruling. The confrontation came when Kittleman tried to amend a bill about scholarships to remove the power of each senator to award $138,000 in legislative scholarship each year, reports Margaret Sessa-Hawkins for MarylandReporter.com.
UNDERAGE GAMBLERS: A bill that will create penalties for underage gamblers who are caught inside any of Maryland’s casinos is close to becoming law, Freedom Du Lac reports in the Post. The Maryland House passed its version of the legislation unanimously, without discussion or debate, on Wednesday — two weeks after a similar bill was unanimously approved by the Maryland Senate.
BLIGHT FIGHT: A blight-fighting proposal that would allow governments to slap recalcitrant property owners with fines triple the amount of their tax bills came before lawmakers Wednesday for consideration, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. Sen. Ron Young’s bill would authorize local governments to require property owners to spruce up their buildings or offer them for sale. If the owners fail to do either within a certain period of time, they would be liable to face heavy fines.
DREDGE-WATER PLAN: State Sen. Steve Hershey has introduced a bill in the General Assembly to require the Maryland Port Authority to file a complete water remediation plan for the residents of the Earleville communities surrounding the Pearce Creek Dredge Material Containment Area before it could resume disposing of spoils at the site, Jacob Owens reports in the Cecil Whig.
REDSKINS CONTROVERSY: The AP’s Nick Tabor writes, in the Salisbury Daily Times, that state Senate President Mike Miller says the state government shouldn’t push the Washington Redskins to change their name. Two delegates have proposed a resolution urging Redskins owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name to something not offensive to Native Americans.
PHOSPHORUS STUDY: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times reports state Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance said Wednesday that a look at the economic impacts of phosphorus regulations will be completed in early July, after which a peer review will take place.
CHECKS & BALANCES: Baltimore County Public Schools could be forced to abandon its practice of contracting roofing repairs through a Pennsylvania-based government consortium under a bill being considered in the Maryland General Assembly, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.
SPEED CAMERA BILL: The House of Delegates has approved a speed camera reform bill intended to give drivers new protections against erroneous tickets and to impose higher standards on the vendors who operate the programs. The measure, which in part responds to problems with Baltimore City’s speed camera program, now goes to the Senate, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.
GOP YOUTH SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE: Michael Golden of the Sun reports that a new Pew Research Center survey finds that 61% of Republicans under 30 — a clear majority — favor allowing same-sex marriage, while 35% oppose it. That’s a marked difference from both their older counterparts and the party at large. Only 27% of Republicans over 50 support allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed, according to the poll, compared with 39% approval from Republicans overall.
RUPPERSBERGER ON DATA COLLECTION: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, is proposing to end the bulk collection of telephone data by the National Security Agency — the program at the center of the controversy over the reach of government spying, reports John Fritze for the Sun.
CRAIG WANTS GUN LAWS ROLLED BACK: Republican Harford County Executive David Craig said that if elected governor, he would roll back Maryland’s strict gun-control laws and push a sales tax exemption for goods manufactured in the state, Erin Cox writes in the Sun. The article is topped by a video interview.
MIZEUR WANTS MORE MEDICAID SIGNUPS: Amid all of the shortcomings and embarrassments of the Maryland health insurance exchange, Gov. Martin O’Malley and other leaders have pointed to one bright spot: The number of people signing up for Medicaid has exceeded their expectations. But Del. Heather Mizeur, who is running for governor, says Maryland is still not doing enough to get as many low-income families and individuals as possible signed up for Medicaid, reports Jenna Johnson in the Post.
GANSLER SAYS HE’S A FIGHTER: Attorney General Doug Gansler continued to portray himself as a fighter Wednesday as he hit the airwaves with the first radio ad in his campaign to become governor, Erin Cox of the Sun writes.
- The 60-second spot is largely narrated by Del. Jolene Ivey, Gansler’s running mate, who relays that her father was a Buffalo soldier who served in an all-black infantry unit, often faced prejudice and hate and taught her “never to shy away from what’s right,” writes John Wagner for the Post.
BROWN WANTS TUITION CAP: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Wednesday promised that he would cap annual tuition increases at public universities at 3% throughout his four-year term if elected governor. Brown’s pledge would maintain the same policy goal of his boss, outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has made college affordability a priority since taking office in 2007, writes John Wagner for the Post.
- To keep that promise, Brown said he would use state tax dollars to offset any other rising costs at colleges, writes Erin Cox for the Sun.