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CIVIL UNIONS Senate Republican Leader Allan Kittleman said yesterday he will introduce legislation establishing civil unions between both heterosexual and same-sex partners, writes Len Lazarick of Kittleman represents parts of Howard and Carroll counties.

November's elections appear to have significantly bolstered prospects for passage of such a bill, blogs the Post's John Wagner.

The Gazette's Alan Brody reports that, in hopes of reaching consensus on the divisive issue, the bill stops short of formally legalizing gay marriage in Maryland.

UNFAIR CUTS Bebe Verdery of the ACLU writes in a Sun column that an across-the-board 5% cut to all school systems in the state would be unfair to the state's most vulnerable students.

FUNDING FREEZE Gov. Martin O'Malley is not likely to accept a recommendation from his budget advisers that would freeze some funding next year for state-paid providers of mental health and developmental disabilities services, aides said yesterday. John Wagner blogs the story for the Post.

COMPETITION FOR ROSECROFT Baltimore lawyer and Orioles owner Peter Angelos faces potential competition from others interested in buying bankrupt Rosecroft Raceway as well as opposition from state officials to legalizing slot machines at the Prince George's County horse track, the Sun's Hanah Cho reports.

SLOTS REVENUE Ryan Sharrow of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that the Hollywood Casino Perryville generated more than $6.5 million in December, 14 percent less than November revenue. The drop was expected by casino officials. Nick Sohr has the story for the Daily Record.

Check out the nifty interactive "slot machine" by Jon Sham to see monthly revenues and where the money went, plus the overall total.

BAY CLEANUP States need to muster the willpower to make the Chesapeake Bay "pollution diet" work, editorial writers for the Annapolis Capital say.

NICKEL BAGS: A Montgomery County state delegate plans to reintroduce a revised version of a bill that would add a 5-cent fee to each new plastic or paper bag used by retail shoppers, Cody Calamaio reports for the Gazette.

D.C. shoppers have spent about $2 million -- one nickel at a time -- on the paper and plastic bags in the past year, WBAL-TV reports.

SMART GROWTH The Sun's Timothy Wheeler reports that 13 years after Maryland embarked on a nationally recognized effort to promote Smart Growth, a new study says the state's laws and policies have had little discernible impact on sprawl or traffic congestion, and farms and forests are still threatened by development.

HEALTH PRIORITIES Gov. O'Malley and incoming state health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein say their health priorities will be reducing infant mortality rates, improving effectiveness of drug treatment programs and speeding adoption of health care information technology to improve care and lower costs, the BBJ's Scott Dance reports.

Even before the formal announcement of his departure as health secretary was made, the tributes to John Colmers started rolling in, writes John Wagner for the Post.

DEFINE LOCAL The Sun's opinionators write that as state Ag Secretary Buddy Hance works to define what "local" means when it comes to produce, groceries would do well to voluntarily offer consumers as much information as possible on where their food comes from.

M O'M HEADLINES O'Malley will be headlining a policy conference next month hosted by Governing magazine, blogs John Wagner of the Post.

GUN LAWS Danny Jacobs of the Daily Record reports that Maryland's law restricting gun possession outside the home without a permit does not conflict with recent Supreme Court rulings that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms extends to individuals, Maryland's highest court held yesterday.

MOONEY MONEY Republican Alex Mooney poured close to $400,000 into his unsuccessful run for another state Senate term, according to 2010 campaign finance reports, Andrew Schotz reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Mooney is now chairman of the state Republican Party.

SPEAKING WITH CARDIN As the new legislative session began in Washington yesterday, the Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM interviews U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin on the key issues he is focusing on this year.

HARRIS SWORN IN As U.S. Rep. Andy Harris takes office, the conservative convictions that set him apart -- even from many GOP colleagues during his 12 years in the Maryland Senate -- should make him feel at home in the Tea Party-fueled freshman class that has powered Republicans to an overwhelming House majority. June Torbati has the story for the Sun.

And what was Harris' first act in Congress? To vote for John Boehner as Speaker, of course, Torbati blogs.

Deborah Weiner of WBAL-TV attended the swearing in.

ULMAN HEADS MACo Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, the state's youngest county executive, will be the key spokesman for local officials across Maryland after he is inaugurated as president of the Maryland Association of Counties tonight.

Len Lazarick writes for that this is a particularly crucial year for the counties as they try to fend off further attempts to cut their state aid or dump more costs onto them.

HOWARD INITIATIVES Howard County's state lawmakers have prepared a list of local legislation they want passed, which includes increasing the county's hotel tax rate and allowing local veterans' organizations to own and operate slot machines.

Also, several bond initiatives would fund capital projects in the county and there's a proposal to add liquor to the county’s beer and wine tasting license, reports Lindsey McPherson of the Howard County Times.

PG SECURITY Brian Moe, a former District 21 delegate and Maryland's current deputy secretary of state, plans to leave his Annapolis position to become Prince George's County's homeland security director, writes Gwendolyn Glenn of the Laurel Leader.

BALTIMORE SHORTFALL Baltimore faces a significant budget shortfall for the second consecutive year, necessitating another round of service cuts and tax increases, Julie Scharper writes for the Sun.

DELETED FILES Somerset County officials are conducting an internal investigation into how case files and other information were deleted from computers in the State's Attorney's Office during the weekend.

The files have since been recovered, Liz Holland reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

EARLY VOTING Frederick County elections officers are pushing for a change in state law to allow more early voting centers, Meg Tully reports for the Frederick News Post.

FARM ISSUES Carroll County farmers' concerns were aired before Carroll's state delegation as its members prepare for the 2011 General Assembly, reports Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times.


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