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From MarylandReporter.com:

NEW TAXES: Lawmakers are considering increases to a broad range of fees, beginning with boosting the cost of obtaining a birth certificate, Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linskey report for the Sun. The Sun editorial board offers a photo gallery of issues the General Assembly must plow through in the next two weeks and summaries of the stands the board has taken.

CONSUMER SAFETY: Ann Marimow and John Wagner write that consumers could likely could see new restrictions on the kinds of toys and infant formula containers they can buy.

O'MALLEY AGENDA: With two weeks left in the session, Gov. Martin O'Malley is moving more aggressively to shore up several high-profile measures critical to his agenda that have not passed either chamber, Ann Marimow and John Wagner write for the Post.

NO TO WIND: Jay Hancock opines for the Sun that while the General Assembly is wavering between approving Gov. O'Malley's marquee proposal to install wind-driven electricity generators off Maryland's coast and putting the idea off for further study, what lawmakers should do is vote it down and be done with it.

Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com sits down with state Sen. E.J. Pipkin as he details issues he has with O'Malley's offshore wind farm proposal.

BUDGET BATTLE: You can listen to a debate over Maryland's budget situation on the Marc Steiner show on WEAA-FM between Sens. David Brinkley, a Republican, and Paul Pinsky, a Democrat.

NO COMMON SENSE: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital writes that the General Assembly has taken its typical half-step moves on two bills – wine shipments and interlock devices – when common sense should have won out.

WINE SHIPMENTS: A Senate committee voted Friday to pass a bill that will allow wineries in and outside of Maryland to ship bottles of vino directly to customers. But an amendment to the legislation that would have permitted more kosher wines to be mailed from out of state didn't make the cut, writes Alex Jackson, for the Baltimore Business Journal.

WESTERN SLOTS: A bill that would provide more incentives to lure a casino operator to Western Maryland advanced Friday in the Senate in the latest attempt to put slots at the state-financed Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort, John Wagner writes for the Post.

HEALTH REFORM: Dave Collins of WBAL-TV reports that a major health care reform bill has advanced in the House after legislators amended the measure. The governor's plan creates a health benefit exchange designed to expand health care coverage and make it more affordable. The changes to the bill address stakeholder concerns and also give the General Assembly more authority to implement reforms.

FAMILY PLANNING: According to an AP story in the Post, the House of Delegates on Saturday approved a bill that would allow Maryland women who are at or below 200% of the poverty level to be eligible for Medicaid family planning services.

SCHOOL BUS VIOLATIONS: A one-day, state sponsored survey by school bus drivers found 88 incidents in which drivers in Washington County did not stop for a school bus that had stopped to pick up or drop off students, Julie Greene reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The survey recorded 7,028 violations statewide.

CREDIT CHECKS: The General Assembly has limited credit checks for job applicants, blogs Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.

DINE WITH FIDO: Jill Rosen of the Sun writes that Maryland moved one step closer Friday in legalizing outdoor dining with dogs — with nary a bark.

TRANSGENDER BIAS: Employers and housing groups could not discriminate against transgendered people, under a plan that won final passage in the House of Delegates, Julie Bykowicz blogs in the Sun.

MINORITY CONTRACTS: The state Senate has passed a bill to repeal a requirement the state award 7% and 10% of its contracting dollars to black- and women-owned firms, respectively, reports Scott Dance for the Baltimore Business Journal.

HOLOCAUST ROLE: Nick Sohr of the Daily Record reports that Maryland lawmakers and representatives of the French national railroad say they've reached a deal that would force a greater accounting of the railroad's role in the Holocaust and allow its subsidiary to seek a lucrative MARC train contract.

PARITY FOR GIRLS: The General Assembly took the teeth out of legislation requiring equal services for girls in the juvenile justice system last week, but Annapolis leaders are confident that the new juvenile services secretary can reform the department without a legislative mandate, reports Capital News Service’s Maggie Clark in the Daily Record.

PAROLE VIOLATIONS: The House of Delegates approved a bill that would address technical parole violations without sending the offender back to jail full time, writes Meg Tully of the Frederick News Post. For instance, someone who fails to check in with a parole officer could be put on electronic home monitoring or just sent to jail on the weekends so he or she could work during the week.

FISCAL OPENNESS: Cliff Cumber of the Frederick News-Post writes about the lack of transparency in finding out how Maryland spends tax dollars, from a report released by the Maryland PIRG Foundation. It grades the state with a pretty average C when it comes to the state’s financial openness.

TUBMAN STATUE: The state Senate has amended a bill that would ask the federal government to replace a statue of John Hanson with Harriet Tubman to asking that a Tubman statue be added instead, writes John Wagner for the Post.

FERTILIZER STUDY: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin today will release a study on lawn fertilizer and how it affects the Chesapeake Bay, writes the Salisbury Daily Times.

HARRIS IN HARFORD: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris met with constituents in Harford County on Friday and wowed the audience with his wide-ranging discussion, writes the Aegis.

DOUBLE DIP: Officials in Montgomery County Exec Ike Leggett's administration are fighting with the jurisdiction's top watchdog over a damning audit that says developers collected payments from two government agencies for the same work, ultimately leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars, Brian Hughes reports for the Washington Examiner.

PG ETHICS RULES: The Post's Miranda Spivack writes that state lawmakers from Prince George's have approved new ethics rules that seek to limit the influence of developers on county officials in a community still reeling from corruption charges against former County Exec Jack Johnson.

JOHNSON CHARGED: Daniel Valentine of the Gazette writes that Prince George's County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, wife of former exec Jack Johnson, was formally charged Friday in federal court with conspiracy to commit witness- and evidence-tampering for allegedly hiding $79,000 in cash in November while FBI agents closed in on her house.

Alex Pappas of the Washington Examiner writes that a guilty plea is likely to be entered.

FREDERICK ETHICS: Frederick County's ethics commission has reversed an earlier decision and tightened restrictions to effectively bar a county commissioner's construction company from working on county construction projects, writes Katherine Heerbrandt for the Gazette.

LEOPOLD PROBE: The inquiry into Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold's use of county personnel during his reelection campaign highlight the problems of juggling official duties with political ones writes Nicole Fuller for the Sun.

OCTOBER TOLLS: The Maryland Transportation Authority expects its planned toll increases to take effect starting in October, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

JOBLESS DIP: Thanks to hiring at the local government level and in the private sector, Maryland's unemployment rate went from 7.2% in January to 7.1% in February, Ben Mook writes for the Daily Record. NO GLOW: Maryland officials say they’ve detected little or no traces of radiation in the state from the Japanese nuclear reactor accident, though federal agencies are reporting slightly elevated levels of radioactive iodine in rain water in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, reports Timothy Wheeler for the Sun.

Bryan Sears of Patch.com writes that Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, says, "We have found no reason for public health concern."

Read more: http://marylandreporter.com/2011/03/28/state-roundup-march-28-2011/#ixzz1HupEBJoM Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

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