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From MarylandReporter.com: With the conference committee’s first meeting on Thursday, the last great budget battle starts; General Assembly scrambles to create incentives to purchase Rocky Gap; farm bill stays stalled; anti-discrimination bill gets discriminatory treatment; school bus camera bill gets preliminary Senate approval.

BUDGET CONFERENCE COMMITTEE: The budget conference committee, made up of senators and delegates trying to come to consensus on the budget proposal, started its work in a tiny back room on Thursday, blogged MarylandReporter.com's Len Lazarick.

The Capital's Liam Farrell gives a rundown of how the committee is likely to operate.

Brian Witte of the Associated Press outlines the decisions of the day in a story appearing in the Herald-Mail. Most of the big decisions were put aside for later days, blogged The Sun's Annie Linskey. The Washington Times' David Hill writes of battles yet to come. WBAL TV's David Collins reports on the conference committee – and the controversy surrounding placing policy in the budget-related Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act.

ROCKY GAP INCENTIVES: Members of the General Assembly are still discussing myriad incentives to developers to buy Rocky Gap and place a slots casino there, reports The Sun's Annie Linskey. In the discussion now are a 20% larger take from slots, elimination of fees, and allowing the casino to be in the existing building.

STALLED FARM BILL: The bill that reduces estate taxes on family-inherited farms, which has bipartisan report and is backed by the O'Malley administration, is still stalled in committee in both houses of the General Assembly, writes The Sun's Julie Bykowicz.

DISCRIMINATORY TREATMENT: Some are saying that a bill outlawing discrimination against the transgendered, which went from the House of Delegates to the Senate Rules Committee, is being discriminated against, reports The Sun's Julie Bykowicz.

FUNERAL PROTESTS: Legislators are making late-in-session efforts to put limits on protesting at funerals like the Westboro Baptist Church, writes The Capital's Pamela Wood. WJZ's Kelly McPherson has a video story.

FREE RIDES: Legislation passed over the weekend allowing legislative and judicial branch employees to ride on MTA for free, a perk already given to executive branch employees, reports The Sun's Julie Bykowicz.

TAX CREDIT: The House of Delegates passed a bill requiring employers to notify low-wage employees of their eligibility for a tax credit, reports the Baltimore Business Journal's Gary Haber.

SCHOOL BUS CAMERAS: A bill that would place cameras on school buses to catch drivers who pass them when they are stopped has received preliminary approval in the Senate, reports the Frederick News-Post's Meg Tully. Bill sponsor Sen. David Brinkley tells the Examiner's Hayley Petersen that counties are yearning to do this.

Fox45's David Rydell does a video report.

UMB-UMCP MERGER: Students at the University of Maryland College Park are getting into the debate on the proposed campus merger, with the Student Government Association looking into a bill to have a study on it, writes The Diamondback’s Kelly Farrell.

In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar pans the study of the proposed merger of the University of Maryland College Park and the university schools in Baltimore.

HOME HEALTH CARE UNION: A Senate committee is likely to vote on Friday on a bill to codify the unionization of home health care providers who are independent contractors with the state, reports Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

DISCRIMINATION AND FRIVOLOUS LAWSUITS: Senate debate on a bill to add a local avenue to remedies for victims of discrimination is taken over by real stories of discrimination and real fears of lawsuits filed just to make money, reports Megan Poinski reports for MarylandReporter.com

NO REAGAN DAY: Proposals to establish Ronald Reagan Day in Maryland failed in both the House and Senate because legislators decided to establish no new commemorative days, writes The Washington Times' David Hill.

NOT GRASMICK: After two decades of having the same person at the helm of the state's schools, the next Maryland state schools superintendent's biggest challenge might be the fact that he or she is not Nancy Grasmick, writes The Sun's Liz Bowie.

ENERGY SAVINGS: Maryland is falling behind in its goal to cut down energy consumption by 2015, according to a new report, writes The Sun's Tim Wheeler.

ABORTION BILLS: Frederick County Del. Kelly Schulz is keeping a close watch on abortion-related bills in Annapolis, reports Meg Tully of the Frederick News-Post.

TAX-INCREMENT FINANCING: A state growth commission studying funding priorities for development may make new recommendations involving tax-increment financing, or TIFs, reports The Daily Record's Melody Simmons.

HISPANIC GROWTH: According to Census figures, the growth in Hispanics in Maryland over the last decade outstripped all estimates with about 46,000 more counted here than expected, writes The Sun's Yeganeh June Torbati.

KEEP TEACHERS, KAMENETZ: A group of Baltimore County delegates wrote a letter to County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, asking him to reconsider education cuts and teacher layoffs set to begin in July, writes The Sun's Liz Bowie. He planned to eliminate about 200 positions, and delegates say he should use the additional education funding they got through the budget process to keep them.

Kamenetz tells Patch.com's Bryan Sears that it may be difficult to do, given county budgetary restraints.

KAMENETZ CHATS: Kamenetz hosted a chat on Explore Baltimore County yesterday, answering questions about economic development, employment, his aspirations for higher office – or lack thereof – and his choice of ties, blogs The Sun's Raven Hill.

WHO'S MY COUNCIL MEMBER?: About 72,000 residents of Baltimore City will find themselves represented by a different member of city council today, according to a recent opinion from the city's law department, reports The Sun's Julie Scharper.

PRESCRIPTION DRUG DATA: A bill will be debated in the Senate on Friday that would establish Maryland as a data center warehouse as a tool to help stop prescription drug-related deaths, according to an Associated Press story in the Carroll County Times.

O'MALLEY AGENDA: With time running out in the legislative session, Gov. Martin O'Malley is still struggling to pass some of his legislative agenda, Alan Brody reports in the Gazette. Smaller items have passed, but proposals for an off-shore wind farm to generate electricity and for a $100 million venture capital fund have yet to make it out of committees.

REP. EDWARDS: U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards votes to the left, while making friends on the other side of the partisan aisle, C. Benjamin Ford writes in the Gazette.

EDUCATION AID: In the Gazette, Alan Brody writes that school funding comes out of the budget process largely unscathed. Republicans say other programs are suffering.

ABORTION CLINICS: Bills requiring higher safety standards at abortion clinics were shelved after state health department officials promised to develop regulations for the clinics, Jeff Newman reports in the Gazette.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette's Reporters Notebook has items on union goats in Montgomery County; Andy Harris events at two Safeway stores; history buff Mike Miller; J.B. Jennings' travel; and Kegasus, the new Preakness mascot.

MAINTENANCE OF EFFORT: Officials from at least six Maryland counties say they will ask state officials to waive a minimum funding requirement for their school systems in the coming fiscal year, write Andrew Ujifusa and Erin Cunningham in the Gazette.

KEEPING THE LIGHTS ON: Margie Hyslop reports in the Gazette that bills establishing standards for electricity reliability are moving forward in both houses after serious problems during winter storms.

ANNAPOLIS SHOW: The old "Legislative Follies" show may be dead, but the shenanigans go on, Blair Lee opines in his Gazette column, as he reviews O'Malley's "tap dance."

GRADING THE SESSION: Gazette columnist Laslo Boyd says it's too early to grade this year's legislative session.

New Improved Printer Button: Lots of folks were having problems with our old software to produce printer-friendly copies of our stories. We changed the software, and the new button at the bottom of every story creates a PDF you can print or save.

Read more: http://marylandreporter.com/2011/04/01/state-roundup-april-1-2011/#ixzz1II29RLTc Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

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