Analysis: Maryland Special Sessions, New Dynamics On D.C. Council And A Gay Virginia Judge | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Analysis: Maryland Special Sessions, New Dynamics On D.C. Council And A Gay Virginia Judge

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Bob McCartney, Washington Post columnist

Maryland's General Assembly agrees on a budget plan that raises income taxes for some, a fresh face is headed to the D.C. Council, and social conservatives shoot down the judicial nomination of an openly gay veteran. Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey is joined by Washington Post columnist Bob McCartney to discuss this latest developments in local news. Here are some excerpts:

On who is paying the income tax increase in Maryland:
"Montgomery County is definitely bearing the brunt of this income tax increase. That's because it has a disproportionately large percentage of higher income people within the state. One statistic tells this story: Montgomery County has 17 percent of the state's population, but is going to pay 40 percent of the income tax increase. Where is the money going? It's going mainly to keep education spending high and to avoid cuts in welfare services. Montgomery County legislators made a last ditch effort to spread the burden around by increasing the statewide sales tax instead of the income tax, but that was voted down."

On another Maryland special session this summer on gaming:
"I don't think it's clear yet whether these proposals will succeed. The issue is whether to give initial approval to two things: adding the state's sixth casino in Prince George's County and allowing all casinos to provide table games like blackjack and craps in addition to slots. Remember, this would just be initial approval. It would still have to be voted on by the state's voters in a referendum in November. The supporters are Senate President Mike Miller and Prince George's County executive Rushern Baker, who wants that sixth casino in his county, because he wants the revenue. House Speaker Mike Bush is skeptical. I think the big question is whether Gov. O'Malley will push this hard. He wants Rushern Baker to succeed in Prince George's, but O'Malley is no fan of gambling."

On new Ward 5 councilmember Kenyan McDuffie:
"This is a new generation coming up — he's 36 years old. And it confirms the end of the Harry Thomas family political machine, which has dominated Ward 5 politics for most of the past quarter century. McDuffie promises ethical, honest leadership, after Harry Thomas Jr. pleaded guilty to embezzlement and is headed to federal prison. McDuffie had support from Ward 6 councilmember Tommy Wells, who is the most outspoken member on the council for ethics reform. On the other hand, McDuffie is very much a product of established interest groups, notably labor unions, gay rights activists, and environmentalists and he used to work for Mayor Gray, so I don't know how much he's going to shake things up. We'll have to see."

On social conservatives stopping the appointment of an openly gay judifical nominee:
"This very much put an exclamation point on the end of the session on the extent to which social conservatives really took over the legislative agenda in Richmond this year. This nominee, Tracy Thorne-Begland, had bi-partisan support to be a Richmond city judge. He had an unblemished record, but he is gay, he is out. He is raising twins with his partner. And he has spoken out in the past for gay rights. In particular, two decades ago when he was a Navy aviator, he publicly challenged the policy against allowing gays in the military. Social conservatives said that this advocacy made him unacceptable as a judge."

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