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Issues For The 2013 General Assembly Session, MD Schools Ranked #1 For The 5th Year In A Row, and MD's Hypothermia Death Toll Rises
January 10, 2013
Earlier this month, lawmakers in Washington reached a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. If they hadn’t, Maryland could have lost an estimated 15-thousand jobs, and seen hundreds of millions of dollars' impact to the state’s budget. So when this year’s General Assembly session began yesterday, our Delegates and State Senators were breathing a guarded sigh of relief… guarded, because Congress did not reach a deal on the federal debt ceiling and spending cuts for military and social programs - fiscal issues that could also end up affecting Maryland’s bottom line. And with weeks to come - at least - before Congress deals with those issues, Maryland lawmakers are keeping their eyes on Capital Hill, even as they tackle state-level problems. WYPR’s Karen Hosler was in Annapolis for yesterday’s opening of the session, and brings us this report.
As this year's session got underway, Governor Martin O'Malley predicted that lawmakers will vote to ban assault weapons this year. O'Malley says he'll propose a comprehensive gun control package dealing with a ban on the high-powered weapons, access to guns by the mentally ill and school safety issues (more here from the Baltimore Sun).
Governor O'Malley is also talking about possible tax increases to pay for state transportation projects. O'Malley says he hasn't made any final decisions... but options being considered include a hike in the sales tax, and an increase in the gasoline tax (more here from the Baltimore Business Journal). But raising the gas tax is not a popular idea, and it could be scuttled by a proposal in neighboring Virginia to eliminate that state's gas tax and increase its sales tax. State Senate President Mike Miller says the Virginia tax plan wouldn't work in Maryland -- and the Baltimore Sun notes that the plan would disturb the competitive balance between the states.
Senate President Miller says he believes a repeal of the death penalty will be approved during the session -- if Governor O'Malley uses his "powers of persuasion." President Miller also says that he thinks repeal legislation will be petitioned to referendum, and that Maryland voters will end up deciding whether to keep the state's death penalty in the 2014 election (more here from the Washington Post).
Lawmakers are also expected to work on legislation that would encourage the growth of an offshore wind power industry, in the Atlantic Ocean 10 miles from Maryland's coast. Senate President Miller says that the measure "will pass." The state estimates that putting up the offshore wind turbines near Ocean City will create at least 6-thousand new jobs... they be paid for, in part, by a surcharge of $1.50 a month on utility bills for the next 20 years (more here from the Baltimore Business Journal).
Baltimore city's 10-year school facilities plan will also be up for debate, and yesterday Senate President Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch expressing concerns over how the proposal would affect the state's finances. The city's school board wants to spend $2.4-billion to rebuild and replace Baltimore school buildings; they'll need least $32-million a year from the state's coffers for 20 years to finance the bonds that would pay for the program (more here from the Baltimore Sun).
Maryland lost two remarkable characters in recent days. WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith remembers them in his weekly essay.
Maryland's schools are ranked Number One in the nation -- for the fifth year in a row. That's according to Education Week's annual report card; the analysis gives Maryland an overall grade of B-plus following an assessment of six areas that looks at education policy and performance. The average grade nationwide is C-plus (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
Maryland's death toll from hypothermia this winter has risen to four. State health officials have added cold-related deaths in Calvert and Carroll counties to the list, which already includes fatalities in Prince George's and Frederick counties (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
IN FOCUS TODAY
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