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Offshore Wind, MD's Minimum Wage, Transporation Funding, and Baltimore's Offline Speed And Red Light Cameras
January 23, 2013
For the third time in three years, Governor Martin O’Malley has launched an ambitious bid to foster an offshore wind power industry in Maryland. The legislation would help finance the construction of massive wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City by adding a surcharge up to $1.50 a month on Maryland utility bills. WYPR’s Karen Hosler reports that the figurative breeze may finally be at O'Malley's back, though rough weather still threatens. There's more on the offshore wind proposal here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Baltimore Business Journal).
Maryland's minimum wage could become one of the highest in the nation, under a bill set to be introduced in the General Asembly next week. The measure would raise the minimum wage to from its current $7.25 an hour to $10 an hour, phased in gradually over the next two years. It would also raise the minimum rate for workers who get tips from its current 50 percent of the minimum wage to 70 percent (via our wire service, the Gazette, the Washington Post, and the Baltimore Sun).
The General Assembly is also considering a bill that would close a legal loophole that cleared a teacher of having sexual relations with a student. In that case, charges against a middle school track coach were dropped because he was not a full-time teacher and the student was over the age of 16. Montgomery County Delegate Lou Simmons says his bill would expand the sex abuse law to include all school employees and coaches who supervise children (via oru wire service and the Rockville Patch).
A Gonzales Research and Marketing poll of registered voters, conducted last week, finds majority support for two of Governor Martin O'Malley's proposals aimed at reducing gun violence. The poll shows that 58 percent of Marylanders back an assault weapons ban and 88 percent are in favor of background checks on people buying guns at gun shows. The poll also found that the death penalty is still favored by a 49 percent of voters, and opposed by 44 percent; and it shows that support for repeal is rising -- the numbers were 56 percent and 36 percent just two years ago. Governor O'Malley is leading a push to eliminate capital punishment during this year's session. The survey also gave Governor O'Malley an approval rating of 54 percent... but found that the majority of Marylanders don't want him to run for president in 2016; 25 percent of those polled think he should make a bid for the nation's top job; 58 percent said he should not. And while the poll showed that a vast majority of voters place a high priority on maintaining and expanding the state's transportation infrastructure, 73 percent are opposed to a 10 cent a gallon increase in the tax on gasoline, a proposal that some lawmakers have favored (you can see the poll results here; there's analysis here from marylandreporter.com, here from the Baltimore Sun, and here from the Washington Post).
State Senate President Mike Miller is proposing an increase in taxes on gasoline similar to that which voters were asked about in the Gonzales poll -- he wants to impose a new 3% sales tax on gas (at today's prices, that'd be close to 10 cents). Analysts say the plan could raise more than $300-million a year. Miller also says the state should consider leasing the Intercounty Connector to a private operator. And he says he wants to create new regional authorities to oversee transit projects, and let counties and other local jurisdictions impose new taxes to pay for those projects (via the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun).
Baltimore's automated speed cameras are essentially offline; city officials confirmed yesterday that no speeding tickets have been issued by the devices in 2013. The new contractor operating the cameras says it could take months before its system is operating again; the city stands to lose out on around a milliondollars a month until that happens (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
Central Maryland is experiencing its coldest stretch of weather in a couple of years. Frigid temperatures and high winds have prompted Baltimore City officials to declare the season's first "code blue" alert. The alert runs through Sunday night, and means that the city's 14 emergency shelters to operate with extended hours. Temperatures today likely won't make it out of the mid 20s, and lows will get down into the upper teens tonight in Baltimore. We're also likely to see some snow tonight; the National Weather Service says that up to an inch of snow could accumulate between midnight and dawn tomorrow... with lingering snow showers possible tomorrow morning. And there's a chance of even more snow on Friday.
And on today's edition of Inside Maryland Politics, WYPR Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith and Andy Green of the Baltimore Sun talk about President Obama's Second Inaugural Address and what it may mean for Maryland's future.
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