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Offshore Wind, Transportation Funding, Baltimore's School Facilities Plan, and An Orioles/Ravens Scheduling Conflict
March 19, 2013
President Obama yesterday nominated former Maryland Labor Secretary Tom Perez to lead the US Labor Department, and "fight on behalf of working families across the US." The 51-year old Perez currently leads the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, and his confirmation could face some opposition, with some Republicans arguing that the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department has become too politicized during Perez' tenure (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
Maryland's employment situation is improving, according to the latest report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. It indicates that the state added 67-hundred jobs in January, with the unemployment rate remaining flat at 6.7% -- more than a full percenage point better than the national jobless rate of just under 8%. Maryland has now recovered 86-percent of the jobs it lost during the recession (via our wire service, the Baltimore Sun, and the Baltimore Business Journal).
Anne Arundel County officials are disputing claims that former County Executive John Leopold is getting special treatment while in jail (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
Yesterday, the House of Delegates gave final approval to a bill that would help finance the development of an offshore wind power industry in Maryland... sending the bill to Governor Martin O'Malley's desk (via the Baltimore Sun).
A House of Delegates committee yesterday approved a plan to raise taxes on gasoline -- as a way of raising more money for transportation projects. It's a slightly different plan than the one that Governor Martin O'Malley had earlier proposed... it would add a sales tax on gas at the wholesale level, eventually reaching 3 percent by July of 2015. That tax would be gradually phased in; the first installment, set to kick in this summer, would effectively increase the tax by 3.8 cents a gallon. The bill would also let the sales tax on gas reach 5 percent in 2016 if Congress doesn't approve a measure that allows states to collect a sales tax on internet purchaces. The full House could vote on the plan later this week (via the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post).
The Baltimore City School system is hoping to repair and replace dozens of its dilapidated buildings over the next few years... and yesterday, legislative leaders in Annapolis say they've reached an agreement on a plan to help pay for the work. The plan is different from the one the City and the School system had originally proposed. It would require the city, the schools, and the state to each pony up $20-million a year to help finance $1-billion worth of bonds, which would be sold by the Maryland Stadium Authority. The State would pay its share with lottery revenue; the City would use general fund cash and revenues from its bottle tax and planned casino; and the school system would have to find its share in its existing budget. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she's pleased with the new plan. It could get a committee vote today in the House of Delegates (via the Baltimore Sun).
The state Senate could vote today on a measure revising Maryland's law on automated speed cameras. The bill under consideration would stop state and local governments from paying speed camera companies based on the number of tickets that are issued -- that's the so-called "bounty system" that Governor Martin O'Malley has said is illegal, but is currently in use in jurisdictions including Baltimore City and Baltimore County. The measure would also require that all automated tickets issued contain enough information for drivers to investigate the ticket (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
A House of Delegates committee has approved a plan to expand Maryland's early voting program; the bill would increase the number of early voting centers, extend the hours those centers operate, and increase the number of early voting days from 6 to 8. It would also allow same-day voter registration during the early voting period (via the Washington Examiner).
A bill that would have prohibited discrimination based on gender identity was voted down yesterday in a State Senate committee. The measure would have provided statewide protections for gender identity, the same that already exist for sexual orientation, race, religion, age, sex, marital status and national origin. Such protections already exist in Baltimore City, and in Baltimore, Howard, and Montgomery Counties (via the Gazette).
In sports news: The Orioles and Ravens are locked in a conflict over scheduling -- which could force the Super Bowl champions to open the 2013 NFL season on the road. The Orioles are slated to host the White Sox Thursday, September 5th but the NFL wants to have the Ravens host the season opener that same night. So far, the two teams have reportedly been unable to work out a compromise (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
And: the Orioles take on the Boston Red Sox in today's spring training game, after getting yesterday off. There are just 12 more games before the start of the regular season.
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