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Maryland Politics
Posted at 02:15 PM ET, 04/09/2012

Clock ticks on chaotic final day for Maryland legislature

Monday is the final scheduled day of the Maryland legislature’s 2012 session. Follow along with the major news of the day below, or check out live tweets from The Post’s reports in Annapolis.


2:49 p.m. | Student protesters arrested


Protesters are arrested outside the Maryland General Assembly. (Aaron Davis - The Washington Post)
Add three arrests (albeit, orderly ones) to the Maryland General Assembly’s final scheduled day in Annapolis.

A student from the University of Maryland at College Park and two from St. Mary’s College of Maryland locked arms and symbolically blocked the front steps of the Maryland State House on Monday afternoon in protest of the expected failure of a bill to spur development of offshore wind power.

Three Democratic senators — one from Prince George’s County and two from Baltimore County — have said they see too many problems with the plan by Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for a multibillion-dollar subsidy for the nascent green-energy market.

Without the needed votes, the head of the Senate’s Finance Committee has said he will not bring the measure to a vote before the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn at midnight. It would be the second year that O’Malley has failed to win approval for the plan.

It was not immediately clear whether the students would be charged in connection with the stunt. After blocking the steps for about 15 minutes, they were handcuffed and led away as about another dozen members of their environmental group applauded in solidarity.

“Students have been wanting to do more in this campaign for weeks,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “There’s a lot of frustration on their part.”

Environmental and faith groups and steel workers’ union members have rallied multiple times in Annapolis support of the offshore wind bill this session.



2:15 p.m. | Altered bill requiring online posting of officials’ ethics disclosure forms advances

The House advanced but altered a bill that would require online posting of state and county officials’ ethics disclosure forms, a measure spurred by an ethics case brought against Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s), who failed to disclose outside consulting income from a grocery chain for five years.

The House version would require online posting of conflict-of-interest forms — but not financial disclosure forms — starting next year. A new form indicating the official’s and his or her spouse’s outside employment would also go online. In the meantime, lawmakers would decide how much of the financial disclosure forms could go online without compromising personal information, said Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore).

McIntosh, chair of the Environmental Matters Committee, said the version that passed the Senate raises identity theft concerns. She said she expects the Senate to agree with the amendments if the bill passes the House.


1:35 p.m. | O’Malley calls for cooperation on budget deal


Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Greg Masters - The Washington Post)
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) called on House and Senate leaders to work through their differences on the state budget.

“We need to come together in the spirit of compromise and reconciliation,” the governor told a throng of press gathered in the basement of the State House in Annapolis. “The clock is ticking.”

O’Malley demurred when asked if he agrees with House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) if the Senate’s interest in passing a gaming bill is holding up the budget.

But, O’Malley said: “Much bigger than any individual agenda is the agenda of the people of our state.”

O’Malley also touted two of his priorities that passed in recent hours: bills to curb septic systems in residential developments and to increase collections of the state’s so-called “flush tax.”

The governor also acknowledged that the prospect of raising more revenue for transportation -- another of his priorities -- is waning in the closing hours of the session.


1:29 p.m. | Busch: Md. Senate is obsessed with gaming

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D- Anne Arundel) accused his counterparts in the Senate of having “a gaming obsession” and said negotiations on the state budget need to come first.

An agitated Busch told reporters that House negotiators were heading to a conference room and do not plan to leave until an agreement is reached.

“Our foremost priority is to balance the budget of the state of Maryland,” Busch said. “The House is ready to go. We call on the Senate to join us.”


12:20 p.m. | What’s holding up the budget deal

The Senate has adjourned until after 1 p.m.; the House remains in session. Staffers said they were hopeful the two sides could meet early Monday afternoon.

With 12 hours to go before the Maryland General Assembly’s midnight deadline to pass a budget, Senate leaders warned that their counterparts in the House will have to bend for the two sides to reach agreement on a spending plan.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., (D-Calvert) disputed that the budget impasse is tied to a disagreement between the two chambers over a gambling bill that would allow a casino in Prince George’s County.

Miller said the sticking point was that the House had yet to accept big enough tax increases to make a long-term fix to the state’s $1 billion structural shortfall.

 “They’ve been coming together trying to reach an agreement,” Miller said of the budget negotiators, “but in fairness to the Senate conferees, they have offered concession, after concession, after concession but nothing thus far brings the House over anywhere near to the revenues we need to avoid doing this again next year.”

“It’s nothing about gaming,” Miller said. “It’s about nothing but the budget.”

Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Baltimore County) detailed for senators a series of developments in negotiations since Saturday afternoon.

He outlined how House and Senate leaders had agreed to a series of income-tax hikes on six-figure earners, but said negotiations broke down over whether to reduce personal exemptions that can be claimed by all Marylanders.

Under a Senate proposal floated Saturday afternoon, the current, $3,200 personal exemption for each taxpayer and dependent would be reduced by $200 for three years. That would amount to about $40 in additional taxes per-person annually, Kasemeyer said, or about $50 million annually for the state.

Kasemeyer said he thought the House would agree to the temporary reduction, but they rejected it Saturday evening. “That’s where we are,” he said.


12:05 p.m. | Good news for O’Malley’s environmental agenda

Two key parts of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) environmental agenda received final passage in the Maryland General Assembly, as lawmakers voted to limit developments that rely on septic systems and double the annual cost of most residents’ “flush tax,” used for Chesapeake Bay restoration, to $60 from $30.

The Senate accepted minor changes in the House version of the septics legislation, after Republican opponents put up one last, brief fight. The bill requires that counties adopt a “tiered” system of rules governing the use of septic systems, with the most restrictive rules applying to predominantly agricultural and forested areas. But O’Malley accepted a compromise that will keep ultimate land use authority in local hands.

On a vote of 89-48, the House signed off on the final version of the flush tax bill, which will exclude people who live in areas outside the bay’s drainage area. Residents from certain areas of the state’s westernmost county and near Ocean City will continue to pay $30 annually. Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore) said the lost revenue would “not be material.”


11:10 a.m. | House committee concurs with altered ‘flush tax’ bill

The House Environmental Matters Committee has concurred with an altered “flush tax” bill that passed the Senate on Saturday, Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore) said. The full House of Delegates still has to give its approval.

The bill would increase the yearly cost of most residents’ flush tax — used to fund Chesapeake Bay restoration activities — to $60 from $30. But Sen. George C. Edwards (R-Garrett) successfully argued that people who live outside the bay’s drainage area — in the far reaches of Western Maryland and Ocean City — should not have to pay more.


10:45 a.m. | Anderson speaks up for Baltimore delegation

Del. Curt Anderson, chairman of the Baltimore delegation, told reporters that the 18 members from his city won’t support a casino bill without concessions, including at least a three-year head start for a Baltimore facility before one in Prince George’s opens. “As it is, we will not vote for it,” he said.

Anderson predicted that the casino issue will continue to hold up progress on other bills. “I don’t think anything is going to get done until after this is resolved,” he said.


9:00 a.m. | Busch: House looking at amendment to gaming bill

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) indicated that the House is looking at an amendment to the gaming bill that would require a Prince George’s casino to wait to open until two years after a planned casino in Baltimore opens. Speaking to a meeting of Baltimore lawmakers, Busch said Baltimore and other existing sites could have table games in addition to slots in the meantime.

Meanwhile, a representative of Cordish Cos., the developer of a casino set to open in June in Anne Arundel County, said the company remains opposed to a site in Prince George’s under those terms. “It’s outrageous that we’re having this discussion,” said Cordish president Joe Weinberg.


Live updates from The Post’s reporters:

By , and Greg Masters  |  02:15 PM ET, 04/09/2012

 
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