In Maryland Legislature, a Campaign Finance Legislation, Questions About Soaring Residential Utility Bills and Opposition to Prince George's Tax Proposal

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has blocked other efforts to allow public campaign financing. The bill calls for a pilot program.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has blocked other efforts to allow public campaign financing. The bill calls for a pilot program. (By Glenn Fawcett -- Baltimore Sun)
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Friday, March 6, 2009

Public Campaign Financing Included in Miller-Backed Bill

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) will join forces with some progressive groups today to announce campaign finance legislation that includes both an increase in contribution limits and a pilot program for public financing of legislative campaigns.

Miller has blocked previous efforts to allow public financing of campaigns, citing concerns about the cost. The House of Delegates has been far friendlier to such efforts.

The bill, to be unveiled today, would rely on revenue from a voluntary checkoff on state income tax forms. In the 2014 election cycle, fewer than a quarter of the candidates running for General Assembly seats would be allowed to participate in the pilot program, according to a person familiar with the bill.

The limit on what an individual is allowed to contribute to a candidate would increase from $4,000 to $4,400 per election cycle; what an individual may give to all state candidates would go from $10,000 to $15,000. The limit on contributions by political committees would increase from $6,000 to $6,600.

Other provisions include one that would limit contributions from companies controlled by the same person, according to the person familiar with the bill.

Miller will join Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), a longtime champion of public financing, in sponsoring the legislation, which is supported by Common Cause and Progressive Maryland. Both organizations put out news releases yesterday touting the bill.

-- John Wagner

Hearing on Rising Utility Bills Yields Little Hope of Relief

Lawmakers waded yesterday into the thicket of why utility bills across Maryland are surging this winter, but they didn't appear to resolve much.

Douglas Nazarian, the state's chief utility regulator, told members of two Senate committees that he is concerned about a potential "tsunami" of gas and electric cutoffs April 1, because more than 100,000 residential customers are behind on their bills. That date marks the end of winter restrictions on shut-offs.

Nazarian, chairman of the Public Service Commission, said the PSC is weighing a moratorium on shut-offs. But he acknowledged that such a move would only delay the pain for customers who are behind on their bills.


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