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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Hot areas for this year's Maryland Legislature

   While this session of the Maryland Legislature doesn't have the same intensity as last year with the gambling, reduced tuition for immigrant children and marriage equality this year wind energy, fracking and ending the death penalty are three of the most important issues to be taken up.  The Howard County delegation has scheduled their local hearing on February 7th in the Banneker Room in the George Howard Building in Ellicott City.  The time and agenda are still being worked on but this link will have that information soon.  The page does show the bills to be introduced by the local delegation.  Mostly is it bond bills for local development.
    The issue of developing a wind farm off the Maryland shore near Ocean City has been in the Legislature before this multi-billion dollar project has taken on a priority with the Governor this year.  The bill to fund this effort has already passed the House Economic Matters Committee.   It would add from $1.50 to $2 to everyone's electric bill for 20 years.  The proponents of this wind energy indicate that wind energy could provide up to half the energy needed for the Eastern Shore and 15% of the energy needed for Baltimore City.  The question of possible damage to the wind farm from hurricanes was partially answered with the lack of damage to windmills off the New Jersey shore with Hurricane Sandy.  The Maryland League of Conservation Voters is holding a legislative summit on January 29th at 4:30 in the Miller Conference Room of the Miller Senate Office Building.  Just as a side note isn't a little presumptuous to have a building named after you while you are still Senate President?  Aren't these things supposed to happen after you are dead?
    The fracking issue remains in its study phase with the Governor proposing 1.5 million to continue the study of the issues relating to fracking.  Even this request will probably not put this issue to rest in Maryland.  The study seems to be a delaying tactic to prevent fracking in Maryland.  The environmental impacts of fracking are still far down the road and Maryland seems to be reluctant to be the place where we learn what the environmental issues are.  More likely this will come from Pennsylvania which has an extensive fracking operation.  
   Finally the death penalty repeal supported by the Governor seems to be picking up support in the Legislature this year with the growing support among Maryland residents for repeal.  Even though 49% of residents support the death penalty against 44% favoring repeal in the latest survey from Gonzales Research this is an increase of 8% in favor of repeal from just two years ago.  Maryland with its liberal voters and large Catholic population seems like a natural location to approve repeal.  The Governor has used the study approach to this issue to avoid having to sign off on any executions while he has been Governor.  The last executions in Maryland occurred in 2005 under Gov. Ehrlich.  They may very well be the last in Maryland.

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