Budget, Wine, Unemployment, Sex Offenders Part Of Legislative Agenda

WBAL Radio posted the article below concerning the General Assembly session held January 13, 2010, which included "legislation that is being introduced in both chambers to allow wineries and wine stores to ship up to 24 cases of wine to the consumer":

Lawmakers Return To Annapolis With Proposed Tuition Hike
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 - Robert Lang

The 427th session of the Maryland General Assembly is underway.

It was  largely a ceremonial day, as delegates re-elected Michael Busch the Speaker of the House.  Thomas V. "Mike" Miller was re-elected Senate President. 

Governor Martin O'Malley told both chambers that this year will be a tough year, as lawmakers seek to close a $2-billion budget deficit.

In a briefing with reporters, and during an appearance on the C-4 Show on WBAL, O'Malley also said there will likely be an increase in in-state tuition at state universities, after the rates were frozen for the last four years.

O'Malley said the single-digit increase he is proposing is not as big "as the double digit increases" proposed during the Ehrlich Administration.

O'Malley is due to unveil his budget proposal one week from today.

He said that he will not propose eliminating any state agencies, but there will be cuts.

The day started with a new member of the House of Delegates taking the oath of office.

This morning, Busch gave the oath of office to the newest member of the House of Delegates.  Frederick County Commissioner Charles Jenkins, a Republican, has been chosen to fill the seat of Republican turned Independent Rick Weldon.

Jenkins said he will run for a full four year term this year. 

Much of the session is expected to be dominated with debate over next year's state budget, and efforts to eliminate a $2-billion structural deficit.

Governor O'Malley, Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller have ruled out any kind of tax increase this year, meaning lawmakers will balance the budget by cutting spending. 

Miller and Busch both told WBAL News that additional layoffs and worker furloughs are possible this year. 

The session is the last before the fall General Election, where the governor and entire legislature is up for re-election.

Unemployment Benefits To Be Discussed

Democrats are seeking to expand unemployment benefits further in Maryland, as the state's unemployment rate remains at 7.4-percent as of November. 

Meanwhile Republicans want to repeal legislation that was approved last year that expanded unemployment benefits to part-time workers.

Republicans argue that this new law has boosted the unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers, and that discourages businesses from hiring new workers.

Alcohol Bills On Agenda

Advocates for the disabled and for expanded health care for the working poor are pushing for an increase in the state's alcohol tax.  The advocates are pushing for a 10-cent per drink increase in the tax. 

House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller have both told WBAL News that the tax increase stands little chance of passing this year.

Additionally, legislation is being introduced in both chambers to allow wineries and wine stores to ship up to 24 cases of wine to the consumer. 

Marylanders for Better Wine and Beer Laws say the shipments will provide more choice for consumers, and will help Maryland's wine industry expand.  Consumers could also buy wine from wineries outside of Maryland.

Liquor wholesalers are among those who oppose the bill.

Death Of 11 Year Old Prompts Legislation.

Several bills are being proposed to address sentences for sex offenders. 

The bills were introduced in the wake of the death of 11 year old Sarah Foxwell of Salisbury.  Police allege she was kidnapped by a registered sex offender on the night of December 23.  Her body was discovered on Christmas Day.

Among the bills lawmakers will consider, one that will eliminate the so called "good time" credits for child sex offenders.  Another bill would bar concurrent sentences for offenders.

Governor O'Malley told officials of the Maryland Association of Counties that the  state is considering seeking civil commitments for offenders, putting them in group homes after they complete their prison terms.

Death Penalty Legislation To Be Revisited

Legislation to ban the death penalty is expected to be introduced this year.  That legislation passed the House last year, but not the Senate.

Senate President Mike Miller told WBAL News he expects lawmakers to consider legislation to remove some of the evidence requirements included in last year's bill.  Miller told WBAL News that he believes those requirements are too restrictive.

Republican, Democratic Breakdown

There are 33 Democrats and 14 Republicans in the Maryland Senate.

The House of Delegates has 104 Democrats and 37 Republicans.


WBAL Radio Baltimore

Wineries with Permits

Wineries Able to Ship to MD

Here is a link to the Comptroller's website. Search for "DW-Direct Wine Shippers Permit" under permit type.

Search for wineries


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