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First Click

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Thursday, October 15, 2009:

Advocates: New Poll Shows Marylanders Support Alcohol Tax For Disabilities, Substance-Abuse Treatment

Get ready for a new fight in Annapolis over alcohol taxes.
The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Coalition has scheduled a news conference in the capital this morning for when lawmakers are scheduled to begin arriving for budget hearings. The group plans to unveil results of a recent poll they say provides ammunition to pass a law that stalled last year to increase alcohol taxes to backfill funding cuts by Gov. Martin O'Malley for treatment of drug and alcohol addictions and services for the developmentally disabled.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of Marylanders favor either "an increased tax on alcohol in Maryland to improve access to alcohol and drug treatment," OR "a five-cent per drink increase in the alcohol tax to fund services for people with developmental disabilities," according to the poll.
It was conducted last month by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies.

Maryland's public health department has taken 4 mid-year cuts in the last twelve months totaling $45 million. More than a third have affected mental health and community mental health programs, the group says, even as the recession has caused enrollment in those programs to increase 7 percent to 8 percent over the past two years. Intensive outpatient programs, for example, are no longer available to anyone not eligible for Medicaid.

Armed with the poll results and the laundry list of cuts, the advocates say think they've got a convincing case this year to sway public opinion. It's unclear how much the tax would raise, the groups want it split equally among the developmentally disabled, addiction services and mental health programs.

Another Poll: The Progressive Maryland Education Fund, Common Cause Maryland, and advocates of campaign finance reform say another question in the Gonzales poll shows voters still support public financing of campaigns and other reforms like those bogged down in another bill last year.

More Lawmakers Give Back Pay, Join Furlough Plan
Some said they had forgotten about the August request to give up nearly two weeks' pay, others said they thought they were already signed up to show solidarity with the 70,000 state workers forced to take as many as 10 furlough days. At least one lawmaker, Del. Craig Rice (D-Montgomery County) had issued a press release last month promising to return 8 days' pay, but his name had not yet made it onto the state's official list. Sen. James Rosapepe (D-Prince George's and Anne Arundel) showed The Post that he had signed his paperwork weeks ago to give up 8 days' pay, but his office hadn't yet delivered the notification to the state.

For various reasons, after First Click noted here yesterday morning that 80 lawmakers, or roughly 43 percent of the state legislature had not yet filed to give back pay, 15 lawmakers did so before the end of the day.

Unlike state workers who were ordered in August to begin taking as many as 10 days without pay, state lawmakers could not be required to do so under Maryland's constitution.

The leaders of Senate and House of Delegates issued a statement in August asking for 100-percent voluntary pay give backs by lawmakers. They have until the end of the fiscal year to do so, but with hundreds of millions more in state budget cuts and possible layoffs coming next month, state employee unions said they hoped all lawmakers would make the gesture -- and soon.

Here's the state's current lists of Senate Furloughs As Of 10.14.2009.pdf and House Furloughs As Of 10.14.2009.pdf (if yesterday was any indication, the list may not be current for long).

Prince George's Police Union Goes After Johnson, Council over Budget Cuts
"For anyone that needed reminders of how little love the Prince George's police union has for the county's current political leadership, they can be found plastered all over Metro buses, posters and billboards for the next month." The Post's Jonathan Mummolo and John Wagner write that beginning today a near-six-figure ad campaign sponsored by the county's Fraternal Order of Police will begin to roll out, in the hopes of raising awareness of the potential impact of any cutbacks on law enforcement. The ads were paid for by union dues.

"One of the ads--reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's famous "3 a.m." ad (video) during the presidential primary--depicts a worried woman on the phone, with text that reads, "WHAT IF YOU CALLED 911 AND WE HAD NO ONE TO SEND?" Another shows a police officer with folded arms, with text reading, "WE WANT TO BE THERE FOR YOU. Do you really want to give that up? DON'T LET COUNTY OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO CUT POLICE FUNDING."

Candidate Interview: Tony Knotts
Mummolo also writes Maryland Politics' latest installment of "Why You?" - a look at candidates running for county executive next year. Up Today: Prince George's Councilman Tony Knotts: "Everyone wants Prince George's County to be like Montgomery, to be like Fairfax, to be like D.C. Often times you hear someone say, 'Why can't we be like...?' ... Well, the rules are different," Knotts says, referring to term limits.
You can read the full interview here.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  October 15, 2009; 8:01 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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Next: "Why You?": What We Want to Know From 2010 Candidates in Prince George's

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