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First Click Maryland -- Labor pains begin on union bills

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Monday, March 15, 2010:

The Agenda: In Labor

DSC_0018.JPGLate last week Lawyers' Mall, the default rallying spot outside the State House in Annapolis, was awash in purple - Service Employees International purple, to be exact. Tonight it will be lime green, the shade of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

AFSCME, the state's largest public employees' union, says hundreds of state and higher education employees will call on Maryland lawmakers to "save state services," as members of the General Assembly inch closer to approving a state budget early next month.

Thumbnail image for Aaron.jpgThe rally will be at least the fourth by union workers in Annapolis in the last two weeks. Combined they hint at the political muscle labor unions are beginning to flex as members of the General Assembly and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) prepare to ink their final spending plan before seeking re-election.

Unions are pressing hard for dozens of bills, including: (SB590), which would create a labor board to hear mediation and other disputes between schools and teachers; (SB225), which would give staffers at local libraries the option to seek collective bargaining; (SB284), to codify the same rules O'Malley has already endorsed for collective bargaining for child-care workers, and (SB317), a bill that would prevent a pension cut for state employees that would otherwise happen because their pension cost-of-living index is tied to the Consumer Price Index, which went down this year.

There's also legislation for specific state workers: Correctional officers want a "Bill of Rights" similar to the ones police officers have that afford them more rights and protections when under investigation or interrogation, such as several days to file a statement after something goes wrong. SB887/HB1090 would also give correctional officers the choice of appealing severe disciplinary action to a hearing board.

While not as strongly, unions are also backing efforts such as those by Prince George's Democrats Del. Jolene Ivey to continue the state's so-called Millionaires' Tax, which is set to expire, and ones by Del. Justin Ross and Sen. Paul Pinsky to require more corporations to pay tax on income earned in the state.

While it may be hard to imagine many of the state's public employees' unions endorsing former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich or any other Republican, it's clear that after repeated rounds of furloughs, Maryland's 80,000 public employees want a few measures of good will from O'Malley and the General Assembly before campaign season begins.

Beginning Monday, look to our blog for "In Labor" a new weekly post on developments on union-related legislation working its way through the General Assembly.

-- Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

House Judiciary settles on sex offender plan
sarah_foxwell.jpg"A House panel moved forward with measures aimed at stopping sexual predators on Friday, largely in response to the highly publicized slaying of a Salisbury girl who allegedly was murdered by a registered sex offender," writes The AP's Brian Witte. "The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley to mandate lifetime monitoring of certain serious sex offenders, which may include GPS monitoring. ... The committee also approved a bill that would require people convicted of child pornography possession or indecent exposure in the presence of minors to register as sex offenders.All together, the committee passed seven bills, which incorporated provisions from more than a dozen different pieces of legislation. They are scheduled to reach the floor of the House of Delegates" on Tuesday.

Bills set up showdown on corporate tax in 2011

"Both houses of the General Assembly have approved legislation that could bring to a head the battle over combined reporting for corporate taxes next year," writes Nicholas Sohr in The Daily Record. "The twin bills would require a state commission to issue a report on combined reporting and other business tax issues by Dec. 15. The Senate approved SB 336 with a 45-0 vote Friday, following the House's 136-1 vote on HB 395 Thursday. Combined reporting has been a topic of frequent debate in the General Assembly, with two Prince George's County lawmakers renewing the call for its implementation this year, touting the potential revenue boost to the state."

Profile: Gansler back in spotlight
gansler-new.jpg"From the start in Annapolis, [Douglas F. Gansler] debunked the caricature he knew would follow him from Rockville. He went out of his way to be obeisant to legislators. Suddenly, they were talking about how well-behaved he was, how he had matured into a statewide job that requires gravitas instead of grandstanding, writes The Post's Christian Davenport. "Gansler, 47, defended the timing of his announcement on gay marriage, saying he was responding to a request from a senator for an opinion on the issue. But the news immediately cast a shadow over the General Assembly's other work and injected a controversial issue into an election year in which his fellow Democrats feel threatened. The announcement put Gansler back in the limelight, helping to solidify the impression that he's the front-runner to succeed Gov. Martin O'Malley as Maryland's Democratic flag-bearer in 2014. But the timing of the news conference also produced a backlash in Annapolis, reviving the image of Gansler as a lone wolf with a passion for media attention."

-- Lisae C. Jordan, legislative and general counsel for the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Maryland Children's Alliance, writes in The Washington Post that the House Judicary Committee's endorsement of Gov. O'Malley's plan to begin with a presumption of lifetime supervision for sex offenders "is a good idea, and [the] bill is one of the most important this session. Unfortunately, lifetime supervision would be part of sentencing and could be applied only to future cases. The newly reconstituted Maryland Sexual Offender Advisory Board should explore ways to impose supervision retroactively," Jordan writes. The state also must Strengthen prosecutions and better support victims, she writes.

-- Eileen King, regional director of Justice for Children's Washington office, writes in a Washington Post Op-Ed that the spectacle last month in a House Judiciary Committee hearing on domestic violence fits a disturbing pattern: "It is also not the first time the committee killed a bill that would have increased protection for victims of family violence and abused or at-risk children. From the questions they ask, the anti-victim positions they take and the bills they kill, it appears obvious that the committee's most outspoken members are aligned with the defense bar. It is high time for some review and oversight of this committee, its leadership and composition and its commitment to the public welfare of Maryland's most vulnerable citizens: victims of crime and our children.

Week Ahead

• House and Senate budget committees hear bills on dozens of proposed local projects.

• The House of Delegates is expected to vote on a package of bills to better supervise convicted sex offenders while a Senate committee begins hearings on dozens of proposed bills on the topic. Final passage of the package in the House could come as early as Thursday.
• House Judiciary is scheduled to hear a bill stemming from the Foxwell case that would impose the death penalty on someone convicted of homicide while engaging in a sex offense.
• Senate Budget considers several slots bills
• House Ways and Means hears bills to delay implementation of early voting.

• A Senate committee is scheduled to hear a bill that would allow residents to receive wine shipments from other states. Key lawmakers in both the Senate and House have already said the bill will likely not pass this year.
• Budget hearings continue in both houses

• House Ways and Means considers slots bills


Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each weekday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of the day's top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And Look Ahead, Unspun, News Makers, and Week in Review keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  March 15, 2010; 6:20 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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