Posts Tagged ‘Maryland General Assembly’

Marcellus Shale Drilling Moratorium Compromise In The Works

Friday, April 8th, 2011

ANNAPOLIS – Compromises on a bill that would create a temporary moratorium on natural gas drilling in Western Maryland’s Marcellus Shale formation are being hammered out in a series of closed-door meetings.

Lawmakers and a variety of interested parties this week held several so-called “stakeholders meetings” that could produce a final compromise on the bill before the Senate takes it up for debate. The bill overwhelmingly passed the House last month.

The legislation would restrict drilling in Maryland’s slice of the Marcellus formation until 2013, when two state agencies would be required to complete a study that outlines the potential environmental impact associated with a controversial drilling method called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

Details of the closed-door discussions on the drilling moratorium are being held fairly closely at this point. Delegate Heather Mizeur, a Montgomery County Democrat who is sponsoring the bill,  declined to comment Thursday on the meetings.

But Sen. George Edwards, a Republican from Garrett and an opponent of the proposed drilling moratorium, said at least two items are being negotiated at the meetings.

Under the legislation, energy companies would be required to pay $10 per acre of land leased in the Marcellus formation for two years. The money generated, which is estimated at about $ 1 million each year, would be used to pay for the study mandated by the legislation.

Edwards said the energy industry has agreed in the meetings to pay $10 per acre for one year only.

Edwards also is pushing for test drilling during the moratorium, so that experts can better gauge the potential impact that fracking could have on water wells in Western Maryland.

Another meeting was scheduled for today, but it was closed to the public and reporters.

“It’s not a public meeting,” Mizeur said Wednesday.

The stakeholders meetings are nothing new in Annapolis. The Associated Press’ Tom Lobianco reported in March on a series of “secret negotiations” that produced a compromise that allows wineries to ship bottles of their products to Marylanders.

–By Capital News Service’s David Saleh Rauf

Immigrants Press for Passage of Md. DREAM Act

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Alan Marroquin, a student member of Casa de Maryland, at a meeting between state Sen. Jennie M. Forehand, D-Montgomery County, and pro-immigrant demonstrators in Annapolis. (Photo by Maryland Newsline's Maite Fernandez)

ANNAPOLIS – Hundreds of immigrants converged at the State House Monday to press legislators to pass the Maryland DREAM Act, a bill that would allow students to pay in-state college tuition regardless of their immigration status, if they graduated from a Maryland high school and attended that school for at least two years.

“This is the future of Maryland,” Gustavo Torres, director of the advocacy group Casa de Maryland, told the crowd. He added passage in Maryland could send a strong message to the nation. A similar proposal failed in Congress in December.

A preliminary Senate vote is expected this week.

Torres and others also said they opposed anti-immigration laws being considered by the General Assembly. State Del. Pat McDonough, R-Baltimore County, introduced more than a dozen different bills targeting illegal immigration.

McDonough said in a telephone interview he is opposed to the in-state tuition bill because it benefits people who don’t have a lawful presence in the state. He says it would be expensive.

The state Department of Legislative Services estimates it could cost taxpayers about $3.5 million by fiscal year 2016.

McDonough added that it could cause legal immigrants and Maryland students seeking acceptance to public universities to lose spots. “I think that’s utterly unfair,” McDonough said.

Casa de Maryland organized the demonstration, arranging for 38 buses to take demonstrators to the state capital.

Among the participants were students from several high schools, faith leaders and their congregations and small businesses and organizations, who met with legislators to express their concerns before rallying at Lawyer’s Mall in front of the State House.

Demonstrators said the Maryland DREAM Act is critical because the higher out-of-state tuition rates have kept many illegal immigrants who attended Maryland high schools from attending college.

According to the bill’s fiscal note, the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition rates for full-time undergraduates averages more than $10,000 a year, based on proposed fall 2011 rates.

Advocates for the bill argue that it would give some undocumented students who would qualify as Maryland residents the chance to go to college.

“Yes, we can,” some of the students chanted in Spanish.

Carlos Hernandez, a volunteer at Casa de Maryland, told Montgomery County senators and delegates he opposed anti-immigration bills and the use of E-Verify, a program that allows employers to check the immigration status of potential workers.

One of McDonough’s bills would require all contractors working for the state to use the federal E-Verify program.

Hernandez said the state shouldn’t be using its resources to verify the legal status of workers who only want to bring food to their families.

“E-Verify is a proven, successful program,” McDonough said, and added that the federal government already uses it.

“The only reason anyone would be against is that philosophically they believe it’s OK to violate the law and be rewarded and receive a job,” he said.

Demonstrators also raised concerns about the Secure Communities program, which allows local police to check the fingerprints of detainees against immigration records to identify illegal immigrants. The program has already been implemented in 13 jurisdictions in Maryland, among them Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data.

ICE officials said recently that the program is mandatory and the agency expects every jurisdiction in the country to participate by 2013.

Critics argue that the program can lead to racial profiling and that immigrants will refrain from reporting crimes to the police for fear of being deported.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 7 to 4 last week to approve the Maryland DREAM Act. The bill is scheduled to be heard Wednesday in the House Ways and Means Committee.

More photos in slide show.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Maite Fernandez

CNS Tweets Opening of General Assembly

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Capital News Service reporter Erika Woodward “tweeted” the opening session of the General Assembly in Annapolis, using the short messaging tool Twitter. It allows information to be distributed across a network of users in real-time. The tweets are available at:

-By Capital News Service’s Erika Woodward


Senate Approves Dilluted Measure on School PE

Friday, March 28th, 2008

The Maryland Senate this week approved changes to a bill that would have strengthened the state’s requirements for physical education in public schools.

As originally proposed, the Bryan Moore Student Health and Fitness Act would have required Maryland public schools to provide students in kindergarten through eighth grade with 150 minutes of physical activity a week, including a minimum of 90 minutes of physical education.

The amendment alters the bill so that it simply establishes a task force, which would determine the feasibility, merit and fiscal impact of such a change.

The amendment’s sponsor, Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, said he appreciates the need to address the state’s growing childhood obesity problem but is concerned about the burden it would place on schools.

“The superintendent from the Lower Shore called me and said, ‘This is going to be a very significant increase, and we don’t have the money to cover it,’ ” Stoltzfus said on the Senate floor. “It will require the additional hiring of faculty in many schools … and people in these areas are saying, ‘We just can’t afford it.’

“I support what this is trying to accomplish, and that’s to get our kids to exercise more, but the fiscal note seems overwhelming,” Stoltzfus added.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. David C. Harrington, D-Prince George’s, said he would accept the amendment — reluctantly.

“I know that some of you received telephone calls from back home regarding the cost [of possibly hiring] some more teachers for physical education,” he said. “But I think we also need to speak to this bill, and the reason we put in this bill, and frankly the reason why I’m passionate about this bill.”

Currently, the Maryland State Department of Education requires physical education in all schools, but specific programs are determined by the local school districts, so the amount of activity varies widely across the state. According to the bill’s policy note, some elementary schools provide 30 minutes of physical education each week, while others may provide up to 125 minutes a week.

Bryan Moore, the bill’s 14-year-old namesake, says in a YouTube video that he supports more activity in school. Moore was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at the age of 12 as a result of obesity.

“I was just so big,” Moore says in the video. “I wouldn’t want any other person to go through what I’ve gone through.”

By Capital News Service’s Kate Elizabeth Queram

The Maryland Legislature provides updates on the status of the bill.