Last of 2012 laws go into effect on New Year’s Day

After three sessions of the General Assembly that spanned almost 100 days in 2012, the last of the 797 bills approved by state legislators and made law by Gov. Martin O’Malley this year will go into effect as the fireworks start in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

The most famous of those laws is the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which gives gay couples the right to marry in Maryland.

In Baltimore, the first same-sex couples will be wed shortly after the stroke of midnight and will have a special guest in Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who intends to witness the marriage of seven couples at City Hall at 12:30 a.m.

Ordinarily, the Hall would be closed at that hour, and all city offices are closed on New Year’s Day. But Rawlings-Blake, who joined other state Democratic leaders in the campaign to legalize gay marriage, said this constituted a special occasion.

“New Years Day will have a new meaning for the hundreds — if not thousands — of couples who will finally have the right to marry the person they love,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “It is a remarkable achievement for Maryland, and we are excited to open City Hall to host some of the first wedding ceremonies in our great state.”

Ten other laws go into effect Tuesday, too. A state law that alters the election schedule of Baltimore to bring it into line with presidential elections will become effective, but that effect won’t be felt until 2016, when Rawlings-Blake and the city council are able to stay in office for an extra year, until the calendar turns to 2017.

A similar law passed by the council was approved by voters in November, the intent being to foster greater voter turnout in the city.

Another bill, requested by the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, removes exemptions for low-volume mortgage lenders, some of whom did not previously have to be licensed by the state.

The law, originally SB 302, also allows state regulators to oversee affiliates and subsidiaries of a national bank operating within the state. The legislation was a reaction to the  federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which allowed states to regulate those institutions.

Other laws protect children from identity theft, potentially reduce the supervision time of a parolee based on behavior, ban the use of arsenic in chicken feed and provide tax credits for operators of thermal biomass systems — thermal energy generators powered by manure and chicken litter.

The laws go into effect just in time; the legislature will reconvene for its regular, 90-day session on Jan. 9, when members will start the process of reviewing more than 2,500 potential laws.

Penn National mulling bid for Prince George’s casino license

The Wyomissing, Pa.-based gambling company that spent $44 million in its campaign to defeat Question 7, may bid on the license for a casino authorized by voters’ approval of Question 7.

“It is under consideration,” said Karen Bailey, a spokeswoman for Penn National Gaming Inc. The Washington Post first reported the possibility Friday.

Despite its record spending to defeat the expanded gambling law passed by the General Assembly, signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley and sent to referendum, most have expected Penn to enter the bidding for the casino license awarded to Prince George’s County.

The legislation that authorized the voter referendum on table games, a sixth casino and 24/7 operation of those facilities, was written so a casino could be built either at Penn-owned Rosecroft Raceway or National Harbor. Penn says adding slots and table games to the dilapidated racetrack is vital to its success.

But Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and other powerful elected officials favor National Harbor as the casino’s location. That favoritism led Penn to believe it wouldn’t have a fair shot when it came time to bid on the casino license.

MGM Resorts International Inc. is the prohibitive favorite to build an $800 million casino at National Harbor, the Peterson Cos.’ luxury mixed-used development on the shores of the Potomac River.

The Video Lottery Facility Location Commission will evaluate bids and select a licensee next year.

Eye Opener: Elected officials continue weighing in on guns

The state’s top economic development official is resigning in January, and his replacement is stepping up from within the Department of Business and Economic Development.

Here’s a few other government and politics headlines:

Eye Opener: Gun legislation coming in 2013

Caesars Entertainment Corp. is insisting that union labor will be used to build its Baltimore casino, just days after unions’ concerns led Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to urge a meeting between Caesars and the unions.

Here’s a few other government and politics headlines:

Eye Opener: Elected officials rallying for new gun laws

After being a constant presence on the campaign trail, union workers may have no presence on the construction site of Baltimore’s future casino.

Here’s a few other government and politics headlines:

Eye Opener: Miller says transportation secretary would help

Just a week away from Christmas Eve, Maryland’s immediate fiscal future remains tied to negotiations in Washington, D.C.

But forgetting the “cliff” for a moment, here’s a few government and politics headlines for Monday morning.

What are your top stories of 2012?

Each December, The Daily Record runs a list of the year’s top stories. This year, want to hear from you.

Which state and local government-related or stories would you include for 2012? The election? The special session? The second special session?

Post your thoughts in the comments section and it could appear in the newspaper along with our story.

Eye Opener: Lawmakers hope for peaceful 2013

Gambling expansion cleared another regulatory hurdle yesterday, and casinos will start operating 24 hours a day, just in time for the holidays.

Here’s a few other government and politics headlines:

Eye Opener: Leaders call for new transportation funding

Here’s a few government and politics headlines for Thursday morning:

- The Washington Post and others report that business leaders and elected officials are calling for increased transportation funding, either through a gas tax or other, more creative plans.

- The Baltimore Sun reports that the NAACP’s president will meet with Gov. Martin O’Malley today to discuss a potential repeal of the death penalty in Maryland.

- MarylandReporter.com reports some legislators are proposing a change in pension funding.

- The Herald-Mail reports time is running short for Washington County to request money from the state for a potential downtown Hagerstown stadium.