- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will give final approval Thursday to an increase in the state’s alcohol sales tax as he signs more than 200 bills into law.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, will sign his final batch of the 707 bills passed this year by the General Assembly. It will mark the third of the governor’s three bill-signing sessions this spring.

The alcohol-tax legislation will increase the state’s sales tax on booze from 6 percent to 9 percent effective July 1 and is projected to generate $87 million in first-year revenue for the state.

The first-year money will go primarily to schools and school construction, with $15 million going to programs for the developmentally disabled.

Mr. O’Malley also announced Wednesday that he will veto four bills, all of which passed relatively quietly this legislative session.

The bills would have allowed property-tax exemptions for Frederick County private schools on leased property, established a political committee to vet gubernatorial appointments to the Allegany Board of License Commissioners, relaxed subpoena issuance laws and placed restrictions on vested benefits for state retirees.

Mr. O’Malley announced Tuesday he would not veto a controversial bill that put waste-to-energy trash-burning facilities in the same renewable-energy class as wind and solar power.

The governor will also allow three bills to become law without his signature, including one that gives the governor just 180 days to deny parole recommendations for criminals serving life sentences.

Under current law, such criminals can be paroled only with the governor’s permission.

The bill follows criticism of Mr. O’Malley for failing to act on 43 of the 50 parole recommendations during his term, which sponsors argued was a politically motivated policy that deprived the prisoners of a chance for release.

According to the bill, a governor’s failure to act within 180 days will now result in release - a policy that Mr. O’Malley criticized Wednesday in a letter to legislators.

“Maryland citizens would be better served if the default provision in the legislation was to deny the parole request rather than to grant it,” he wrote. “Public safety demands that we err on the side of caution.”

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