December 11, 2009

State Roundup, December 11, 2009

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The state is still waiting for $19.5 million in licensing fees from the prospective developer of a Baltimore City slots casino, Robbie Whelan reports in The Daily Record, despite a Thursday promise to pay. The company also still has not revealed details about a mystery investor, Julie Bykowicz and Laura Smitherman report in The Baltimore Sun, which the state slots panel wants to know about before approving the project.

All six of the candidates to replace new Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen on the Anne Arundel County Council support slots at Arundel Mills mall, Erin Cox reports in The (Annapolis) Capital. The remaining council members will chose a replacement from the field that is entirely made up of Democrats.

Blair Lee’s column in The Gazette reviews how Maryland has wound up with no slots in operation a year after they were approved by voters.

Jay Hancock chides state officials in his Sun column for not dealing with a mounting, $16.3 billion liability for state retiree health care. He cites a report that shows the gap growing by $1.3 billion within the past two years.

Scott Dance of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that the state is poised to run out of money for unemployment payments in three months, and Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plans to lighten the unemployment tax burden for businesses could exacerbate the problem. However, the state could be eligible for an infusion of federal unemployment cash if it makes proposed changes to its program

Also in the Business Journal, Heather Harlan Warnack reports that the state overpaid $30 million in jobless claims this year.

Jobs are a focus of next year’s election, with at least one academic analyst seeing Gov. Martin O’Malley as vulnerable on the issue, Erin Cunningham reports in The Gazette.

Neil Bergsman of the Budget & Tax Policy Institute writes in The Gazette that millionaires are not fleeing Maryland, as some say recent data suggests.

Nick Sohr of The Daily Record reports that the O’Malley administration is planning to push for tougher mortgage regulation in the coming General Assembly session. One of the proposed requirements would mandate face-to-face meetings between lenders and borrowers. The industry is wary.

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon will be sentenced on her conviction for embezzlement on Jan. 21, The Sun’s Annie Linskey reports. That would force her to step down, though Dixon has several potential legal maneuvers at play, including a bid for a mistrial.

State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick wants the school board to approve a plan to more closely tie teacher pay to test results, increase the amount of time it takes for instructors to gain tenure, and change incentive plans. The changes are intended to help the state compete for $250 million in federal stimulus money, Liz Bowie reports in The Sun.

Bowie also reports that the state school board is reviewing its policy on long-term suspensions and expulsions.

Paul West in The Sun reports that the U.S. House of Representatives have approved a $1.1 trillion year-end appropriations bill that contains $900 million in pork for Maryland projects.

The Gazette’s Alan Brody provides give-and-take on legislative salaries as a commission starts work to make recommendations.

Nicholas Stern of the Frederick News-Post has a look at gay rights advocacy in Frederick and around Maryland.

Erin Julius in The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail has the details on a legislative forum, where Washington County Republicans called for deep cuts, and questioned state employee pay raises and pension payments. They also raised the idea of big layoffs.

Doug Tallman updates us on the new entrance to the Miller Senate Office Building, knocking down rumors that a statue of the Senate president is planned there.

Democrats are gunning for Sen. Alex Mooney in Frederick County, where the social conservative is running in a district carried by Barack Obama last year, Doug Tallman reports in The Gazette.

The state must file a plan to more quickly deliver food stamps and health benefits by the end of next month, Brent Jones reports in The Sun, after a Baltimore Circuit Court judge ruled against Maryland’s program Thursday.

At The Gazette, Sean Sedam has an overview of some local legislation being considered for the upcoming session. These include a measure that would restrict some fast food restaurants in Prince George’s  County and one that would allow nonprofits to operate slots in Worcester County

O’Malley, accused of “fiddling” by the GOP chair, criticizes the media for all its “positive” reporting in The Gazette’s Reporter’s Notebook.

The governor is all hot air on wind power, says Barry Rascovar in The Gazette.