December 23, 2009

State Roundup, December 23, 2009

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It’s a pretty big news roundup given the coming holiday, but slots drama in Anne Arundel is still unfolding, snow removal already busted its budget, and the ICC tolls remain controversial.

Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold approved a bill that would allow slot machines at Arundel Mills mall, while vetoing a bill that was poised to push them closer to Laurel Park race track, according to The Associated Press. The decision presumably clears the way for the project, which has already won state approval.

Horse racing groups and community activists are trying to halt the project through a voter referendum, John Wagner reports in The Washington Post. The groups need about 19,000 signatures to force a local referendum next November, which would halt the project in the meantime.

Jay Hancock of The Baltimore Sun goes over some of the challenges facing opponents of the Arundel Mills parlor if they pursue a referendum to block the facility.

The Cordish Cos. didn’t wait around in moving forward with preparations for their proposed slots parlor at Arundel Mills, according to The Sun’s State House team. The company filed paperwork on Tuesday to get the permitting process going.

The facility could open as soon as 2011, Dan Sernovitz and Ryan Sharrow report in the Baltimore Business Journal. Alan Suderman at The Washington Examiner has a good fact box on the project in his story.

Nick Sohr of The Daily Record has a story on Leopold’s approval of the project, but also discusses complaints about the state slots approval process from Baltimore City. A Baltimore proposal was denied last week.

The state won its challenge in federal court against a proposed liquefied natural gas terminal at Sparrows Point in Baltimore County. Mary Gale Hare in The Sun reports that the decision halts the controversial project for the time being.

Gov. Martin O’Malley may be open to the idea of making it easier for companies to sell power to customers on the open market, Jay Hancock reports in The Sun.

Cleanup from last weekend’s snowstorm cost Maryland $26.9 million, more than the State Highway Administration’s annual snow removal budget, according to Michael Dresser at The Sun. WBAL radio has an audio report from Jack Cahalan at MDOT.

The newly-approved tolls for the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties are facing increasing criticism from the Montgomery County Council, Daniel Valentine and Erin Cunningham write in The Gazette.

Adam Pagnucco at Maryland Politics Watch says the rates are higher than anybody expected, which isn’t fair.

Michael Dresser at The Sun writes in his blog that the rates are fair for the whole state, and he likes the tiered charges based on time of day. He also has a roundup of the top 10 state transportation stories of the decade, as year-in-review season kicks into full swing.

Paul West at The Sun takes a look at the Maryland doctors who are advocating for and against a federal health care overhaul bill.

Montgomery County and Virginia’s Fairfax County are getting $300 million to help pay for traffic improvements around growing military bases, Miranda Spivack reports in the Post.

Frederick County poultry farmers are looking for legislation that would let them sell their products at farmers markets, Ike Wilson reports in the Frederick News-Post.

Delmar, Del. is studying zoning for a possible casino in the town, Earl Holland reports in The (Salisbury) Daily Times. The project would be very close to the Maryland line.

Marta Mossburg in The Washington Examiner wrote a tongue-in-cheek letter to Santa on Tuesday, wishing she could be treated as well as state employees and elected officials. On the wish list, raises like those being contemplated for the next person to be elected governor and for the General Assembly.

The AP takes a look at Maryland Correctional Enterprises, which employs prison inmates to try to prepare them to get back to work if they are released. According to the article, the industry is worth $7.2 million and employs an all-time high of 2,000 skilled inmates. (The total revenues for MCE are actually $51 million, according to a story by Len Lazarick in The Business Monthly.)

The Washington Post’s Maryland blog shares links to legislation proposed before the Maryland General Assembly session in the House and Senate.