April 23, 2010

State Roundup April 23, 2010

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ELECTRIC RATES: Small businesses will see electricity bill decreases between 6.9 percent and 9.1 percent and residents will see a 6.7 to 8.9 percent dip beginning in June, Danielle Ulman. Analysts say prices have fallen because the recession has lowered the demand for power, a trend that could continue. Liz Kay writes for The Sun that Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. customers could save as much as $161 annually from the rate drop.

EARTH DAY: MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman became fiddlers on the roof of a Columbia home, installing solar panels to illustrate generous government giveaways for renewable energy and local job creation. Larry Carson has the story for The Sun.

APPLIANCES: Thursday marked the first day of the state’s Cash for Appliances rebate program, as residents streamed into stores to buy new energy-efficient refrigerators, washers or dryers, Frank Roylance writes in The Baltimore Sun. The state has $5.4 million in federal stimulus money to pass on to consumers replacing old appliances.

EDUCATION: Despite the state’s No. 1 ranking in the nation from Education Week, experts say Maryland has not done enough to reform the education system, Liz Bowie reports in The Sun. Many believe the teacher unions have blocked change, and others think the state’s education reputation is based on its wealth.

EMERGENCY ROOMS: WYPR’s Sunni Khalid looks at the conditions in emergency rooms, and how the federal health care overhaul could affect emergency departments and access to primary care in Maryland.

HEALTH SCORECARD: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s support of health care issues far outstrips that of his predecessor and likely opponent, Bob Ehrlich, the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative said in a report released Thursday, Nick DiMarco writes for MarylandReporter.com.

COMEBACKS: Alan Brody at the Gazette examines all those former legislators seeking to make a comeback this year, while Sean Sedam looks at those lawmakers appointed to their seats who are running to hold onto their posts in the fall.

TAYLOR: Election board officials want to know if Del. Herman Taylor, an unannounced candidate for Congress, violated state law by raising money while the General Assembly was in session. Alan Brody reports in the Gazette.

O’MALLEY v. EHRLICH: George Liebmann of the Calvert Institute offers a “policy wonk’s guide to the gubernatorial election” in the Gazette.

FISCAL ISSUES: While state elected officials have put off tough fiscal decisions until next year, some county officials have stepped up to the plate, Barry Rascovar opines in the Gazette. Fiscal concerns are dominating the debate in the fall elections, as social issues take a back seat for many candidates, Doug Tallman reports in the Gazette.

PRINCE GEORGE’S: Although Prince George’s County was able to regain $18 million in state aid, a bill at Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk could cost them just as much, Jonathan Mummolo writes in The Washington Post. The bill would place a cap on taxes county residents pay to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which could cut county tax revenues by about $18 million.

ELECTIONS: A last-minute budget move helped secure enough cash for Maryland’s November election, nearly $10 million of which had been previously uncertain due to an inadvertent cut in the governor’s budget, Andy Rosen reports for MarylandReporter.com.

ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS: The fight over the assignment of benefits bill, which passed the General Assembly on Sine Die, highlights a continuing debate between doctors and insurers over how to ease mounting costs, Scott Graham reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

ROCKY GAP: Allegany County lawmakers say that the new law sweetening the deal for bidders on the Rocky Gap slots site could actually allow the Western Maryland hotel to be the first of five slots sites to be up and running, Kevin Spradlin writes for the Cumberland Times-News.

LEGGETT: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is proposing tax increases to cure his county’s mounting deficit, Erin Cunningham reports in the Gazette.

NOTEBOOK: Inside baseball, MoCo jokesters, Ehrlich, Marvin Mandel, Peter Franchot, and the GOP are in 10 Gazette Notebook items this week. Score: Brody, 5; Sedam, 4; and Tallman in the cellar with 1.

CHANGE OF PACE: Now that the legislative session is over, some lawmakers — last week’s bigwigs with aides and pages at their beck and call — must now answer to their own bosses, Erich Wagner writes for MarylandReporter.com.

LOST BILLS: Marc Korman continues his look at overlooked bills for Maryland Politics Watch, this time focusing on ones that failed.

NORTHROP GRUMMAN: Northrop Grumman is expected to lay off more than 170 people working at their operations north of Hagerstown in May, Julie Greene writes in The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail.

HARRIS: Republican Sen. Andy Harris is planning a 12-city bus tour of the state’s First Congressional District over the next two days in his campaign to unseat Democratic Congressman Frank Kratovil, the Associated Press reports.