June 10, 2010

State Roundup June 10, 2010

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The state will purchase the first slot machines for $49 million, despite the comptroller’s protest; Baltimore businesses object to a new energy tax; Ehrlich talks up charter schools. Plus Jim Brochin and Andy Harris get challenges.

SLOTS: The Board of Public Works approved the first $49 million purchase of very expensive video lottery terminals, with Comptroller Peter Franchot in vehement dissent, Annie Linskey reports in the Sun.  Andy Rosen in MarylandReporter.com has the story on the last minute deal, and Nick Sohr at the Daily Record has more details.

ENERGY TAX: An energy tax on industrial buildings is angering the city’s already squeezed industrial sector. Andrea K. Walker of The Baltimore Sun reports that the iconic Domino Sugars sign may be shut off in protest.

CHARTER SCHOOL: Gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. will be announcing his education platform soon. He was visiting a Baltimore charter school on Wednesday, where he said his plan includes strengthening and expanding charter schools, which began receiving state approval during his term as governor, so blogs Julie Bykowicz in The Baltimore Sun.

ENVIRONMENT FINES: Maryland Department of the Environment regulators have collected or levied more than $500,000 in penalties for air, water, radiation and lead paint violations. Tim Wheeler in the Sun writes that one case involved Sinai Hospital, which paid $60,000 for repeatedly irradiating a cancer patient in the wrong place; another involved Constellation Energy, which paid almost $13,000 for muddying a stream as it built an eco-friendly windfarm.

BROCHIN CHALLENGE?: The owner of the popular Bay Cafe in Canton is considering a primary run against Towson Democratic Sen. Jim Brochin, Bryan Sears reports in his Patuxent blog.

GRANT LOST:Maryland lost federal grant for key student tracking study, Nick DiMarco writes in MarylandReporter.com. The state’s higher education system will have to rely on short-term options to continue a years-long educational progress study.

BANK EXPANSION: Frederick-based BlueRidge Bank, the only bank to receive a state charter in 2008, is moving into new markets and has nearly doubled its size with the opening of a commercial branch on Kenilworth Drive in Towson, writes Ben Mook in The Daily Record. The branch will eventually become a full-service bank, according to Ed Waters Jr. of the Frederick News-Post.

HARRIS FOE: State Sen. Andy Harris, who is running for the 1st District congressional seat, finally gets a foe in the GOP primary. Political newcomer Rob Fisher, an Eastern Shore businessman with deep pockets, is pushing his outsider status in a new commercial. Read more at Paul West’s blog.

MONTGOMERY GUNS: A Circuit Court judge dismissed Montgomery County’s attempt to recoup almost half a million dollars in taxpayer money spent on gun discounts  for public safety workers. Officials from a police training company had showered police officers with the marked-down guns in exchange for attending their classes given through the taxpayer-funded tuition assistance program, writes Brian Hughes in the Washington Examiner.

ABRAMOFF: One of Maryland’s most famous prisoners, former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has been released from federal prison to a halfway house, also likely in Maryland, the Associated Press reports.