December 28, 2010

State Roundup, December 28, 2010

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MIKULSKI MILESTONE: When Maryland U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski is sworn in for another term in January, she becomes the longest serving woman senator ever. Dana Bash of CNN interviews Mikulski and takes a look back at her long career.

PENSION BURDEN: As state and local governments try to figure out how to fill budget gaps, it matters more to politicians than to taxpayers whether the state, county or school district gets saddled with teacher pension costs, the editorial board of the Sun writes.

HEALTH FUNDS ADDED: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded the state more than $10.5 million in bonus funding for uninsured children covered by Medicaid, the public health care program for low-income and disabled residents, writes Scott Graham of the Baltimore Business Journal.

HEALTH FUNDS SAVED: Maryland Medicaid could save $167 million over the next decade by taking a more market-oriented approach, according to a new report commissioned by a trade group representing the country’s pharmacy benefits managers, Barbara Pash writes for MarylandReporter.com.

NEW LAWS: New state laws target traffic court and vehicle insurance limits, reports Alan Brody of the Gazette.

STEELE SUPPORT FALLS: The Post’s Felicia Sonmez writes that RNC chairman Michael Steele, a former Maryland LG, has lost another key supporter as he attempts to secure a second term.

SMOKING BAN: Although Maryland made smoking in bars and taverns illegal in February 2008, it won’t be until January that establishments with waivers finally come into full compliance, writes Michael Sawyers of the Cumberland Times News.

And, Sawyers reports, Cumberland bar owners have found that the smoking ban hasn’t harmed business after all.

LINE OF DUTY DEATHS: The Sun’s Michael Dresser writes that five Maryland police officers died in the line of duty this year, the seventh-highest count among the 50 states, according to a national report. Most died in vehicle crashes. Last year no Maryland officers died in the line of duty.

Here’s a photo gallery.

BAY HEALTH: The Chesapeake Bay is showing encouraging signs of improvement but remains afflicted with dead zones, fish kills and pollution, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said yesterday in its “State of the Bay Report.” The Associated Press reports the story in the Sun.

MILLER ON UM: What topic did the Daily Record’s Nick Sohr find himself discussing with state Sen. President Mike Miller the other day? Who will replace Ralph Friedgen as the University of Maryland’s football coach. Read the column to find out who Miller favors.

PG AUDIT: Prince George’s County will pay for an audit of the county Department of Housing and Community Development following long-standing concerns about the department’s operations and initiated by county officials after a wide-ranging public corruption investigation in the county. WJZ-TV ran the Associated Press story.

ADDRESS CANCELED: Recently re-elected Wicomico County Executive Rick Pollitt was scheduled to deliver what would have been his fifth annual State of the County address today, but it was canceled due to snow. Instead, he’ll issue a report to the people, writes Calum McKinney of the Salisbury Daily Times.

FARM RUNOFF PLANS: In Worcester County, a legal fight over the confidential nature of farmers’ plans to minimize water pollution has merged with a similar lawsuit in Anne Arundel County, and a farm industry group is suing the state to prevent environmental groups from seeing the plans, Liz Holland and Jennifer Shutt report for the Salisbury Daily Times.

CLAGETT AGENDA: The Frederick News Post’s Meg Tully reports that Del. Galen Clagett intends to bring new and old ideas back to Annapolis. Among the latter, a bill making child neglect a felony crime. Last session, it passed the House of Delegates but did not pass the Senate.