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Published on January 28th, 2011 | by Len Lazarick

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State Roundup, January 28, 2011

ARUNDEL MILLS CASINO: Developer David Cordish and prominent state policymakers broke ground on the slots casino at Arundel Mills Mall on Thursday, in spite of a challenge that may hold up his receiving a building permit, writes The Sun’s Nicole Fuller. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said the casino is “definitely a job creator,” reports The Post’s John Wagner. WBAL Radio’s Steve Fermier reports that a temporary slots building will go up while construction on the casino goes on.

Harry Blumenthal, attorney for the Villages of Dorchester Homeowners’ Association, said that the casino project’s neighbors don’t believe that potential traffic issues have been addressed, reports The Daily Record’s Rachel Bernstein. WBAL did a video story.

Cordish executive Joe Weinberg told the Baltimore Business Journal’s Daniel Sernovitz that the legal challenge was “frivolous.”

SNOW BUSINESS: O’Malley defended the state’s response to Wednesday’s crippling snowstorm, which resulted in the deaths of three Marylanders and left thousands of commuters stranded for hours. The state threw “everything we had” at the storm, reported The Sun’s Frank Roylance, Michael Dresser and Scott Calvert. O’Malley says the situation was tedious on WBAL. Fox 45 asks who’s to blame.

O’Malley identified the biggest problem in the storm as utility reliability standards, the Associated Press reported in a story picked up by The Daily Record. About 230,000 people in Maryland remained without power the day after flakes stopped falling.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake tweeted updates about power outages – linking to the account of a New Jersey estate instead of Baltimore Gas and Electric, blogs Inside Charm City’s Jeff Quinton.

BUDGET ANALYSIS: Taking a close look at O’Malley’s proposed budget, The Sun’s opinionators say it moves the state closer to sustainability, but its reliance on new debt is troubling.

The staff at The Diamondback opines that while O’Malley’s budget plan is not perfect, it could have been much worse.

Columnist Barry Rascovar writes in the Gazette: “When you start pulling the O’Malley administration’s budget apart, it’s like eating cotton candy: There’s far less there than anticipated.”

RACING SUBSIDIES: O’Malley aides told a legislative committee that the governor is working on legislation that would allow revenue from slots casinos to subsidize horse race track owners who need the money to stay profitable, The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz reports. She blogs some more information about the proposal.

Liam Farrell of The Capital reports that some senators were skeptical of the proposal when it was presented to them.

POSSIBLE SHORTFALL: If Congress does not approve federal contingency funds for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the state will be scrambling to make up a $34 million shortfall in the program, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

BAD DRIVING FINE: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget proposal includes an item that would impose steep fines for bad drivers, writes The Sun’s Annie Linskey. WBAL’s Steve Fermier reports some are calling this a tax, as does Erin Cunningham in the Gazette’s story.

GAY MARRIAGE: Some lawmakers have changed their minds and are now supporting gay marriage, Sarah Breitenbach reports in the Gazette.

EASIER LICENSING: Today, O’Malley will announce a proposal to make it easier for businesses to apply for, monitor, and find out about applications for licenses and permits through technology, writes The Daily Records Nick Sohr.

BIRTH, DEATH CERTIFICATES: Legislative analysts recommend doubling the cost for birth and death certificates, which could raise $7.9 million in the general fund, writes MarylandReporter.com’s Abby Rogers.

ONLINE VOTER REGISTRATION: Maryland could be part of a multi-state effort to clean up voter rolls and institute online voter registration, Megan Poinski writes for MarylandReporter.com.

SPECIAL ELECTIONS: Montgomery County Sen. Jennie Forehand wants voters to be able cast ballots by mail in special elections in order to boost the turnout and reduce the cost, Alan Brody writes in the Gazette.

GPS TRACKING: Sen. Norman Stone is proposing a bill that will keep repeat sex offenders tethered to GPS devices after release from prison, reports Patch.com’s Bryan Sears.

PROPERTY TAX NOTICES: Falling property assessments will allow counties to raise real estate taxes without publishing notices of the tax hikes, according to Jeff Newman in the Gazette.

AGE REQUIREMENT: A new group is pushing to lower the age to run for State Senate and House of Delegates, writes Alan Brody in the Gazette.

MIKULSKI AND SCI-FI: Patch.com’s Bryan Sears blogs about U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s frequent references to popular science fiction movies and TV shows.

NO HEARINGS: About a third of inmates never receive parole hearings before they are released, Maryland Parole Commission Chairman David Blumberg told a Senate Committee, reports The Examiner’s Hayley Petersen.

TRANSPORTATION LOCKBOX: A Gazette editorial supports protecting the transportation trust fund from raids to balance the budget.

MOONEY ON HEALTH CARE: State GOP Chairman Alex Mooney took on health care reform on TBD News Talk last week, saying that it was an example of a government takeover — especially since health care must cover in vitro fertilization and hair regrowth. Kevin Robillard from TBD’s Facts Machine writes Mooney was half right.

NO REPUBLICAN REDISTRICTING: Prince George’s County Council unanimously voted to bar any Republicans from redistricting commissions, saying the party has too little influence, reports The Gazette’s Daniel Valentine.

WINE BILL: The Frederick County delegation is urging support of a bill allowing patrons to bring their own wine into restaurants, a move backed by some prominent Frederick restaurants, but opposed by the Maryland Restaurant Association, writes the Frederick News-Post’s Meg Tully.

MOCO SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: Members of Montgomery County’s General Assembly delegation are split over a bill that would give the county sole authority to approve school construction, writes Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.

EASING LIQUOR LAWS: Hoping to avoid the problems encountered at a 2010 music festival, Allegany County Commissioners are asking the General Assembly to pass legislation extending the relatively easy process for nonprofit groups to sell alcohol to music promoters, reports the Cumberland Times-News’ Michael Sawyers.

DUPLICITOUS FEE? Sen. Christopher Shank accused the American Federation of County, State and Municipal Employees of being duplicitous in negotiating their contract – and not clearly explaining “fair share” fees, reports The Herald-Mail’s Andrew Schotz.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette Reporters Notebook has items on the snow storm, Gabby Giffords, a bipartisan roast, Craig Rice, medical marijuana and Steny Hoyer’s twitter.

FREDERICK NOTEBOOK: Delegates honor Maryland’s fallen soldiers and hope the state will celebrate Ronald Reagan’s birthday every year, blogs Meg Tully of the Frederick News-Post.

NEW METRO CHIEF: Richard Sarles, who has served as interim CEO of the DC Metro for the last 10 months, has just taken the helm as the troubled commuter transport’s leader, reports The Post’s Ann Scott Tyson.

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