May 4, 2011

State Roundup, May 4, 2011

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INSTATE TUITION FIGHT: Opponents of Maryland’s plan to offer in-state college tuition rates to illegal immigrants are optimistic that they can stop the measure in its tracks, reports Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.

The lead sponsor who objects to efforts to overturn his bill granting the in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants said referendum efforts could cost the state millions and the drive is being funded by outside Tea Party interests, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com

Gov. Martin O’Malley has said he would sign the bill that would allow illegal immigrants who have graduated from Maryland high schools to pay in-state tuition at the state’s colleges and universities, Ann Marimow reports for the Post.

BILL VETO SOUGHT: A growing coalition of environmental groups is urging Gov. O’Malley to veto legislation that would enhance incentives for waste-to-energy plants, saying it would weaken the state’s commitment to other forms of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, according to an AP story on WJZ.com.

RENEWABLE MANDATES: Mark Newgent of Red Maryland writes that the state’s “green” renewable portfolio standard law may not be so green after all. According to the latest reports from the Maryland Public Service Commission, state utilities are fulfilling their renewable mandates mostly through the use of dirty energy sources like black liquor, a byproduct of the wood pulping process, and burning waste wood products.

GANSLER SUGGESTS BOND: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler says would-be casino developer Michael Moldenhauer should have to post a bond to cover lost gambling revenues if he is granted a motion to block the state from seeking new bids to build and run a Baltimore casino, writes Frank Roylance for the Sun.

APRIL SLOTS REVENUE: Maryland’s two casinos took in nearly $13.6 million in slots revenue in April, reports the Sun’s Hanah Cho.

In Jon Sham’s interactive graphic for the Daily Record, you’ll discover that the total slots revenue since January is slightly more than $77 million.

DUTCH KEEPS SECRETS: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger picked up his phone Saturday and found himself in a conversation right out of a spy novel. The line was not secure, write the Sun’s Jean Marbella and John Fritze, so CIA Director Leon Panetta chose his words carefully as the U.S. was closing in on Osama bin Laden. The Baltimore County Democrat is one of just a few lawmakers privy to such secrets, a source of merriment among those who know the longtime politician as a chatterbox.

PROTECTING JUVENILES: Capital News Service’s Maggie Clark reports in the Daily Record that after at least two years of noncompliance and threats of funding cuts from the U.S. Department of Justice, Maryland appears to be on track for compliance with federal rules meant to protect juveniles from interacting with adult offenders when they’re detained in adult facilities.

WHITE OAK COMPLEX: Maryland lawmakers are pressing the General Services Administration to maintain federal funding for the construction of a government complex in White Oak despite a more than 80% cut the agency took in the current-year spending plan approved by Congress in April, the Sun’s John Fritze reports.

POACHED FISH: Candus Thomson writes in the Sun that the huge illegal net pulled from the Bay contained about 3.3 tons of dead and decaying striped bass. It was the second largest seizure of poached fish this year.

NO LAWSUIT: Montgomery County officials now say they would comply with a federal crackdown on illegal immigrants, although County Exec Ike Leggett had considered legal action to attempt to stop compliance, writes Brian Hughes of the Washington Examiner. The program requires local detention centers to send inmates’ fingerprints to a national database that helps federal agents identify and deport illegal immigrants.

MO CO OVERTIME: The huge cost of overtime of Montgomery County employees can be blamed largely on the County Council, a spokesman for County Exec Ike Leggett says. He said Leggett pushed for the extra vacation days only after council members stripped employee contracts of pay raises and other minor provisions that carried a cost, reports Erin Cunningham for the Gazette.

NICKLE BAGS IN MO CO: Many Montgomery County stores will begin charging customers a nickel to use plastic or paper shopping bags, beginning in January, reports the Gazette’s Erin Cunningham, following the County Council approval of the tax to be charged at grocery stores, department stores, convenience stores and other retail establishments.

OBAMA HONORS TEACHER: Denise Koch of WJZ-TV reports that Frederick County chemistry teacher Michelle Shearer was honored as 2011 National Teacher of the Year by President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday.

FREDERICK CHARTER: Petitioners have six days left to collect at least 300 more signatures calling for a special election so voters can decide who will write the plan to change Frederick County’s form of government, the Gazette’s Sherry Greenfield reports.

WICOMICO BUDGET: The Wicomico County Council, poised to debate a $111 million spending plan proposed for next year, has heard from a public divided over a 5-cent property tax hike called for by the county executive, reports Greg Latshaw for the Salisbury Daily Times.

JOHNSON HEARING CANCELED: Ruben Castaneda and Miranda Spivack of the Post report that Prince George’s County Council member Leslie Johnson was scheduled to plead guilty today in connection with a far-reaching corruption probe, but the hearing was canceled. Sources said Johnson had been negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors, but it is not clear why today’s plea hearing was canceled.

POLITICAL APOLOGY: A member of the Ron Paul political group Campaign for Liberty apologized to the Harford County Council for a letter the group sent out indicating Harford County Executive David Craig was proposing a tax hike, Bryna Zumer writes for the Aegis.

AIRPORT EXPANSION: Hagerstown Regional Airport plans to expand its passenger-holding space and add an automated baggage-conveyer system with $200,000 in Washington County funds and $200,000 in federal grant funds, writes Heather Keels for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.