May 12, 2011

State Roundup, May 12, 2011

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SCHOLARSHIPS RESTORED: Gov. Martin O’Malley restored scholarships for 350 high-achieving Maryland high school seniors, just days after state officials told scholarship winners they had lost the college money because of budget cuts, writes Childs Walker and Yeganeh June Torbati for the Sun.

Now, O’Malley will have to make up $1.1 million in next year’s fragiley balanced budget, blogs Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. He also blogged earlier in the day that if opponents of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants needed any more fuel for their petition drive, they got it when the merit scholarships were cut.

Prior to the restoration, the Sun editorial board issued a scathing editorial about cutting the $1.1 million for merit-based scholarships while keeping the $11.7 million non-merit based legislative scholarship program intact.

BUS SAFETY: If you’re one of those drivers who doesn’t stop for school buses with flashing red lights, beware, reports John Rydell for WBFF-TV. A new state law is taking aim at those drivers with the lens of a video camera. Click on the video to view his report.

SPECIAL SESSION: State Sen. President Mike Miller made a pitch this week to use the upcoming special session to erase the state’s structural deficit and solve a persistent funding transportation funding problem, blogs the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

Lawmakers are planning to convene in the fall for a session devoted to redrawing congressional district lines, write John Wagner and Ann Marimow for the Post.

GAS GOUGING? Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler is questioning whether, with the average price of gas trending down nationally, there’s price gouging at gas stations in Maryland, Kai Jackson reports for WJZ-TV. Scroll down to view his video.

Meanwhile, blogs Michael Dresser for the Sun, a AAA spokeswoman said the group’s oil analysts believe that the gas market is at or near its top and they expect a few weeks of volatility, followed by a significant decrease in prices at the pump.

DOME REPAIR: Crews are erecting scaffolding around the State House as they begin the six-month, $787,000 project to repair and repaint its dome, perhaps the best-known landmark in Annapolis, writes Pamela Wood for the Annapolis Capital.

ROBOCALL SUIT: A lawyer for political operative Julius Henson is seeking to halt a civil suit stemming from tens of thousands of anonymous election-night robocalls in Maryland — a sign that criminal probes into the matter are continuing, the Post’s John Wagner writes.

LOBBYING SLOWS: Despite a sharply partisan fight in Congress over federal spending and budget deficits, the pace of lobbying in Washington has slowed including money spent on lobbying by Maryland companies and nonprofits, which fell about 23% in the first quarter of 2011 compared with the same period last year, John Fritze reports for the Sun.

Here’s a slide show of 8 of the top 10 companies that spent the most on lobbying.

MOCO VEHICLE USE REVIEWED: Montgomery County government officials are reviewing whether 296 employees with take-home vehicles have a need for them, reports Erin Cunningham for the Gazette.

PETITION PAGES QUESTIONED: Several pages of the petition to elect a Frederick County Charter writing board are being questioned by elections officials, reports Meg Tully for the Frederick News Post.

LEGAL FUND HIKE URGED: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners has recommended increasing the county’s contribution to a contingency fund for outside legal counsel from $125,000 to $200,000 during its deliberations over the proposed fiscal year 2012 operating budget, reports Christian Alexandersen for the Carroll County Times.

SESSION REHASH: Washington County’s state delegation reviewed the past Maryland General Assembly session at two public events yesterday, discussing everything from the defeated same-sex marriage bill and the increase in the alcohol tax, writes Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

TUBMAN PARKS SUGGESTED: A National Park Service official signaled strong support yesterday for a proposal to create national parks on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and in Auburn, N.Y., to honor abolitionist Harriet Tubman, writes Nicole Gaudiano for the Salisbury Daily Times. But Republicans are reluctant to pass legislation creating additional national parks.

DUTCH TO SEE BIN LADEN SHOTS: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, a member of a small group of lawmakers that oversees intelligence issues in Congress, will view the photographs of Osama bin Laden’s body that were taken after the raid on his compound, blogs John Fritze for the Sun.

SAY NO TO TAX BREAK: On the day before the heads of the country’s five largest oil companies are due for a Senate Finance Committee grilling on tax subsidies, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin asked them to admit that they no longer need the breaks, blogs Matthew Hay Brown for the Sun.