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Published on May 26th, 2011 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, May 26, 2011

BUCKS TO BOOST SMALL BIZ: Maryland will be receiving $23 million under a new U.S. Treasury Department program aimed at boosting lending to small business, reports Gary Haber of the Baltimore Business Journal. Christian Johansson, secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, said the $23 million will help spur $230 million in private-sector lending.

Hanah Cho of the Sun reports that Johansson said the federal funds are expected to help more than 100 businesses, as well as to create and retain 9,481 jobs.

TRANSGENDER BIAS: Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk writes on the Op-Ed page for the Sun that Marylanders need to stop fearing transgendered people and should support her bill protecting them from discrimination.

SCHOOL FUNDING: Maryland’s state school board said in an opinion issued yesterday that it believes state law needs to be amended to prevent county governments from reducing their current levels of school funding, Liz Bowie reports for the Sun. Six counties appear ready to reduce their school budgets, going against the “maintenance of effort” provision requiring them to fund schools at the same level as the previous year.

But the board also rejected a petition from the Montgomery County school board that sought to limit the ability of the County Council to make cuts to county public schools, writes Andrew Ujifusa for the Gazette.

EMBRACE THE DREAM: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that the Maryland kids eligible for the Dream Act tuition discount might have entered the country illegally with their parents, but they are “our kids” in a big sense. They were educated in our public high schools and eager to get into our colleges at the same in-state tuition rate their classmates enjoy.

ERASE THE DREAM: Organizers of an attempt to put the DREAM Act on the ballot in 2012 say they’re confident they’ll have enough signatures, reports Pamela Wood for the Annapolis Capital. They feed to have 18,579 signatures from valid Maryland voters by midnight Tuesday to keep the referendum drive alive.

The battle over illegal immigrants and tuition at Montgomery College went to court yesterday, reports Keith Daniels for WBFF-TV. At issue is a longtime policy at the college that allows students who are not legal citizens to pay in-state tuition.

GAS TAX BREAK: State Comptroller Peter Franchot says the state should drop its gas tax over long holiday weekends as a way to boost the state economy and give local drivers a break, according to Adam Tuss of WTOP.

STATE SEEKS LICENSE DENIAL: Calling it a “a terrible, terrible applicant,” the state of Maryland urged a Baltimore judge yesterday to deny a challenge by a would-be casino developer seeking to secure the lone city gaming license, writes Nick Sohr for the Daily Record.

GRAYING, CHANGING MARYLAND: Driven by a sizable baby boomer population nearing retirement age, Maryland, like the rest of the nation, grew older in the past decade. But Baltimore bucked the trend, writes the Sun’s Yeganeh June Torbati, attracting more young adults as the number of its middle-age and retiree residents shrank, according to new census figures.

An AP report in the Salisbury Daily Times says that new census data show that Maryland’s growing immigrant population helped stabilize the state’s average household size after six decades of decline.

GINGRICH IN MD: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will be a guest at the Maryland Republican Party’s Red, White and Blue Dinner, to be held June 23 at the BWI Marriott, according to an AP report at WJZ-TV.

GBC HARBOR PLANS: The Greater Baltimore Committee has unveiled a grand, $900 million plan for Baltimore’s Inner Harbor that will include a new, privately financed 18,500-seat arena topped by a 500-room hotel, both attached to an expanded Baltimore Convention Center, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

Ed Gunts of the Sun writes that construction magnate Willard Hackerman’s offer to finance and build then 18,500-seat arena, civic leaders say, will free taxpayers from having to foot the bill and significantly increasing the chances that plans for a $900 million convention center expansion and arena will become a reality.

Gunts also writes about other Inner Harbor plans.

The Sun offers a photo gallery of harbor buildings and proposed changes.

UNPAID TAXES: Erin Cunningham of the Gazette writes that two Montgomery County Council members owe more than $20,000 combined in unpaid state and federal taxes, fees and penalties, according to IRS and Montgomery Circuit Court records.

ARUNDEL BUDGET: Erin Cox of the Annapolis Capital reports that when the rancorous compromises were made by the Anne Arundel County Council, property taxes were hiked, employees were dealt a second year of pay cuts and Arundel Community College students were left facing the possibility of higher tuition.

ARUNDEL’S SENSIBLE APPROACH: The Sun editorial board praises the Anne Arundel County Council for its measured approach to its budget problems by cutting some services and slightly raising the property tax rate.

A PANDERING CUT: In writing about the Carroll County Commissioners’ budget, columnist Dean Minnich of the Carroll County Times asks why would responsible leaders cut their operating funding even more by starting out with a 2-cent cut in the tax rate? Campaign promises, and all that. Living up to the uninformed and over-the-top rhetoric and unrealistic expectations of their base constituency. That’s pandering, not leadership.

PG CORRUPTION: Prince George’s County activists say plea bargains released last week in the Jack Johnson case detailing how bribes were used to get development projects approved validates what they have been saying for years, but they add that lawmakers’ reaction to the information has been disappointing, reports the Gazette’s Daniel Valentine.

PRINCE GEORGE’S BUDGET: Miranda Spivack of the Post reports that as the Prince George’s County Council has wrangled over a proposed $50 million economic development fund, fought for a beloved nature program and rejected a 2% pay raise for 1,500 county employees, one department’s budget has hardly been touched: the council’s.

HOWARD BUDGETS PASS: Last minute Howard County Council negotiations to get unanimous support for the county’s fiscal 2012 budgets failed to please the council’s lone Republican, resulting in a 4-1 party line vote yesterday that approved a $871 million operating budget and a $179 million capital budget, Lindsey McPherson reports for the Columbia Flier.

The council did not cut a cent from County Executive Ken Ulman’s budget proposal, reports the Sun’s Larry Carson.

BA CO CUTS LITTLE: Baltimore County Council members are expected to approve County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s $1.6 billion budget today, having agreed to only minor spending cuts – $258,200, a fraction of the $1.5 million recommended by the county auditor, reports Raven Hill for the Sun.

EHRLICH ATTORNEYS: In her Sun blog, Laura Vozzella reports that attorney David Irwin’s firm is representing the Bob Ehrlich campaign in the grand jury investigation to an Election Day robocall.

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