June 6, 2011

State Roundup, June 6, 2011

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RECORDS PURPOSELY DESTROYED: A state health department investigator has concluded that top officials at the department’s lab wrongly orchestrated the widespread destruction of blood test records for lead-poisoned children, even as they knew the documents were being sought by the children’s attorneys through court subpoenas or public information requests, Scott Calvert reports for the Sun.

The state’s top health officials say that in the three months since revelations of widespread records destruction at the state health department’s lab, interim managers have made strides to improve its operation, Calvert also reports in the Sun. And, he writes, the lab could see more changes, based on a new report into the destruction of blood test records for lead-poisoned children.

TOLL HIKE HEARINGS: Nine public hearings have been scheduled throughout the state to gather feedback over the proposed toll increases. The first one is set for Thursday in Montgomery County, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun. The last is set for June 27 in Havre de Grace. A full schedule, with exact locations, can be found here.

JUDGE UPHOLDS STATE ON SLOTS: A would-be casino developer spurned by the state is planning to file an appeal of a Baltimore judge’s ruling upholding the state’s rejection of his proposal to build a slots parlor in the city, reports Nick Sohr for the Daily Record. Meanwhile, the chair of the commission that awards gaming licenses hailed the ruling as “great news” for Maryland’s much-maligned casino program.

GOVERNOR’S GARDEN: Maryland’s first lady, Katie O’Malley, is opening a backyard vegetable garden at the governor’s house in Annapolis, Anne Kramer reports for WBAL-AM, to encourage families to grow and eat their own healthy herbs, vegetables and fruits. (The garden was actually there last year.)

SAVE & SHARE PROGRAM: Montgomery County is letting clever employees who find ways to save county dollars share in the savings, with potential payouts in the thousands of dollars, writes Michael Laris for the Post. It’s a way of giving frontline employees a voice in the way things work.

REINING IN BENEFITS: Brian Hughes of the Washington Examiner reports that a majority of the County Council say they would vote for a multitiered disability system for police officers amid concerns about lacking oversight of such pensions and after few changes to the scrutinized program during negotiations with unions.

REZONING CONTINUES: Despite his concerns for a lack of transparency Anne Arundel County Exec John Leopold says the County Council’s rezoning process will proceed, Erin Cox reports for the Annapolis Capital.

BERNSTEIN MEMO GAFFE: Columnist Jean Marbella of the Sun writes about a recent gaffe by Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, in which a postmortem memo on a recent case was apparently intended for his staff’s eyes only but, whoops, a Sun reporter managed to get it!

The Sun editorial board writes that the released memo takes the focus away from officers’ bad conduct.

Here’s Justin Fenton’s original story for the Sun.

A portion of Dan Rodricks’ show on WYPR on Friday discussed whether the memo would jeopardize the recent guilty verdicts against two city officers on misconduct charges.

AAA FOR PG: Prince George’s County has received a AAA bond rating from all three of the major Wall Street ratings agencies for the first time, Daniel Valentine reports for the Gazette.

HERMAN CAIN: Atlanta businessman Herman Cain has become the flavor of the month on a menu of Republican presidential candidates leaving partisans hungering for something different. And Friday night, he got a hootin’ and hollerin’ reception at the Howard County Lincoln Day Dinner, writes Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com.

The Sun’s Larry Carson reports Cain offered few specifics about what he would do as president, but he didn’t need to.

MarylandReporter.com did a video interview with Cain where he did offer some specifics.

PETITION DRIVE: Local boards of elections Friday started validating the signatures on what turns out to be somewhat fewer petitions than originally claimed to overturn the law granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants, Len Lazarick writes on MarylandReporter.com. So far, according to the State Board of Elections website, 4,483 out of about 58,000 signatures submitted have been validated, and 612 were found invalid, a relatively low rate of rejection.

On the second half of WYPR’s Midday Review on Friday, Dan Rodricks talked about the petition drive with Del. Neil Parrott and Maryland Reporter’s Len Lazarick.

MARYLAND SPENDING: The state’s increase in general fund spending was among the largest in the country according to a study by the National Governor’s Association, David Hill reports in the Washington Times.

YOUNG PARTISANS: Maryland Young Republicans and Young Democrats are having a hard time attracting members, Earl Kelly reports in the Annapolis Capital.

O’MALLEY IN ASIA: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s trip to Asia will cost about $100,000, John Wagner reports in The Washington Post.

The presence of a single lobbyist on O’Malley’s trip to Asia raised eyebrows after an e-mail from her firm touted Hannah Powers presence on the trip, according Jean Marbella and Hannah Cho in the Baltimore Sun.

PETER O’MALLEY DIES: Prince George’s County lawyer Peter O’Malley, once a political power broker in the county, died May 28 in Rehoboth Beach, Del., reports Adam Berstein in The Washington Post.

HEALTH CARE: John Fritze in the Sun reports on the Maryland labor unions and businesses that have sought waivers for some of the requirements of the federal health care reform.

UMBC POWER OUT: The power’s been out since Thursday at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, reports Laura Vozzella in the Sun, and the few summer students have turned to non-electronic games and story-telling.

FREDERICK SALARIES: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports on six-figure salaries in Frederick County government.

WASHINGTON COUNTY JOBS: Economic uncertainty, access to capital and regulatory hurdles are among the issues holding back job growth in Maryland and Washington County, according to some local officials, Don Aines reports in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

BWI INTERNATIONAL HUB: The CEO of Southwest Airlines told the BWI Business Partnership Friday that the airline sees BWI airport as a potential international hub, Daniel Sernovitz reports in the Gazette.