July 5, 2011

State Roundup, July 5, 2011

Print More

SHA VIOLATIONS: A scathing report released Friday by the state Office of Legislative Audits identifies multiple potential violations of ethics laws and the State Highway Administration’s own rules, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. Findings included: A top SHA official retired from the agency and, 12 days later, took a job with a construction management firm that benefited from a $16 million procurement he helped arrange while with the agency.

The investigation was the result of two anonymous tips left with the office’s fraud investigators, reports Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com. The findings of the audit have been turned over to the Attorney General’s Office for possible prosecution.

UNION TO COLLECT DUES: Maryland’s largest state employee union is set to begin collecting fees from nonmembers, which could mean a $4.7 million gain over the fiscal year. Writes Julie Bykowicz of the Sun, the union the sees the action as a matter of fairness, since it negotiates contracts with the state on behalf of all its bargaining members, though fewer than half pay dues.

The service fees range from $161 to $388 a year and were negotiated as part of the most recent contracts for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance, writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com

LEARNING FROM ALBANY: In a very long and thoughtful piece, the editorial board for the Sun says that momentum from Albany won’t ensure success this year, but it does outline a path to marriage equality in the Free State.

REDISTRICT PANEL: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has named those appointed to his five-member committee to draft a legislative and congressional redistricting plan for the state, reports Jenny Glick for WBAL-AM. Their first meeting is tomorrow.

NOWHERE TO GO: Josh Kurtz writes for Center Maryland that with the two Mikes (Miller and Busch) still heading up the General Assembly for what looks to be the longest running terms of Senate president and House speaker, younger legislators hoping to one day fill those spots are going gray and need some place to go.

BOATING SAFETY: Nick Madigan of the Sun reports on the state Natural Resources police officers who ply the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways, ensuring safety and compliance with law. There is also a video report here.

DREAM PETITIONS: A giddy group of mostly freshman Republican delegates and their staff and spouses turned in 74,980 signatures to the secretary of state’s office last Thursday night, filling 13 boxes with petitions from Marylanders who oppose the DREAM Act, blogs Annie Linskey for the Sun.

FRANCHOT BUYS WINE: Comptroller Peter Franchot heads up to Boordy Vineyards in Baltimore County to tout the new law allowing wine shipments to Marylanders from local and out-of-state wineries. Patch.com’s Nick Gestido was there. There’s also video of the event.

WINERIES SIGN UP: Three Frederick County wineries – Elk Run Vineyard, Black Ankle and Linganore Winecellars at Berrywine Plantation in Mount Airy – have all applied to be able to ship wine to their customers in and out of state, in accordance with the Maryland Winery Modernization Act, which went into effect on Friday, writes Aaron Messer of the Frederick News Post.

As of Friday, at least 30 wineries total, including those from out of state, have also signed up for direct shipping, blogs Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.

INTERNET TAX GRAB: Columnist Rob Spring writes for the Carroll County Times that while the state is hoping to tax internet sales as “a matter of fairness” to local businesses, he sees it as just another money grab.

MOVING DAY PROTECTION: A new state law that takes effect in October will require all movers to give a written estimate, WTOP reports. According to Del. Tom Hucker, who sponsored the bill, “The estimate has to be broken down into components, so you can see all the individual costs, and the final cost has to be no more than 25% over the estimate.”

PROVIDING HEALTH COVERAGE: The Frederick News Post editorial board urges small businesses to take advantage of the federal health care tax credit to provide much needed insurance for their employees.

CASINO TAKE DISTRIBUTION: There are two casinos in Maryland, but the communities around The Casino at Ocean Downs in Worcester County are already receiving revenue from that establishment, while Cecil County’s share from Hollywood Casino Perryville has yet to be disbursed, writes Jane Bellmyer of the Cecil Whig.

MOONEY UPBEAT: Former state Sen. Alex Mooney may have lost his re-election bid in November but as chairman of the Maryland Republican Party he’s seeing a variety of positive signs for the state GOP, according to a story at WBAL-AM.

CARDIN GOES GREENER: Sen. Ben Cardin, a longtime advocate of the Chesapeake Bay, is wading into the high-profile debate over the federal regulation of pesticides, writes the Sun’s John Fritze, instantly putting him at odds with fellow Democrats while potentially raising his national profile on environmental issues.

WARGOTZ MAY RUN AGAINST CARDIN: Maryland has two seats in the U.S. Senate just like every other state in the union and while Dr. Eric Wargotz lost his bid for one last year, he may shoot for the other in 2012 this time against incumbent U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, Daniel Divilio writes for the Star Democrat.

IGNORING 1st DISTRICT: The Sun’s John Fritze writes that national political groups, including the Democrats, are bypassing Maryland when it comes to the race for the 1st Congressional District seat, now occupied by Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who won the seat with a double-digit margin last year.

4 ASK JOHNSON RESIGNATION: Four members of the nine-member Prince George’s County Council have now called for Leslie Johnson’s swift resignation, following her guilty plea following a corruption probe that also ensnared her husband, former PG County Exec Jack Johnson, writes Miranda Spivack for the Post.

“I just think that it’s in the best interest of the county that we move forward from this and we get closure on this and have the next District 6 person get in office and up to speed as quickly as possible,” said Councilman Eric Olson for a Gazette story written by Liz Skalski and Daniel Leaderman.

AND CANDIDATES LINE UP: A field of candidates is already lining up to replace Leslie Johnson on the Prince George’s County Council when she leaves in October, but voters say none of her potential replacements is suitable to lead the district any better than Johnson can, reports Ben Giles for the Washington Examiner.

TIME TO RETIRE: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks calls for the retirement of Thomas Bollinger, associate judge of the Baltimore County Circuit Court, who once again has made sympathetic remarks toward a man who was charged with sexual assault.

ARUNDEL FARMERS PROTEST PERMITS: Whether raising crops or horses, Anne Arundel farmers say that the county’s oversight of grading and building required to maintain their businesses is too stringent and that sometimes they have to pay thousands of dollars for permits for work they once did under a general grading plan, reports E.B. Furgurson for the Annapolis Capital.

HOLMES RETIRES: Before retiring last week, Judy Holmes spent four decades with a front row seat to the inner workings of Anne Arundel County government, writes Erin Cox for the Annapolis Capital. As council administrator, she was a confidant of politicians and department heads, the woman in control of every County Council meeting since 1982. About 3,000 county laws bear her signature.

FORMER DEL. BOSCHERT DIES: David Boschert, 63,who served Anne Arundel County in the Maryland House of Delegates as a Republican and was earlier on the County Council as a moderate Democrat, died of liver and pancreatic cancer last week at his home, reports Jacques Kelly of the Sun.

Del. Cathleen Vitale remembers Boschert as someone who was always giving her advice, even if it was unsolicited, writes Sarah Brietenbach for the Gazette.

FREDERICK CHARTER FUNDS: The Frederick County Charter Board is asking for $25,000 in county funding to do public outreach and hire an expert to draft the document, Meg Tully reports for the Frederick News Post.

WICOMICO CHARTER REVIEW: Greg Latshaw of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that the Wicomico County Council is expected today to discuss plans for appointing a Charter Review Committee, which is supposed to study the county bylaws and make suggestions for improvement. The charter calls for this review every 10 years.

COURT LIMITS WATCHDOG BITE: Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner reports that the Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that Montgomery County’s top watchdog does not have the authority to access records of an investigation by the police department’s Internal Affairs Division.