July 7, 2011

State Roundup, July 7, 2011

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REDISTRICTING: The Post’s Aaron Davis writes that redistricting will cost House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer the most constituents of any Maryland lawmaker, and Rep. Elijah Cummings will have to gain the most, according to data released yesterday by the governor’s redistricting commission, which is tasked with rebalancing population in the state’s congressional districts.

The new districts must have roughly identical populations in a state that has seen substantial, but uneven growth over the past decade, reports David Hill for the Washington Times.

Because the congressional districts need to be drawn in time for the April 3, 2012 primary election, the General Assembly will meet in a special session to approve them, reports Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

Gov. O’Malley’s administration is anticipating the special legislative session on congressional redistricting will be held in the week of Oct. 17, an AP report in the Daily Record says.

The redistricting commission is considering a truncated public hearing schedule this year, with eight or nine meetings around the state instead of the traditional 12, Annie Linskey blogs for the Sun.

Jeanne Hitchcock, chairwoman of the committee, said she will consider the possibility of eliminating duplicative hearings, but has not decided. She said she planned to have a schedule of hearings by tomorrow, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

That five-member panel, named by Gov. Martin O’Malley on Monday, includes three powerful Democrats, a citizen who has contributed to the governor’s campaign and a former Republican lawmaker criticized for siding with O’Malley, Aaron Davis blogs for the Post.

A TOLL ON SHORE BUSINESS: Eastern Shore businesses, such as John Oertly’s Kent Island outdoors store, are dreading the proposed Bay Bridge toll hike, reports Allison Bourg for the Annapolis Capital. They believe that once travelers pay the higher toll, they won’t want to spend money at their shops, or they’ll avoid day trips to the Eastern Shore altogether.

SHA DISAPPOINTMENT: Gov. O’Malley said yesterday he is “very, very disappointed that two long-term employees let us down,” his first comments since the Friday release of a scathing report about activities in the upper ranks of the State Highway Administration, Julie Bykowicz blogs for the Sun.

O’Malley said his administration will move quickly to discipline personnel who commit serious ethical lapses in the state procurement process, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

Nick Sohr blogs for the Daily Record that an engineering executive says his firm saw no problem with an SHA bidding process that yielded the company a $16 million contract in 2008 that has since come under the scrutiny of state auditors.

JUNE CASINO REVENUES: Cheryl Mattix of the Cecil Whig writes that, noting that revenues from the Hollywood Casino Perryville went down in June, casino marketing director Marc DeLeo said, “June is a tough month for casino business in general. People have a lot of events going on in the month of June.” He added that business picked up over the July 4th holiday weekend.

DRINK TAX REVENUE: Opinionators at the Frederick News Post say that while the new alcohol tax revenue is earmarked for several specific areas this year, just wait till the 2012 General Assembly session to see some “spirited” lobbying for the funds.

SIGNATURE TALLY: State elections officials today plan to resume reporting the tally of verified signatures for the petition against the new law that would extend in-state tuition breaks at state colleges and universities to illegal immigrants, writes the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

David Hill of the Washington Times writes that, according to a count released yesterday by the state Board of Elections, organizers of the petition drive turned in nearly 75,000 signatures on June 30.

ENERGY SAVINGS CONTRACT: Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com writes that, over protests from attorneys for Veolia Energy and Comptroller Peter Franchot, the Board of Public Works approved a $27 million contract for energy savings measures in several facilities at the Port of Baltimore.

CARROLL LEGISLATION: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners met with the Carroll County delegation to the General Assembly yesterday, searching for ways to increase public participation earlier in the process of developing local legislation that will be brought to the General Assembly, reports Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times.

GOVERNMENT LEAKS: Over the weekend, a leak in the roof of the Lowe House Office Building, which is undergoing renovations, caused extensive damage to the phone system for many of the offices of the members of the Maryland General Assembly. Some phones are not functioning properly and voicemail is out for the entire legislative complex, blogs Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

HARNESS RACING: The Maryland Racing Commission yesterday approved an application by the owner of Rosecroft Raceway to resume live harness racing at the Prince George’s County track, reports Ryan Sharrow of the Baltimore Business Journal. But under the terms, Penn National Gaming Inc. must guarantee the track’s operation through 2012 and host 20 live racing dates by the end of 2011 and 54 in 2012.

The Sun’s Hanah Cho reports that the commission, expressing concerns about the harness track’s financial viability, voted 7-1 to order Penn National to cover projected operating losses for 2011 and 2012, which means live racing won’t necessarily resume any time soon.

BOSCHERT REMEMBERED: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital pays tribute to the late former Del. David Boschert as a public servant who believed in serving the public, first and foremost.

Visitation and funeral services will be held this weekend for Boschert, according to the Annapolis Capital.

REORIENT THE VOTER: Writing for Center Maryland, Clayton Mitchell Sr. says that real government reform requires a reorientation of the voting public’s expectations for the scope of government’s role in our lives; this is the only way program spending cuts and lower taxes will become a simultaneous reality.

JOHNSON STATUS UPDATE? The Post’s Miranda Spivack blogs that while Prince George’s County Council spokeswoman Karen Campbell was checking to see whether council member Leslie Johnson’s status has in any way changed, a bill Johnson sponsored to promote financial literacy was withdrawn.

INEXPERIENCE IN FREDERICK: In a thoughtful column, Elizabeth Marsh Cupino of the Frederick News Post cautions that while some credit the new Frederick County commissioners for being men of action, consider how little practical experience most of them have in the complex realities of running a county government that serves more than 230,000 people. She says they keep their own counsel almost exclusively and take public opinion with the proverbial grain of salt.

COURT SHORT LIST: A Maryland judicial commission has released the pared list of candidates Gov. O’Malley will consider for two vacancies on the Baltimore City Circuit Court, reports Danielle Ulman for the Daily Record.