July 12, 2011

State Roundup, July 12, 2011

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DEFICIT FIX: Maryland lawmakers plan to weigh new taxes on snack foods, medicine and online sales, as well as an increase in the state’s gasoline tax, as they prepare for a special General Assembly session in the face of a $1.1 billion structural deficit, writes Hayley Peterson of the Washington Examiner.

ENERGY ZONE SLASHED: Citing shipping concerns, the federal government has slashed the offshore area near Ocean City where wind turbines can be located by more than half – from 206 square nautical miles to 94 square miles, reports The Sun’s Timothy Wheeler.

STATE CENTER: The Sun’s Jay Hancock blogs about the reaction from the Department of Transportation and Department of General Services about the Maryland Public Policy Institute’s critical study of the State Center project in Baltimore.

In asking if Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Is Rawlings-Blake is fighting against “wealthy” and “powerful” interests or on behalf of other wealthy and powerful interests, Red Maryland recaps the controversy surrounding the redevelopment and expansion of State Center, and where its supporters are putting their political donations.

CARDIN ON DEBT: U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin said that the federal government needs to come up with a “fair and balanced” mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to cut the debt, create jobs, and help the economy, reports C. Benjamin Ford from The Gazette.

1974 LAW IMPACT: The Maryland Association of Counties’ Conduit Street examines a land use law from 1974 and its impact on Maryland today.

DREAM ACT: Some Maryland Republicans who voted in favor of providing in-state college tuition breaks to undocumented students in 2003 are now helping to lead the charge against it, Dave Collins of WBAL-TV reports.

By the end of the day Monday, the State Board of Elections certified more than 87,000 signatures on petitions for a referendum of the law permitting illegal immigrants to receive in-state tuition, blogs The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz.

EDWARDS ON TOP: U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards a fiery liberal with three years of congressional experience under her belt, appears to be trumping Rep. Steny Hoyer when it comes to convincing their Democratic colleagues in the delegation which of the state’s Republican-held seats to target in the upcoming redistricting process, writes Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland.

ENDANGERED STATE BUG: The Maryland state insect is the Baltimore checkerspot butterfly, but it may not be for long. The species of butterfly is endangered in its adopted home state, reports the Frederick News Post’s Blair Ames at WTOP Radio.

CURRIE’S PASSPORT: State Sen. Ulysses Currie’s lawyers are trying to get his passport back so he can attend a National Conference of State Legislators conference in Canada next month, according to an Associated Press story in The Daily Record. Currie turned in his passport after being charged with accepting bribes and lying to investigators.

PEPCO POPULARITY: In a recent national study about customer satisfaction with utilities, Pepco finished dead last, reports The Gazette’s Margie Hyslop.

HOCO SMOKING BAN: Howard County Executive Ken Ulman plans to issue an executive order banning smoking in all county parks, reports The Sun’s Jessica Anderson. New smoking restrictions will go into effect in Howard County, reports Steve Fermier of WBAL-AM. County health officer Peter Beilenson says that while it is a health priority, it is also a matter of the majority rules. Here’s the audio report.

JOHNSON BACK TO WORK: It was back to work for Leslie Johnson, who reported to the office for the first time Monday since pleading guilty to destruction of evidence in a public corruption case, reports The Post’s Miranda Spivack. Johnson will officially resign on July 31.

DEAN BACKS TURNER: Sam Dean, who last held the Prince George’s County Council seat being vacated by Leslie Johnson, is endorsing community activist Arthur Turner to replace her, blogs Miranda Spivack of The Post.

RELIGIOUS COMPROMISE: Ending a dispute over whether it was appropriate to begin meetings with the Lord’s Prayer, the Salisbury City Council decided to open meetings with prayers from people of differing faiths, reports The Salisbury Daily Times’ Sarah Lake.

EXPANDED ENTERPRISE ZONE: Gov. Martin O’Malley expanded the Cambridge-Dorchester County Enterprise Zone by 507 acres on Friday, reports Katie Fitzpatrick of the Easton Star Democrat

GROUP HOME FIGHT: Despite public outcry, controversy and the involvement of state legislators, if a health care company can get the proper licenses, a large Ruxton residence may be transformed into a private mental health group home, writes Barbara Pash of MarylandReporter.com

HARFORD COUNCIL FIGHTS HIKE: Among other items, the Harford County Council will weigh-in on the proposed Hatem Bridge toll increase tonight by introducing a resolution indicating its opposition to the fee hike, writes Brian Goodman of The Dagger.