July 18, 2011

State Roundup, July 18, 2011

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ICC TAKES ITS TOLL: The Bay Bridge made more than enough money to pay for itself last year — $10 million more. The tunnels under Baltimore waterways, too, made money: To the tune of $73.5 million after paying their bills. This is why many are blaming the Intercounty Connector for the proposed tripling of Bay Bridge rates and the hikes in other tolls, writes Tina Reed for the Annapolis Capital.

BAY BRIDGE TOLL: Several hundred people packed into Stephen Decatur Middle School to air grievances and voice concerns about the proposed increases to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge toll, writes Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times.

Arguing that the proposed Bay Bridge toll hike is reasonable, the editorialists for the Salisbury Daily Times write that tolls are user fees, and these facilities are supported financially by those who use them. Surpluses support shortfalls, and some years it’s western shore toll roads that cover the Bay Bridge tolls.

BAY BRIDGE WORK: A $19.5 million cleaning and painting project on the west span of the Bay Bridge begins today, writes Shauna Thompson of the Easton Star Democrat. One lane of the westbound span will be closed from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. through Wednesday and from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Thursday.

OVERHAULING TRANSIT: Marc Steiner and his guests on WEAA-FM tackle big questions surrounding Maryland’s transportation system, such as how can the public transit system be overhauled to make sure it serves the needs of everyone in the state? What’s the future of the MARC system, the InterCounty Connector and the buses in Baltimore?

LEANING TOWARD GAY MARRIAGE BILL: John Wagner of the Post blogs that Gov. Martin O’Malley now is leaning toward sponsoring a bill next year to allow same-sex marriage in Maryland, a move that gay-rights advocates have been urging.

According to an AP report in the Sun, “I think we can learn from what they did,” O’Malley said concerning New York’s passage of its same-sex marriage bill. He added that he will push harder for a same-sex marriage measure next year if it mirrors New York’s, which also protected religious freedom.

BLOCKING THE BILL: Meanwhile, local Republicans are looking at the upcoming DREAM Act referendum and seeing a way to block any same-sex marriage bill the General Assembly passes next session, reports Earl Kelly for the Annapolis Capital. They also say petition drives have become a way to make the Democratic-controlled General Assembly give the minority party more respect.

A GOOD REDISTRICTING PLAN: Todd Eberly of St. Mary’s College writes for the Sunday Post local opinion page that Maryland officials don’t have to spend much time reviewing voter rolls and computer data to achieve a model redistricting plan. All they have to do is adopt the plan offered by Maryland Republicans.

Maryland’s efforts to redraw eight congressional maps, 47 legislative districts and local boundaries in each county by February will go quickly, bring painful compromises and are certain to end up being challenged in court, the state’s top redistricting expert told Prince George’s County delegates, writes Daniel Valentine for the Gazette. There are two corrections to this story posted on Friday.

ROBOCALL ARRAIGNMENT: Two men accused of suppressing voter turnout on Election Day last year are due in court this morning, reports Steve Fermier of WBAL-AM. A grand jury last month indicted political consultant Julius Henson and Bob Ehrlich’s 2010 campaign manager Paul Schurick. Listen to the report here. Listen to the robocall here.

As the case goes to court, Aaron Davis of the Post profiles the lesser known of the two, political consultant Julius Henson.

POACHING CRACKDOWN: The discovery of miles of illegal nets in the Chesapeake earlier this year has sparked a sweeping plan to crack down on striped bass poaching. As Gigi Barnett of WJZ reports, Natural Resources Police want to fast-track the proposal before the start of another fishing season.

POLLUTION FIGHTER: Since Kathy Kinsey began working with the Maryland Department of the Environment, she has had a hand in regulating everything from lead paint to coal-fired power plant emissions. Now, as a deputy secretary for the agency, her days will be even more filled, Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News Post.

TAWES CRABFEST DOWNPLAYS TURNOUT: Organizers of Wednesday’s J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clam Bake are expecting a crowd to show up at the 35th annual event, which traditionally mixes Crisfield seafood and state politics, but it may not be as big as in previous years, Liz Holland writes for the Salisbury Daily Times.

MML AT 75: The Maryland Municipal League, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, works to strengthen and support municipal government — a completely optional level of government — through advocacy and leadership, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

NUTRIA WAR: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin announced the reauthorization of bipartisan legislation to expand nutria eradication efforts in Maryland and Louisiana and begin eradication programs in Delaware, Virginia, Oregon, North Carolina and Washington.

BOND SALE DELAY? Hayley Peterson of the Washington Examiner writes that Maryland officials are considering postponing upcoming bond sales if Congress doesn’t reach a deal on the debt ceiling soon.

DEBT-CEILING HANGS OVER MD: As Washington attempts to negotiate a deal to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 or risk defaulting on the nation’s financial obligations, hundreds of thousands of Maryland-based federal employees, contractors and Social Security beneficiaries are watching the political brinksmanship warily, John Fritze and Don Markus report for the Sun.

HARRIS ON DEBT CEILING: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is standing firm on his desire to see the federal government cut spending and pass a balanced budget amendment before he would agree to an increase on the debt ceiling, reports Daniel Divilio of the Easton Star Democrat.

WALDORF JUVIE CENTER PROPOSED: Erica Mitrano of SoMdNews.com reports that the state has backed off a controversial plan to build a juvenile detention center in Nanjemoy, proposing to build the 48-bed facility for temporary detention of minors ages 12 to 17 in Waldorf instead.

HARNESS RACING: Liz Farmer of the Washington Examiner follows up earlier stories, writing that the Maryland Racing Commission conditionally awarded a racing license to Rosecroft Raceway’s owner, Penn National Gaming, but said the company needed to front more than $2 million to cover estimated potential operating losses through 2012.

CHANCELLOR TOLL DIES: John Toll, a gifted physicist and founding chancellor of the University System of Maryland, died Friday of heart failure at the Fox Hill assisted-living Facility in Bethesda. He was 87, writes Liz Bowie of the Baltimore Sun.

Toll is credited with redefining Washington College as one of the nation’s premier institutions of higher education, writes Chris Knauss of the Easton Star Democrat.

O’MALLEY ON U.S. DEBT, IMPASSE, OBAMA: Calling it a “partisan-osaurus,” Gov. O’Malley is warning fellow Democrats in Utah of the dinosaur-like creature that is preventing the federal government from moving forward on the budget impasse, writes John Wagner of the Post.

O’Malley, who is also head of the Democratic Governors Association, also accused GOP debt negotiators in Washington of trying to undermine the economy so President Barack Obama will lose his re-election bid next year, reports WBAL’s Robert Lang and the AP.

COUNTY FINANCE REVIEWS: Howard County is conducting a review of its finances and County Executive Ken Ulman, president of the Maryland Association of Counties, is urging other jurisdictions to do the same in light of the federal debt crisis, Lindsey McPherson reports for the Howard County Times.

BA CO DISTRICTING BATTLE: Baltimore County Councilman Ken Oliver said he’s secured support from Randallstown and Woodlawn area legislators in opposing a plan to shift the council boundary lines surrounding the Social Security Administration headquarters, Raven Hill blogs for the Sun.

PRIVATIZING FREDERICK: Following up on several stories in the Frederick News Post, Jean Marbella of the Sun reports that the Frederick County, with 233,000 residents, could become the largest U.S. jurisdiction to privatize what have traditionally been services provided by public employees.

The editorial board for the Frederick News Post, which has previously raised  questions about the County Commissioners, writes that opposition to the privatization idea is fierce and directed.

NO FREE SCHOOL LUNCH: In some parts of the state, students who owe money for public school cafeteria lunches are served cereal and milk instead of a regular hot meal — until their parents pay up, according to an informal survey conducted by the Allegany County Board of Education, which is attempting to toughen its policy to collect more than $30,000 parents owe for school lunches, Kristin Harty Barkley reports for the Cumberland Times News.

NEW COURTHOUSE UNLIKELY: Daniel Sernovitz reports for the Baltimore Business Journal that downtown Baltimore’s chances for a new federal courthouse in the near future are slim to none, according to one of the federal government’s top real estate experts.

CANDIDATE BARRED FROM THEATER: Tom Kiefaber, a candidate for Baltimore City Council president, has been ordered to stay away from the historic theater he once owned after its new operator alleged he assaulted staff members on the opening night of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” Julie Bykowicz reports for the Sun.

DINING WITH DOGS IN CARROLL: Carroll County residents and restaurants begin to seek to utilize new law allowing dining with pets alfresco, writes Peter Panepinto of the Carroll County Times.

  • Dave Willemain

    How insensitive that a school system would further stigmatize student  with a lunch that makes them 2nd class because they lack the money to pay.