July 21, 2011

State Roundup, July 21, 2011

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DEBT CRISIS DELAYS BOND SALE: Maryland will delay borrowing more than $700 million to give investors time to digest the debate over raising the federal debt ceiling, state Treasurer Nancy Kopp announced yesterday. The move, writes the Sun’s John Fritze, comes a day after Moody’s Investors Service said it would review “for possible downgrade” the credit ratings of Maryland and four other states.

AFFECTING MARYLAND: In an op-ed in the Sun, state Sen. Jim Rosapepe writes that Maryland’s members of Congress should think about what a federal default means for Maryland as they consider the willingness of some Republicans in Congress to default rather than vote to raise the nation’s debt limit.

The editorial board for the Carroll County Times is urging members of Congress to compromise on the debt ceiling crisis.

OBAMA AT COLLEGE PARK: The Diamondback’s Yasmeen Abutaleb quotes College Park Mayor Andy Fellows as saying that President Barack Obama, who is expected to address the debt-ceiling stalemate tomorrow at the University of Maryland College Park, likely chose the campus as a venue for discussing budget issues to demonstrate his unwavering commitment to higher education.

ON HOOK FOR PENSIONS: Maryland’s highest court ruled yesterday that an actuarial firm is on the hook for about $73 million after making mistakes in valuations for three state retirement programs over more than two decades, Steve Kilar reports for the Sun.

CLAIMS PAID IN ERROR: A state audit has found that because it did not verify information, the state Mental Hygiene Administration paid claims to people who might not have been eligible or who were dead, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

POWER PLANT POLLUTION: Ninety-one percent of industrial air toxins in Maryland originate from power plants, Reity O’Brien reports for the Cecil Whig. According to a report released yesterday, this ranks the state fifth in the nation on a list of the most toxic air pollution from coal- and fuel-burning power facilities. But U.S. Rep. Andy Harris dismissed the report as overtly political.

JOHNSON’S PENSION: Following up a story in the Annapolis Capital, Daniel Valentine of the Gazette looks into the $39,000 a year pension that former Prince George’s County Exec Jack Johnson is legally entitled to despite his guilty plea in a federal corruption probe. The timing of his plea secured his pension.

REDISTRICTING HEARINGS: The first two of 12 public hearings across the state are slated for Saturday in Hancock and Frederick, according to the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Click here for guidelines on testifying and other information.

STATEHOUSE WI-FI: The entire State House complex will provide free public wi-fi access starting with the 2012 legislative session, and the General Assembly website could get a complete overhaul by 2013, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

O’MALLEY’S CUDGEL: When Gov. Martin O’Malley leaves Maryland these days, writes John Wagner for the Post, he often carries a cudgel. Since becoming chair of the Democratic Governors Association, he has been working hard to toughen up the organization and make it a more pointed voice on issues that divide Democrats and Republicans.

CRABS & POLITICS: Greg Latshaw of the Salisbury Daily Times writes about the usually politics-laden Millard Tawes Crabfest in Crisfield, which drew a smaller than usual crowd likely due to the economy and the fact that it isn’t an election year. Click through the photo gallery and you are likely to see one or two politicians.

SLOTS PLAN EXTENSION: Maryland’s slots commission, after convening a meeting on short notice, decided to give Baltimore developers an additional two months to hand in their casino proposals, adding yet another twist to the long-delayed project, Annie Linskey blogs for the Sun.

The state initially set a July 28 deadline, but the commission decided to extend that until Sept. 23, reports Daniel Sernovitz for the Baltimore Business Journal.

BONGINO AT BECK RALLY: The Sun’s John Fritze blogs that Dan Bongino, the former U.S. Secret Service agent who is hoping to unseat Ben Cardin in the U.S. Senate, will travel to Israel next month to attend a rally being organized by the outgoing Fox commentator and conservative icon Glenn Beck.

FED DATA CENTERS TO CLOSE: The federal government plans to close more than 20 data centers in Maryland – and 373 nationwide – by the end of 2012, part of a nationwide effort to reduce redundancy and save money on electricity-hungry computer servers, blogs John Fritze for the Sun.

DEM CHALLENGE DISMISSED: Saying the suit essentially asked him to legislate a change to the Harford County charter, a circuit judge yesterday threw out a lawsuit from Harford County Democrats who are challenging the makeup of the all-Republican commission drawing new County Council district lines, writes Mary Gail Hare for the Sun.