July 22, 2011

State Roundup, July 22, 2011

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HOTEL TAX: State officials looking for more revenue are looking for ways into pressuring travel websites like Expedia and Orbitz to pay more taxes, since many sites bypass paying hotel taxes, writes The Sun’s Annie Linskey.

MACo’s Conduit Street blog reports that the Board of Revenue Estimates is conducting a study to find out exactly how much the state is missing out on from online sales.

OBAMA TOWN HALL: About 1,000 people will attend a town hall meeting with President Obama at the University of Maryland, College Park campus today, writes The Sun’s John Fritze. As Congress works to hammer out a deal on the national debt, the president is expected to talk about the economy.

O’MALLEY ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE: Gov. Martin O’Malley will announce his strategy on same-sex marriage going forward into 2012 today, reports The Sun’s Annie Linskey.

The Post’s John Wagner writes O’Malley will be supporting same-sex marriage, and has been leaning toward announcing it for more than a week.

DEBT CEILING BLAME: Speaking to members of Congress, O’Malley blamed “extreme members of the Republican Party” for the gridlock over raising the debt ceiling, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

O’Malley pleaded for a “balanced approach,” and said that some Republicans just want the economy to get worse so President Obama doesn’t win re-election in 2012, reports The Post’s Ben Pershing.

PETITION CERTIFICATION: The State Board of Elections is set to certify today the petitions collected by people who want to bring the DREAM Act to a referendum, reports Brian Witte for the Associated Press in a story appearing in the Salisbury Daily Times. Sarah Breitenbach reports the story in the Gazette

PENSION WINDFALL: The State Pension and Retirement System reported two financial victories: $6 billion from investments in fiscal year 2011, and a $73 million judgment from former actuary Milliman Inc., writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

The Baltimore Business Journal’s Gary Haber writes that Milliman Inc. is “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.

UM AUDIT: According to an audit, the University of Maryland did not get approval for $4.7 million in food expenses and did not adequately monitor faculty leave, reports Childs Walker of the Sun.

EXELON-CONSTELLATION MERGER: Maryland’s ratepayer advocate objected this week to Exelon Corp. buying out Constellation Energy Group, fearing that one company would have too much control over energy prices, reports The Sun’s Hanah Cho.

BALTIMORE SLOTS: The Daily Record’s Nick Sohr blogs that entertainment giant MGM is working with developers to potentially place a bid for the Baltimore slots parlor.

PENSION SUSTAINABILITY REPORT: The Public Employees’ and Retirees’ Benefit Sustainability Commission has released its final report, MACo blogs on Conduit Street.

O’DONNELL INTERVIEW: House of Delegates Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell was on D.C.’s NewsChannel 8 NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt, talking about the robocall case and the special legislative session slated for October. Watch the interview here.

REDISTRICTING STARTS: As public redistricting hearings are set to kick off this weekend, the legislature has readied a “Redistricting Room” for behind-the-scenes legislative wrangling, reports Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

MEDIFAST CAUCUS: At the annual J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake on Wednesday, many legislators and lobbyists on the Medifast weight loss plan say no Smith Island cake, reports The Sun’s Laura Vozzella. Among the influential losing weight on the diet plan are State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, Del. Michael Smigiel, and lobbyist Bruce Bereano.

NEW FEDERAL INSPECTOR: Baltimore native Roslyn Mazer was named the new inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, writes The Sun’s John Fritze.

BALTIMORE COUNTY GOP REDISTRICTING: Fearing that political motivations will come into play when drawing district lines in Baltimore County, the county’s Republican Central Committee announced they will be drawing their own redistricting map, reports Kevin Rector of the Towson Times.

REFERENDUM BENEFITS: The Capital staff opines that more referenda – including the 2012 vote on Maryland’s DREAM Act and any future issues that may be brought to the ballot through online petitioning sites – are good for the entire state.

PG HOSPITAL: Gov. Martin O’Malley and Prince George’s County leaders signed a partnership agreement Thursday, pledging to rescue the county’s long-struggling hospital system and to share the costs of building a new hospital, Daniel Valentine reports in the Gazette.

PEPCO SERVICE: Maryland’s Office of the People’s Counsel has urged the state Public Service Commission to fine Pepco between $10 million and $14.67 million for failing to provide reliable electric service to its customers, according to Margie Hyslop in the Gazette.

DEFAULT: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar examines what the bond rating houses said about Maryland’s finances in light of the federal debt and budget stalemate.

UNIVERSITY SYSTEM: John Toll and Peter O’Malley had a major impact on the university system in Maryland, columnist Laslo Boyd writes in the Gazette.