July 25, 2011

State Roundup, July 25, 2011

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REDISTRICTING DILEMMAS: Aaron Davis of the Post reports that, as Maryland’s redistricting process begins, African Americans – who now make up almost a third of the state’s population but have only two of eight members of its powerful state delegation to the U.S. House – are increasingly split over whether their priority should be to push to redraw lines to ensure better representation for blacks or to protect Maryland’s white incumbents because of the coveted positions of power they have attained on Capitol Hill. The Post also created a graphic to illustrate the situation.

More of Montgomery County needs to be included in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District. That was the message conveyed by many of the 11 speakers during the second public hearing held Saturday by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Redistricting Advisory Committee, Blair Ames reports for the Frederick News Post.

A series of Democrats from Maryland’s westernmost corner sent a clear message to legislative map makers: Give us a chance to take this congressional seat, blogs Annie Linskey for the Sun. Brian Witte had the story for the Associated Press.

Andy Schotz in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports on the sparsely attended hearing in Hancock.

GAY MARRIAGE: Standing with House and Senate supporters, Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Friday afternoon that he will lead the charge for gay marriage in Maryland and put his name on a bill that allows same-sex couples to wed, blogs Annie Linskey for the Sun. Here’s Sun video of the announcement.

Patch.com was also at the announcement. Here’s Nick DiMarco’s story. The video link of the announcement is above the article.

Gay couples throughout the state are taking heart in O’Malley’s backing of the bill, write Julie Bykowicz, Scott Calvert and Tim Smith of the Sun.

Brian Hughes of the Washington Examiner writes that the state could become ground zero for cultural issues next year, with a voter referendum set to determine tuition rates for illegal immigrants and another potentially on the way to decide whether same-sex couples can marry in the state.

The Sun’s editorial board writes that advocates for marriage equality have taken several important steps toward reversing their narrow defeat in this year’s General Assembly session, but none were nearly so important as the boost they got from Gov. Martin O’Malley.

SAVE FOR A RAINY DAY: Revenues for the fiscal year that just ended are expected to be $300 million above estimates, but Comptroller Peter Franchot strongly recommended Gov. Martin O’Malley and legislative leaders place the money in the state’s rainy day fund to prepare for more tough economic times ahead, Megan Poinski writes for MarylandReporter.com.

Franchot also cited new unemployment numbers that showed that Maryland also lost jobs again last month, Aaron Davis reports for the Post.

NO GOLDEN PARACHUTE: The Sun editorial board is urging the General Assembly to the change the laws governing politicians’ pensions to make it impossible for those who as convicted felons break the public trust from getting the golden parachute. Of course, the editorial references former Prince George’s exec Jack Johnson.

BALLOT EFFORT PASSES: The State Board of Elections on Friday notified petitioners that they have succeeded in their effort to have Maryland voters weigh in on a new law enabling illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. But advocates of the bill have until Aug. 1 to file a lawsuit challenging the referendum.

IRREGULAR TOLL PANEL: Annapolis Capital columnist Eric Hartley writes that the “citizens panel” making up the Maryland Transportation Authority that suggested the recent toll hikes include a bank CEO, a former Black & Decker vice president and two former assistant U.S. secretaries of transportation. No one is just a regular guy who will feel the impact of the hikes.

TRIAL DELAYS: In the years since corrections officer David McGuinn was stabbed to death at the House of Correction in Jessup, major changes have been made to Maryland’s corrections system for the good. But a re-written state death penalty law from 2009, some say, is causing further delays in bringing to trial two of the men accused of killing him.

STATE CENTER: A vision to create a 21st-century urban village in midtown Baltimore has faced more potential setbacks in the past month than perhaps at any time in the decade-long effort to transform State Center, the aging state government office complex, into a $1.5 billion mix of offices, homes, shops and plazas, reports Lorraine Mirabella for the Sun.

The battle over the State Center megaproject is widely seen as a conflict between developers. Downtown Baltimore landlords contend the midtown development will drain office tenants and spending from their harbor front, writes Jay Hancock in a Sun column. But the central question is whether Maryland taxpayers should subsidize a struggling Baltimore with State Center rents that are 40% over those for existing office space.

SOLAR LEASE QUESTIONED: State Sen. Christopher Shank wants the state to renegotiate a proposed lease for a company to build a $70 million solar farm on prison land near Hagerstown. His complaint is the lease price: $128 an acre per year, which he says is insufficient, writes Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

WIND FARM PITFALLS: A retired Gulf Oil executive, Charles Campbell, writes for the op-ed page of the Sun that wind farms are not a reliable source of energy nor are they the answer to cutting greenhouse emissions.

BGE PROGRAM CAUSES ANGER, REVIEW: BGE is reviewing its PeakRewards program, officials said yesterday, after emergency activation of the energy-saving program turned off air conditioning for hours during the hottest part of Friday, angering customers, Andrea Siegel writes for the Sun.

But on Saturday, it was standing firmly behind the program, even as participating customers’ tempers continued to flare after thousands of air conditioning units were turned off for hours as part of the energy-saving program during the intense heat of the day before, Tricia Bishop and Steve Kilar report for the Sun.

TAWES CRAB & GAB: Earl Kelly of the Annapolis Capital turns out a nice story on the politicians who did attend the Tawes Crabfest last Wednesday, including former Gov. Marvin Mandel and some gubernatorial hopefuls.

SCHAEFER IN PRIVATE: A good lesson in keeping your personal life separate from politics can be learned by reading this Laura Vozzella story about Jeanne Bell, the woman who was the late William Donald Schaefer’s longtime friend and girlfriend. Click on the video link to view the former governor and city mayor in a more relaxed setting with Bell.

RAISE DEBT CEILING: President Barack Obama, speaking to students at the University of Maryland on Friday, reiterated his desire for a broad agreement to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit, even as the latest attempt at a “grand plan” took fire from all sides and the clock began to run out, the Sun’s John Fritze and Childs Walker report.

OBAMA SHOUTOUT TO KRATOVIL: Democrat Frank Kratovil hasn’t decided whether to run for his old seat in Congress next year, but he nevertheless made an interesting play Friday by showing up to President Barack Obama‘s town hall at the University of Maryland. The move appeared to pay off, blogs the Sun’s John Fritze.

O’MALLEY AIMS AT ROMNEY: The Post’s John Wagner blogs that O’Malley took aim Friday at former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, saying the leading GOP presidential candidate had “joined the dinosaur wing of the Republican Party and endorsed extreme, job-killing policies.” The broadside by the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association followed Romney’s release of a new video critical of President Obama’s record on jobs.

STATE POLICE CHIEF RETIRING: State Police Col. Terrence Sheridan, who has led the state police throughout nearly all of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tenure, will retire at the end of the month, blogs Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.

PUSH FOR CONSUMER DEBT PROOF: Companies that buy past-due consumer debts and sue to collect have won judgments against Marylanders even though the documentation to prove those cases often has been thin and the consumer likely didn’t know they were being summonsed to court, writes Jamie Smith Hopkins for the Sun. Now Maryland’s highest court is about to consider a change in rules making it clear that debt buyers cannot expect a judgment against a no-show defendant without presenting sufficient evidence to back up their claims. Be sure to click on the video link above the article to learn about the University of Maryland’s consumer debt clinic.

LATE TERM ABORTION PROVIDER: Lena Sun of the Post profiles Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who travels from his home in Nebraska almost every week to perform abortions at a clinic in Germantown, Md. He rarely stays at the same hotel twice. He rolls dice to pick the route he’ll take to work, because “the biggest part of security is not being predictable,” he said. Maryland has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the state. To get a glimpse at what the public is saying, click here.

FREDERICK PRIVATIZATION: In the wake of Frederick County considering some privatization of services Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post looks at several Georgia towns to see what worked and what didn’t when they implemented it.

CANDIDATE BANNED AGAIN: Tom Kiefaber, a candidate for Baltimore City Council president, has not only been banned from the Senator Theater, which he used to own, he has now been banned from City Hall unless he’s expected — and escorted — by someone inside, writes Tricia Bishop for the Sun.