July 26, 2011

State Roundup, July 26, 2011

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GOV. NEEDS TO EXPLAIN: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com takes a closer look at Gov. O’Malley’s inability to articulate clearly what changed his mind to support gay marriage, which could harm his attempts to win over the necessary votes in the House of Delegates as well as persuade the populace should the issue be brought to referendum.

FEDERAL WORKERS RALLY: As the president and the Speaker of the House intensified their debate over raising the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling last night, writes John Fritze of the Sun, the real world impact was reflected among Maryland federal workers, 150 of whom rallied at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn to show their concern for cuts that may be coming to the federal work force as well as safety net programs.

FEDERAL DEPENDENCY BODES ILL: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes about a new report by a Maryland business group that says the state’s economy would suffer disproportionately from the likely downsizing of the federal government in coming years, perhaps losing 150,000 jobs if the 22% reduction in spending recommended by the president’s budget commission were implemented.

“This has to be a wake-up call for all of us,” said businessman John Delaney, who launched the business group, Blueprint Maryland, reports Jeff Clabaugh in the Baltimore Business Journal.

Here’s a link to the study.

STUDENTS WEIGH IN: The Post’s Mike Rosenwald blogs about Kaiyi Xie, the student body president of the University of Maryland, who was on Capitol Hill yesterday throwing the weight of his 26,000 constituents around in the epic debt ceiling battle and sounding rather presidential. He’ll apparently be part of a conference call today with President Obama. Be sure to click on the video link.

THIRD OF SIGNERS ARE DEMOCRATS: Nearly one out of every three people who signed a petition opposing the Maryland Dream Act are registered Democrats, blogs the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

CURRIE CHARGES: A federal judge said yesterday he will rule by next week whether eight bribery and extortion charges filed against state Sen. Ulysses Currie and two former executives of Shoppers Food Warehouse, which employed Currie as a consultant, will stand, writes the Sun’s Tricia Bishop.

Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that Currie’s attorney had argued that the federal law that bars legislators from exploiting their “official duties” for financial gain is unconstitutionally vague with regard to Maryland’s part-time lawmakers.

MTA SEEKS PRIVATE PARTNER, AGAIN: Almost nine months after the Maryland Transportation Authority canceled its first effort to form a public-private partnership to operate replacements for two aging travel plazas, it is trying again with a bid solicitation that isn’t quite as persnickety about every last detail, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

UB DIDN’T FOLLOW THE MONEY: The University of Baltimore lost track of $350,000 in unused loan and scholarship checks, did not take steps to collect overdue tuition and did not always verify that students were eligible for reduced in-state tuition, writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com

SOLAR MANUFACTURER TO CLOSE: BP Solar warned state regulators yesterday that it will close what remains of its Frederick operation and lay off 58 employees starting this fall, reports Jamie Smith Hopkins in the Sun. The company’s decision to shut the facility, cutting research and development jobs as well as sales and marketing positions, came after it relocated the manufacturing operation overseas.

CONSUMERS DUMP BGE PLAN: Liz Kay and Julie Baughman of the Sun report that as consumer advocates called for a review of BGE’s PeakRewards program, the utility said that more than 3,800 customers have dropped or modified their participation after seeing air conditioners cycled off for hours Friday — the hottest day in 75 years.

HATEM TOLL E-ZPASS? Cheryl Mattix of the Cecil Whig reports that state Sen. Nancy Jacobs hopes the Maryland Transportation Authority will embrace her idea to offer Cecil and Harford county residents what she is calling “an E-ZPass version of the AVI decal” for use on the Hatem Bridge only. The Hatem Bridge is one of many in the state that has been recommended for toll hikes.

BAY TOLL FIGHT: Members of the General Assembly delegation for Maryland’s Eastern Shore may not have a vote on increasing toll rates for the Bay Bridge crossing the Chesapeake, but they are continuing to fight the state’s proposal, writes Daniel Divilio for the Easton Star Democrat.

DISENGAGED IN CARROLL: Carroll County Times columnist Dean Minnich takes the County Commissioners to task for not being engaged with the issues of their entire constituency and instead betting that their conservative base of 21% of the voters will keep them in office.

DEMS SEEK FAVORABLE LINES: At Saturday’s hearing on redistricting, Frederick County Democrats spoke up, saying they want their congressional district lines redrawn to give their party a fighting chance, writes Katherine Heerbrandt of the Gazette.

BA CO GOP ON REDISTRICTING: The Baltimore County Republican Central Committee will gather input on state redistricting issues at a community hearing on Aug. 4 at the Holiday Inn in Timonium, Raven Hill blogs for the Sun.