August 1, 2011

State Roundup, August 1, 2011

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FEDERAL DEAL REACHED: President Obama and congressional leaders last night sealed a deal to raise the federal debt limit that includes sharp spending cuts but no new taxes, breaking a partisan impasse that has driven the nation to the brink of a government default, reports Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane for the Post.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers were expected to vote today on the White House-backed deal, which raises the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling and cuts about $2.4 trillion from the deficit over the next decade, write Reuters’ reporters Andy Sullivan and Laura MacInnis in the Sun.

LEADING UP TO DEAL: Writing for the Frederick News Post, columnist Hardy Stone says that gullible freshman members of Congress, hoodwinked by a seasoned D.C. lobbyist, signed oaths to not raise taxes, which helped to spur this impasse over the debt ceiling crisis.

Jennifer Lynch, writing for Center Maryland, opines that the United States reached the debt crisis because somewhere between John Adams and John Boehner, our political system has moved from the responsibility to govern to the responsibility to maintain power.

The staff of the Frederick News Post writes that on Saturday night, U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski had insisted that the Senate come together to pass the plan offered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to avoid defaulting on the national debt and downgrading of their credit rating.

Chris Knauss of the Easton Star Democrat reports on how Mikulski and other Maryland lawmakers were slogging through the debt-resolution crisis nearing its head in Congress.

On Friday, Sen. Ben Cardin said he is less confident than he was a day ago that Congress can agree on a deal to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by Aug. 2 and he warned that whatever agreement ultimately emerges will likely have a disproportionate effect on Maryland.

Maryland’s two Republican lawmakers backed a plan in the House of Representatives on Friday to raise the nation’s debt ceiling as the state’s Democrats voted unanimously against it, blogs the Sun’s John Fritze.

CUTS TO MARYLAND: Earl Kelly of the Annapolis Capital takes a close look at the Blueprint Maryland report, reported here last week, concerning what large federal cuts would mean to unemployment and for state government and the services it provides.

In the Sun, Jamie Smith Hopkins interviews John Delaney, who founded Blueprint Maryland.

IMMIGRATION DIVIDE: Maryland has a split personality about illegal immigrants — a divide illustrated this year by the legislature’s passage of a bill to provide college tuition breaks to undocumented state high school graduates only to have it put on hold by a citizen petition, writes Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.

Gustavo Torres, of CASA de Maryland, talks with the Sun’s Kenneth Lam about the growth in immigrants coming to the state and the importance of helping immigrant students continue their education beyond high school. View the video here.

And you can also view the Sun’s Jed Kirschbaum video of Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins speaking about that county’s involvement with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement program.

BONGINO REVEALED: Republican Daniel Bongino, who is hoping to run against U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, said he is prepared for the Senate based on his world travels and leadership role in the Secret Service and the political discussions to which he was privy. Daniel Divilio of the Easton Star Democrat profiles the candidate.

HARRIS PART II: Here’s Part II of Brad Gerick’s video interview with Andy Harris for Patch.com. You can find Part I here.

OPEN SPACE MOVES: The state’s Program Open Space has a new home agency and more flexibility with how funds can be spent, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com. Using funds from real estate transfer taxes, the program buys land to conserve open space that can be used to preserve natural habitats or create parks and other recreational areas.

POLITICS OF REDISTRICTING: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post says it’s time to take the politics out of redistricting. The board states that it says this in full knowledge that the statement is prima facie ridiculous, especially here in Maryland, and that somewhere in Annapolis (maybe even here in Frederick), someone is laughing at what was just stated.

Hayley Peterson of the Washington Examiner reports that Maryland Democrats are trying to push one of its two Republican congressional representatives out of office by moving Rockville and possibly Germantown into the solidly red Western Maryland district represented by long-time Republican U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett.

HIGH-SPEED INTERNET: Enhanced online access is what state and Prince George’s County officials expect to accomplish over the next two years with the help of a $115 million federal stimulus grant aimed at providing warp-speed Internet connections throughout much of Maryland, reports Miranda Spivack for the Post.

STATE LAND-USE PLANS: A state plan to help local jurisdictions manage land use has Carroll County residents concerned over a loss of property rights or the feeling that the state may impose unwanted regulations, the editorial board for the Carroll County Times opines, adding that it needs to get more input from communities.

O’MALLEY MINGLES: Gov. Martin O’Malley touched down Thursday in Miami, where he spoke to a gathering of longshoremen, mingled with donors to the Democratic Governors Association and apparently impressed some Miami Herald political reporters, blogs the Post’s John Wagner.

ABORTION RALLIES: A Germantown office park, home to a clinic where one physician performs late-term abortions, this past weekend became the focus of pro-choice and anti-abortion demonstrations in Maryland, reports Dan Morse of the Post. Here’s a Post photo gallery shot by Katherine Frey of the competing abortion rallies.

ABORTION CLINIC RULES: Abortion clinics in Maryland will have to apply for a state license, provide a 24-hour hotline for patients, show that they have qualified anesthesia providers and develop emergency plans should procedures go awry according to new draft regulations that the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released Friday, Annie Linskey blogs for the Sun.

PRIVATIZING FREDERICK: Columnist Bill Pritchard writes that while the Frederick County commissioners finally dropped a report on privatizing some government services, they aren’t giving up on the idea. And if they push it through, citizens just may lose the helpful professionals who now work for government.

FINANCE DIRECTOR RESIGNS: The resignation of Frederick County’s finance director Friday was punishment by county leaders against employees who speak out in public, Frederick County Commissioner David Gray alleged Saturday, reports Patti Borda for the Frederick News Post.

TRIPLE AAA IN BA CO: Baltimore County has retained its Triple-A bond rating from Fitch, Standard and Poor’s, and Moody’s Investment Services, Ryan Sherrow reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

The designation by all three rating agencies is held by only about 1% of the counties in the United States, reports Bryan Sears of Patch.com.

FILLING JOHNSON’S SEAT: Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner writes that the race to fill the seat of former Prince George’s County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson is shaping up to be a rematch of last fall’s primary election, as those candidates Johnson defeated prepare to run again.

  • Regarding the debt ceiling fiasco: Getting the annual federal deficit under control seems a simple enough proposition: Get rid of the Bush tax cuts, roll back military spending to pre 9/11 levels as we extricate ourselves from Iraq and Afghanistan, make judicious tweaks to Social Securiy, Medicare, et al, and – wait for it – return the U.S. economy to FULL EMPLOYMENT! [Eliminating the high unemployment problem alone would take a massive chunk out of the deficit.] A fully engaged workforce, sensible tweaks to entitlements and taxes, plus a reduction in military spending would pretty much eliminate the deficit and create the pre-conditions to reduce the overal federal debt. How then do we jump-start the flagging U.S. economy to drop the unemployment rate to 4 or 5 percent? Here’s my idea: What we need is a private-sector solution to the high unemployment problem, one that uses the power of capitalism and free enterprise (and not whining about the government’s inaction). The mortgage-backed security (MBS) based financial industry meltdown provides the perfect template. Simply replace the MBS with what I’ve designated as a venture-backed security (VBS) and, voila, a tsunami of new business creation and lots and lots of new jobs (=incomes =increased consumer spending =booming economy) and the U.S. economy is turbo-charged back to full employment. Of course, the VBS (similar to the MBS) is yet another form of financial nitroglycerin, which does indeed raise the possiblity of another Wall Street-fueled financial industry crash. However, we need jobs so the risk is worth taking. Read the details of the proposal here: http://jpbulko.newsvine.com

    Joseph Patrick Bulko MBA