August 5, 2011

State Roundup, August 5, 2011

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MARYLAND KEEPS AAA: Moody’s Investors Services, which warned Maryland that it might have its recently renewed Aaa bond rating downgraded because of the federal debt crisis, ruled that the state will keep its top rating, reports Jeff Clabaugh of the Baltimore Business Journal.

SLOW CLAP FOR CONGRESS: A Baltimore man posts a video of himself giving Congress a sarcastic, slow clap for their handling of the debt ceiling crisis, which inspires several others and goes viral, blogs The Sun’s John Fritze. The website he started, applauding Congress for its “leadership,” “maturity,” and “inspiring ability to perform the basic duties of [its] job” is here.

FEDERAL CUTS: Gazette columnist Blair Lee writes that the coming federal cuts will lead Maryland to bleed. Laslo Boyd explores a similar theme in his column.

DYSFUNCTIONAL CONGRESS: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar berates the dysfunction displayed by extremists on both sides in this week’s federal debt ceiling vote.

FAA SHUTDOWN: The Sun’s John Fritze reports almost $1 million in grants intended for airport construction in Maryland is being held up because of the shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration, said U.S. Transportation Department officials.

TAXES DON’T IMPACT MOVING: A new study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says that raising taxes has little impact on whether people move out of a state, reports Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

SHALE DRILLING: Energy industry representatives and skeptics clashed on Thursday at a meeting of the council to recommend natural gas drilling regulations in Maryland’s Marcellus shale deposits, according to an Associated Press story in the Daily Record.

Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times-News reported that the biggest issue at stake was how much time the state should spend on making the regulations.

SOLAR MONEY POSSIBLE: According to a U.S. Treasury spokeswoman and guidelines for a federal solar energy incentive program, the Herald-Mail’s Andrew Schotz reports the state could receive some funds from a large solar farm to be built on state land near the Hagerstown Correctional Institute — an omission by negotiators that led Comptroller Peter Franchot to vote against granting a lease to developers.

ICC ON SCHEDULE: The Sentinel’s Christa Puccio reports that the second segment of the Intercounty Connector, connecting Georgia Avenue to Interstate 95, is on target to open on time at the end of this year or in early 2012.

ELECTRIC VEHICLE COUNCIL: To help make electric vehicle ownership smoother, Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed members to the new Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Council, reports The Capital’s Pamela Wood.

CANDIDATE FORUM: The hopefuls who would like to be Baltimore’s next mayor – including current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, making her campaign debut – spoke before a forum at the National Federation of the Blind, reports The Sun’s Julie Scharper.

MOCO PENSION RECOVERY: Montgomery County is trying to get $300,000 in pension payments back from former public safety employees who retired with disabilities, but were later rehired by the county, reports The Washington Examiner’s Rachel Baye.

EASING RESTRICTIONS: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced a new task force that would examine potential changes in liquor laws in hopes of attracting new restaurants, reports Patch.com’s Bryan Sears.

LOBBYIST DISCLOSURE: Frederick County Commissioners have changed their mind about lobbyist disclosures, according to a vote on Thursday night. The Frederick News-Post’s Bethany Rodgers reports that the proposed rewrite of county ethics rules now will require disclosure of lobbyist compensation.

PARTIALLY ELECTED BACO BOARD: Patch.com’s Bryan Sears reports that the details of state Sen. Bobby Zirkin’s proposal to begin the process of changing Baltimore County’s school board to a partially elected one came from Councilman John Olszewski Sr., who many believed was not a proponent of the change.

COST-CUTTING PANEL: Frederick County Commissioners received a presentation on the 10-member partnership and efficiencies committee, which will look at ways to help Frederick County save money through outsourcing and consolidating government services, and begins meeting next week, reports Bethany Rodgers of the News-Post.

OFFICIAL PRAYER: Dan Menefee in the Chestertown Spy writes about the controversy the Lord’s Prayer at the Rock Hall City Council meetings.

GRAND PRIX: Baltimore readies for the Grand Prix with critics complaining about tree cutting and lack of input for the car race over the Labor Day weekend, Sarah Breitenbach writes in the Gazette.

CORE CURRICULUM: Teachers are getting acquainted with new ways to teach math and English in the state’s core curriculum, Andrew Ujifusa reports in the Gazette.

ETHICS CHANGES: Mandated by state legislation, local governments in Maryland are scrambling to revise the laws that govern how their elected officials handle conflicts of interest and financial disclosure, THE Gazette’s Sherry Greenfield writes.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on Heather Mizeur’s friendship with Melissa Etheridge; Kieffer Mitchell’s faux race for mayor; the Star Spangled bicentennial; a Move On demonstration; and the lack of a food fight in Montgomery County.

SISTER CITY: Montgomery County officials visited its first Sister City in El Salvador, Erin Cunningham reports in the Gazette.

COLLEGE PROBATION: Baltimore City Community College was placed on probation by an accrediting agency last month for failing to show how it judged whether students were reaching academic goals, according to the Gazette’s Andrew Ujifusa.