August 15, 2011

State Roundup, August 15, 2011

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HEALTH GRANT: The state of Maryland won a $28 million grant Friday from the Obama administration to set up its health exchange, the marketplace where the uninsured will go to buy coverage in 2014. The funds are part of a $185 million award from the Department of Health and Human Services to 13 states and Washington for the exchanges, Meredith Cohn blogs for the Sun.

DOWNSIZE PRISONS: The editorial board for the Sun writes that Maryland’s prison population has tripled to more than 22,000, at a cost of more than $783 million a year. Yet, a growing body of evidence has suggested that large numbers of low-level, nonviolent offenders now serving time in state prisons could be released without endangering the public.

FRANCHOT ON TAX HIKE: Comptroller Peter Franchot, Maryland’s chief tax collector, says lawmakers should not consider any kind of tax hike in the special session of the Maryland General Assembly, being held to draw new boundaries for the state’s congressional districts. Robert Lang of WBAL-AM has the story.

Listen to the interview here.

MD DEBT CEILING: Maryland could be within $43 million of hitting its debt ceiling in fiscal 2017, according to projections presented to the Capital Debt Affordability Committee on Friday, writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

HOPE FOR THE BAY: Farmers and home builders are challenging the EPA’s pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay in federal lawsuits that, if they succeed, would deal a major blow to hopes that the bay can be restored to any semblance of robust health, opines the editorial board for the Post.

DOWN THE MACO: If your job is running Maryland government — or trying to influence it — you’ll be in Ocean City, along with about 2,000 other elected leaders, lobbyists and corporate sponsors for four days of sand, seafood, sunrise yoga and meetings sprinkled in between, writes Aaron Davis of the Post.

DREAM JUDGE ASKED TO STEP ASIDE: Following up a Patch.com story from last week, Sarah Breitenbach reports for the Gazette that proponents of the effort to overturn a Maryland law giving in-state college tuition rates to some illegal immigrants say a judge scheduled to oversee the lawsuit against their referendum should step aside.

MCDONOUGH GETS ATTORNEYS: Del. Pat McDonough is assembling a legal team to help fight a court challenge against a popular petition seeking to repeal the Maryland DREAM Act, a controversial law that would give illegal immigrants discounted in-state tuition rates at Maryland colleges and universities.

HIGH PRICE FOR BRIDGE REPLACEMENT: The Maryland Transportation Authority has at least a half-dozen projects under way or soon to begin at the Harbor Tunnel, Fort McHenry Tunnel and Key Bridge. But none of the system preservation projects comes close to the Canton Viaduct’s price tag of $178 million, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

Sun photog Jed Kirschbaum went to the underbelly of the viaduct to shoot this photo gallery of what the aging bridge looks like.

FISCAL FORECASTING: While it’s anyone’s guess what will happen in the financial markets next, some economists are forecasting another recession – when some people feel the last one never really ended. And local financial planners say nervous clients have been contacting them all week, wanting to know what their next step should be, writes Allison Bourg for the Annapolis Capital.

TAX HOLIDAY: Maryland’s sales tax holiday week began this past Saturday and runs through next Saturday, according to a story in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

EX DEL. WEBSTER DIES: An AP story in the Carroll County Times is reporting that former Del. Kenneth Webster, who authored legislation to make Maryland the second state to recognize the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday as a holiday in 1974, has died. He was 76.

HARRIS CONTINUES: Speaking at his third Rotary club meeting in two days, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris continued to emphasize the need for a balanced federal budget during remarks at a luncheon meeting at the Cambridge Yacht Club, Gail Dean reports for the Easton Star Democrat.

THEN SPARKS DEBATE: In the meantime, reports David Divilio of the Easton Star Democrat, the debates and deadlock over raising the nation’s debt ceiling left many Democrats pointing fingers at their political counterparts like U.S. Rep. Andy Harris for the downgrade of the U.S. bond rating.

CITY LOBBIES IN REDISTRICTING: Baltimore residents and neighborhood leaders made a pitch Friday for preserving as much of the city’s power in the General Assembly as possible with new legislative districts that would straddle the city-county line. The advocates spoke before the five-member panel tasked with redrawing the state’s legislative map to reflect population changes recorded in the 2010 Census, blogs the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

COSBY TO HELP ROLLEY: Looks like Otis Rolley could get a little more help from Bill Cosby on the campaign trail to become mayor of Baltimore – after Aug. 20th — writes the Sun’s Laura Vozzella. But he better hurry up since the Democratic primary is Sept. 13.

JURY DUTY DON’TS: Here’s what not to say to get out of jury duty, writes Heather Rawlyk of the Annapolis Capital: A pig farmer insisted her livestock would die if she missed a day in the barn. A psychic said she’d know immediately upon walking into the courtroom whether a defendant was guilty. A woman claimed to have such an important job that her workplace couldn’t function without her – plus, she was going on vacation that week.

HIRE QUESTIONED: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners’ hiring of a conservative blogger and economist as a media consultant on a three-month contract paying him $6,000 monthly raises concerns on many levels, including that it smacks of cronyism, opines the editorial board for the Carroll County Times.

PG COUNCIL QUESTIONS MOVE: Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner writes that members of the Prince George’s County Council and business leaders are questioning why the county executive’s office, rather than one of the county’s financial institutions that already distribute grants, would run a proposed economic development incentive fund.

DEATH AT BROADWATER MANSION: The death of a man at a mansion owned by former state Sen. Tommy Broadwater has led to a temporary halt on future parties at the property and is raising questions about oversight of for-profit house parties. Broadwater served as senator from 1974 until 1983, when he was convicted of food stamp fraud and spent four months in federal prison, reports Erich Wagner of the Gazette.

ULMAN OFFERS LAND TO USPS: County Executive Ken Ulman has offered to let the U.S. Postal Service lease a 7.8-acre plot of land in Clarksville rent-free for at least two years. While there is a paved parking lot, the Postal Service could bring in a temporary trailer to offer postal service, reports Kellie Woodhouse of the Howard County Times.

COUNCIL CHECKS EXEC’S PLAN: Members of the Wicomico County Council will take a second look at County Executive Rick Pollitt’s plan to reorganize his office during a work session tomorrow, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. Pollitt introduced the plan to add a chief of staff and enhance the responsibilities of the public information officer during the council’s last meeting. The council chose not to introduce legislation, instead diverting the measure to a work session.

HIGH SALARY REDUCTION: Frederick County reduced its number of six-figure salaries by five in fiscal year 2011 and cut overtime pay as well, writes Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post.

  • Dave Willemain

    Way to go Ken! Smart move!

    Dave