September 7, 2011

State Roundup, September 7, 2011

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EDUCATION REFORM: The Sun’s Liz Bowie writes that as the school year finally gets under way, public school students across the state will be writing more often and learning to think differently in math class, as the state begins major education reforms that will change everything from the curriculum to the way teachers are evaluated.

RACE TO THE TOP: Despite Maryland’s reputation for having the best schools in the nation, there’s still plenty of room for improvement, opines the editorial board for the Sun. Districts across the state are dealing with pockets of poverty where student achievement lags behind that in higher-performing schools.

STATE COUNTERSUES: The state fired back at the Baltimore property owners who have sued to stop the $1.5 billion State Center project, filing a countersuit on Friday demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars that delays in the project are costing the state, Megan Poinski reports for MarylandReporter.com.

GOV. PRAISES AGENCIES: Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette reports that Gov. Martin O’Malley praised the work of state agencies in response to last week’s hurricane and emphasized the importance of emergency preparedness during a meeting with his cabinet

SECURITY ASSESSMENT: Just a few days before the anniversary of 9/11, Maryland leaders assessed homeland security during a high-level private meeting with the FBI in Annapolis, reports Adam May of WJZ. Scroll down to see the report.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE FUNDRAISER: State officials, including the governor and the lieutenant governor, are expected to attend Equality Maryland’s fundraiser tonight to help boost the group’s bid to legalize same-sex marriage in the state, John Patti of WBAL-AM reports.

FLOGGING KITTLEMAN: In his Business Monthly column, Len Lazarick reports on the attacks on Sen. Allan Kittleman for his support of gay marriage on the Facebook discussion board of the Howard County Republican Club.

OTB PARLOR TO CLOSE: The Frederick-based Cracked Claw, Maryland’s oldest and largest off-track betting facility, will shut down next month, writes the Sun’s Hanah Cho, because it can no longer sustain losses. “It’s another hit,” said Mike Hopkins, executive director of the Maryland Racing Commission, which regulates the sport.

The owners of the 35-year-old facility say the high cost of being in business, competition from West Virginia, a decline in off-track betting proceeds and a depressed economy have driven the restaurant out of business, reports Ike Wilson for the Frederick News Post.

SLOTS REVENUE DROPS: Slots revenue from Maryland’s two casinos dropped in August, falling nearly 16% to $13 million, Hanah Cho of the Sun reports.

Here’s Jon Sham’s monthly revenue interactive graphic for the Daily Record.

SLOTS SIGN THEFT: The Sun’s Andrea Siegel reports that an engineer suspected of removing more than 70 pro-slots signs before last year’s slots referendum in Anne Arundel County was fined $5,000 last week by a judge and granted probation before judgment on a single conviction of theft.

MOTION TO DISMISS: The Daily Record reports that Maryland’s Video Lottery Facility Location Commission has filed a motion to dismiss a reverse discrimination lawsuit by a potential bidder for the Baltimore casino license.

CARDIN CRITICIZES OBAMA: C. Benjamin Ford reports that U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin called the decision by President Barack Obama to withdraw new draft standards on curtailing smog a bad decision for the 140,000 children in Maryland with asthma.

DEFICIT REDUCING CITIZENS: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger is introducing legislation to ensure money donated by citizens to chip away at the federal deficit is actually used for that purpose, according to an AP report at WMAR-TV.

9/11 BENEFITED MARYLAND: As the federal government beefed up its anti-terrorism efforts, reports Andrea Walker for the Sun, Maryland reaped the benefits: increases in federal jobs, research grants and contracts. At a time when other states were struggling through a national recession, the windfall helped Maryland’s economy to grow.

CITIZEN JOURNALISTS: In a landmark decision, a federal court ruled last week that recording public officials, including police officers, is protected by the First Amendment, writes Jason Stverak in the Washington Times. This decision is one of the first federal court decisions that brings the First Amendment into the Internet age.

BUCKS STOP HERE: John Fritze of the Sun reports that in a dimly lit underground vault a block from Camden Yards, the Federal Reserve is holding millions of dollars in cash that nobody wants. The money — stored in cloth and plastic sacks piled high on metal shelving units — is in the unloved form of dollar coins, some of them never used.

PG CANDIDATE ENDORSED: A crowd of Prince George’s County officials and legislators – including County Exec Rushern Bakter – turned out to endorse Derrick Leon Davis yesterday to fill the County Council seat vacated by Leslie Johnson, who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit witness- and evidence-tampering, reports Daniel Leaderman for the Gazette.

PUBLIC EMPLOYEES HARMED: A Maryland federal judge ruled yesterday that some Baltimore public employees’ pensions were harmed by the city’s elimination last year of payments tied to market returns, reports Steve Kilar for the Sun.

COSBY CAMPAIGNS: Bill Cosby will be visiting a senior apartment complex, the Loch Raven neighborhood and the Northeast Market today to campaign for mayoral candidate Otis Rolley, Julie Scharper blogs for the Sun.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE LEADS: Mark Reutter of the Baltimore Brew reports that if money does the talking in politics, then incumbent Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has bragging rights over next Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The final round of campaign finance reports illustrates the many advantages incumbency holds in securing contributions from individuals and entities doing – or wanting to do – business with City Hall.

Here’s the breakdown from Center Maryland.

ARUNDEL ZONING PLANS KILLED: An Anne Arundel County Councilman effectively killed a pair of controversial zoning plans that would intensify development in some of Anne Arundel County’s most rural areas, according to the Baltimore Sun.

POLLING ON SCHOOL BOARD VOTE: The Wicomico County Council is once again asking residents to vote on whether they want to vote on changing how the school board is formed – either keeping the governor-appointed format or voting in the members themselves, writes Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times.

FICKER WEBSITE: Robin Ficker, a Republican candidate whose latest political foray was running for Montgomery County Council last year, has created a website to gather signatures for his ballot initiatives, reports Erin Cunningham for the Gazette.

LAUREL RACES: Last-minute filings by two candidates have created contested races for the mayor’s seat and the at-large Council seat in Laurel’s Nov. 1 city elections, according to the Laurel Leader.