September 15, 2011

State Roundup, September 15, 2011

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UNEMPLOYMENT FUNDS: Maryland was awarded millions of dollars in federal funds yesterday to upgrade its unemployment insurance program, Ryan Sharrow reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: State policymakers agreed that Maryland needs more money for transportation projects, and how to get that money was the subject of two meetings in Annapolis yesterday, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

The state was bracing for a complete shut-down of federally funded transportation projects as Congress debates plans for long-term transportation funding, Scott Dance reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

Increases to the gas tax, higher vehicle registration fees and hikes to the titling tax were among the options discussed to raise transportation revenues during a lengthy hearing before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, blogs Annie Linskey of the Sun.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports that since lawmakers have been presented with many options for raising transportation revenue, some say it would be difficult if not impossible to reach a consensus on raising any taxes or fees during the special session.

HIV FUNDS RETURN: The Sun’s Meredith Cohn reports that millions in federal funds used to provide services to those living with HIV are again flowing to 81 health organizations in Maryland after a months-long delay that forced some to trim their offerings. The groups rely on about $61 million a year from the federal Ryan White Care Act to provide services for those who can’t afford their own care.

DIP IN SATs: Maryland’s graduating seniors scored slightly lower on the SATs this year, mirroring a national trend that the College Board attributed to an increase in the number and diversity of students who take the tests, the Sun’s Liz Bowie reports.

PSC HEARINGS ON BGE: The Maryland Public Service Commission will hold two Baltimore-area hearings to receive public comments on the preparedness and performance of BGE during Hurricane Irene. The first will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 27 in Towson, writes Jon Meoli of Patuxent Publishing.

BAY BATTERED: Assessing what may be “a giant step backwards” for the Chesapeake Bay, scientists combed the body of water checking its health following the massive storms that flooded the Susquehanna River, the Bay’s largest tributary, Tim Wheeler reports for the Sun.

CARDIN, HARRIS MEET TUBMAN ADVOCATES: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris spoke yesterday with advocates who are hoping to build support in Congress for a national park system in Maryland and New York that would honor Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, the Sun’s John Fritze blogs.

LIQUOR BOARD KERFUFFLE NO SURPRISE: A kerfuffle with the Harford County Liquor Control Board over a performance by rocker Bret Michaels and the closing of a portion of a bar (notorious for past violations) for a surprise party may have blown the surprise for the guest of honor. But did the intrepid reporter, Erika Butler of the Aegis, post the story late enough to save the day?

LEGGETT NIXES POWER PROPOSAL: While some members of the Montgomery County Council investigate whether the county could establish a public power company, Executive Isiah Leggett told them, “This is not going to happen,” the Gazette’s Daniel Leaderman reports.

DISTRICTING BALTIMORE COUNTY: Bryan Sears of Patch.com writes that Democrats and Republicans alike asked a five-member commission to not use the often partisan process of redrawing legislative districts to create additional shared districts between Baltimore County and neighboring jurisdictions.

PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNCIL DISTRICTS: A revised proposal for new Prince George’s County Council districts accommodates requests to keep similar communities in the same district but raised questions from council members about the economic diversity and mix of municipalities in the districts, Daniel Leaderman reports for the Gazette.

SEEK TO STOP SPRAWL: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post reports that nonprofit leaders are calling on Gov. Martin O’Malley to help prevent a Frederick County growth plan overhaul that they fear would lead to the loss of 15,000 acres of farm land and the construction of 23,000 homes.

MAYOR TIGHT-LIPPED: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake spoke briefly yesterday in her first public appearance after securing the Democratic nomination for mayor, but was tight-lipped on plans for her first full term in the office, Julie Scharper writes for the Sun.

NEWCOMER BEATS CONAWAY: A political newcomer bested two-term incumbent Belinda Conaway by 648 votes in the Democratic primary for Baltimore City Council, part of a larger shift on the Council that increases the number of allies of Mayor Rawlings-Blake, blogs Nicole Fuller for the Sun.

And there could be a recount in one council race, according to Maryland Juice.

SEVEN LESSONS: Fern Shen and Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew take a hard and humorous look at the seven lessons to be learned from the city elections.

UPPING VOTER TURNOUT: With such a dismal turnout for the city primary election, the Sun’s editorial board ponders how to fix it.

IRENE CLEANUP: St. Mary’s County Commissioners moved $3 million from the fiscal 2010 fund balance to cover the initial costs of the Hurricane Irene cleanup, Jason Babcock reports for SoMdNews.com.