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Published on September 16th, 2011 | by Len Lazarick

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State Roundup, September 16, 2011

SCALING BACK INCREASES: After much public outcry, the Maryland Transportation Authority has decreased proposed toll increases – especially on the Bay Bridge, reports The Sun’s Michael Dresser. The authority board will vote on the increases on Sept. 22, reports The Washington Times’ David Hill.

WJZ has video here. WBFF’s John Rydell also reports on the toll increases.

O’MALLEY GETS PRESIDENTIAL: Gov. Martin O’Malley spoke out on the 2012 race for the White House on Thursday, reports The Sun’s John Fritze. He believes that President Obama will be re-elected, but praised Republican frontrunner and Texas Gov. Rick Perry for supporting a law that allows illegal immigrants receive in-state college tuition – similar to the recent disputed law in Maryland. The Washington Times’ David Hill wrote that O’Malley congratulated Perry for standing up to the GOP’s “thinly veiled racism” on immigrant issues. The Post’s John Wagner reports that O’Malley thinks that Obama is assured a win because he’s running against whatever alternative the GOP puts forward.

BRAC: The Base Realignment and Closure process is technically over, and the defense jobs have moved, but the roads and schools to accommodate the influx have still not been built, Sarah Breitenbach reports in the Gazette.

Harford County Executive David Craig celebrated the military’s Base Realignment and Closure deadline – the end of a process that moved 8,600 new jobs to Aberdeen Proving Ground – by going to the unveiling of the colors at the base Thursday, reports the Baltimore Business Journal’s Jack Lambert.

PASS JOBS BILL: In a conference call with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, O’Malley said it is necessary to pass Obama’s job creation bill to bolster efforts already underway in Maryland, reports The Sun’s Joe Burris.

Part of the reason that the bill must be passed, O’Malley said, is that there is no equivalent of a McDonald’s drive through where the nation can supersize its economic recovery, reports the Baltimore Business Journal’s Gary Haber.

COMMUNITY COLLEGES: Community colleges have rising enrollments and demands to produce more graduates, but their budgets have grown little, Andrew Ujifusa reports in the Gazette.

CHESAPEAKE RESTORATION HURT: A new report from the federal General Accounting Office finds that Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts have been hurt by the federal government and states in the bay watershed failing to agree on goals, reports The Sun’s Timothy Wheeler.

PUGH: Sen. Catherine Pugh said she will be committed to her job in Annapolis and her constituents after her loss in the mayor’s race this week, writes Sarah Breitenbach in the Gazette.

FORECLOSURES DOWN: Compared with August 2010, Maryland foreclosures were down 80%, which is one of the nation’s largest drops in foreclosure rates, reports the Baltimore Business Journal staff.

MIDDLE CLASS: New Census figures show the middle class is treading water, with median income down, according to the Gazette’s Benjamin Ford.

PERFECT ATTENDANCE: A Washington County man attended all 12 hearings of the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee to plead for no gerrymandering, reports MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick.

CRAB PROCESSORS GET MORE PRICEY: A new federal rule would force Maryland companies who hire seasonal foreign workers to process crab meat to pay them up to 50% more, a move that Eastern Maryland crab companies say would be devastating to their industry, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

TRANSPORTATION COSTS: As the state tries to collect $800 million more each year for transportation, the costs are going to go up. The Capital’s Earl Kelly reports on possible increases for drivers.

State costs could get especially steep if Congress does not reauthorize road funds for the states, set to expire at the end of the month, a Daily Record staff editorial opines.

The Daily Record’s Nick Sohr blogs about some other tidbits on transportation costs from General Assembly hearings.

HOSPITAL COSTS UP: The average cost of a hospital stay in Maryland has increased 2%, according to a study from the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, which sets rates for the state’s hospitals, reports The Sun’s Andrea Walker.

Brett Lake of the Carroll County Times reports that this increase – which is less than the national average – is kept down by Maryland’s “all payer” system, which means that all patients and insurance programs pay the same rates.

PLAN MARYLAND: A revised PlanMaryland gives local governments more authority to control growth, Sarah Breitenbach writes in the Gazette.

Five Western Maryland counties are considering banding together to hire a lobbyist to promote their interests in PlanMaryland, reports the Herald-Mail’s Heather Keels.

STILL TOO CLOSE TO CALL: The Baltimore City Council primary race between incumbent Warren Branch and challenger Shannon Sneed is still too close to call, and a winner will be determined later this month after counting absentee and provisional ballots, reports The Sun’s Nicole Fuller.

FREDERICK CUTS: In a split vote, the Frederick County Board of Commissioners decided that new hires for grant-funded positions are no longer eligible for county pension or retirement health benefits, reports the Frederick News-Post’s Bethany Rodgers.

Rodgers reports that commissioners are also looking at cutting current employee benefits, like holidays and sick leave, and forcing employees to pay more into the retirement system.

LUEDTKE FOR MOCO COUNCIL? David Moon of Maryland Juice blogs that Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, is considering a run for Montgomery County Council. Deciding factors include how the district lines are redrawn, and how the next Montgomery County executive race shapes up.

ULMAN INTERVIEW: The Daily Record has a video interview with Howard County Executive Ken Ulman talking about the state’s broadband initiative, transportation, and other topics.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on MoCo redistricting; Bruce Bereano; Dawn Stoltzfus; Catherine Pugh on Facebook; and other MoCo doings.

FEDERAL DYSFUNCTION: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar opines about the dysfunction at the Capitol and its impact on Maryland finances.

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