State Roundup, September 23, 2011

September 23, 2011 at 8:07 am

TOLL INCREASES OKd:  The Maryland Transportation Authority approved the largest toll increases in the state’s history, eventually doubling the cost of a round trip through Baltimore’s harbor crossings to $8, Michael Dresser reports in The Sun.

The MdTA expects to get $90 million in new revenues from the tolls in their first year, reports Ron Cassie of Patch.com.

Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley said that the originally proposed toll increases, which were higher, did have some leverage built in, reports The Examiner’s Leigh Giangreco.

Elected officials and ordinary residents in Harford and Cecil County, who had vehemently protested proposed steep hikes for Hatem Bridge tolls seemed content with the final increases, reports Bryna Zumer of The Aegis.

State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who has loudly opposed toll increases from the beginning, told The Capital’s Shantee Woodards that the transit administration is trying to kill jobs with the toll increase. Del. Norman Conway said that while the board did listen to comments from residents, they still might want to rethink a planned toll hike in 2013 that would bring Bay Bridge tolls to $6, reports the Salisbury Daily Times’ Jennifer Shutt.

WBAL’s Robert Lang has video here. WJZ’s Pat Warren’s video report is here.

EDUCATION WAIVER: The Obama administration is expected to announce big reforms to the federal No Child Left Behind law today, which include waivers for some of the requirements. Maryland education officials say that the state is well-placed to receive the waiver, report Liz Bowie and John Fritze of The Sun.

JUDICIAL WATCH INTERVENTION: National conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch filed papers to intervene in litigation about the signing of a petition to bring a new state law granting in-state tuition benefits to illegal immigrants to referendum, blogs The Sun’s Annie Linskey. The group will represent the petition signers, who are not directly involved in the lawsuit.

Judicial Watch has a history of opposing illegal immigrant tuition breaks in Maryland. Earlier this year, the organization brought an unsuccessful lawsuit against Montgomery College for giving lower in-county tuition to illegal immigrants, reports the Post’s Aaron Davis.

ATTACK ON CASA: The conservative watchdog, Accuracy in Media, has produced a new report attacking Casa de Maryland, the immigrant help group, as an organization with communist ties operating outside the law, Erin Cunningham reports in the Gazette. A CASA spokesman said the report “hinges on lunacy and paranoia.”

WAGE HIKE POSTPONED: After U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski moved forward a bill that would delay a federal rule increasing wages of foreign workers — raising the costs to the state’s seafood industry for seasonal crab picker wages – the U.S. Labor Department agreed to delay implementation of the rule for two months, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

Mikulski told the Post’s Ben Pershing that until the issue is resolved, she will continue to attach her version of the delay – which would not implement the rule for another year – to every bill that may be signed into law.

JOB CREATION: Marvin Mandel and Ellen Sauerbrey opine in the Washington Examiner that what Maryland needs to create more jobs is fundamental reforms and a sense of urgency.

ROCKY GAP BIDS: Two groups say they plan to submit bids today to operate the slots casino at Rocky Gap, Annie Linskey writes for The Sun.

PERRYVILLE PROBLEMS: The slots casino in Perryville will mark its first anniversary on Tuesday, but disputes over how the local share of revenues is split between Cecil County and the town of Perryville has led to none of that money getting spent, reports Marissa Gallo of The Aegis.

SUPPORT FOR JOBS BILL:  Gov. Martin O’Malley will be on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today to talk about President Obama’s jobs bill and Maryland’s projected surplus, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

Meanwhile, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that a Census report that showed 25% of Baltimore residents live in poverty is more reason that Congress should pass the jobs bill, blogs Matthew Hay Brown of the Sun.

MHEC MOVING: The Maryland Higher Education Commission, currently based in Annapolis, announced that it would be moving its offices and 50 employees to Baltimore next year, reports The Capital’s Earl Kelly.

CARROLL MAY GET SCIENTIFIC: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners is considering an environmental summit to take a close look at the science underlying PlanMaryland’s proposals, which some commissioners believe is flawed, reports Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times.

BWI TAXIS: The Maryland Aviation Administration has reopened bids to operate the taxi franchise at the BWI Airport, reports the Baltimore Business Journal’s Gary Haber.

MOVING ATTORNEYS? Shifting assistant attorneys general between government departments instead of hiring new ones is very difficult, reports Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

STAYING POSITIVE: Transportation Secretary Beverley Swaim-Staley said that despite dwindling state and federal funds for infrastructure, and rising uncertainty of those funds’ future, she is remaining positive about future possibilities for change, reports the Frederick News-Post’s Stephanie Mlot.

BROADBAND NETWORK: The $72 million Inter-County Broadband Network, which will connect schools, community colleges, universities, police and fire stations, 911 call centers, hospitals and courthouses is a good example of targeted and collaborative spending, say the opinionators at The Daily Record.

BARTLETT TARGETED: The Washington Times’ David Hill takes an in-depth look at why Democrats may be targeting Rep. Roscoe Bartlett’s seat in redistricting.

TAKING THE WEEKEND OFF: The Maryland General Assembly website will be down this weekend for routine maintenance, reports Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

JEWISH TIMES: Rejecting both potential plans to bring the Jewish Times out of bankruptcy from the two companies vying for its control, a federal bankruptcy judge has given both sides 30 days to come up with a viable plan, reports Arthur Hirsch of The Sun. If they do not, a trustee will be named to run the business.

HARFORD PLAN DRAFT: The draft of Harford County’s master plan will be available in public libraries and online on Oct. 10, reports Bryna Zumer of The Aegis.

DELEGATE’S FARM DEAL: Nick Sohr in the Daily Record blogs about Comptroller Peter Franchot’s objection to the state purchasing the development rights to Republican Del. Wendell Beitzel’s Garrett County farm for $427,000. Franchot said there was little development going on there.

PENSIONS FOR FELONS: Maryland law does not prevent state retirees convicted of felonies on the job from collecting their pensions, reports Margie Hyslop in the Gazette.

JOURNALISM DEAN RESIGS: Kevin Klose, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland College Park, is resigning, but will stay on faculty, the Diamondback reports.  Klose had been president of National Public Radio.

BAY CLEANUP: The cost of cleaning up the Chesapeake watershed demanded by the state and federal EPA is a hassle for county officials, according to Katherine Heerbrandt in the Gazette.

HISPANIC CLOUT: The growing number of politicians celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month is a sign of their growing clout in Maryland, Benjamin Ford writes in the Gazette.

ABORTION: Gazette columnist Blair Lee contrasts Virginia and Maryland in many ways, but especially their treatment of abortion regulations.

BRAC FLOP: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar says Gov. Martin O’Malley failed to make the transportation investments needed to accommodate the influx of defense workers from the Base Realignment and Closing Process at Aberdeen, Fort Meade and Bethesda.

LOL LICENSE PLATES: The state has the final word on what gets to go on a vanity license plate, Benjamin Ford reports in the Gazette.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: State officials are examining the mixed experience of private developers building schools in the U.K. and Canada, Andrew Ujifusa writes in the Gazette.

The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook is not appearing online today.

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  • Tony McConkey

    Dear Len, You should let readers decide for themselves about the veracity of the attack on CASA de Maryland by providing the link to the Accuracy In the Media (AIM) report.  I don’t think it is balanced to provide only the Gazette article ON THE report and not the report itself.