October 3, 2011

State Roundup, October 3, 2011

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TWO MAPS EMERGE: As the General Assembly prepares to draw new boundaries for Maryland’s eight congressional districts, majority Democrats are considering plans aimed at squeezing out one or both of the state’s Republican congressmen, according to a Democratic strategist familiar with the discussions, Annie Linskey and John Fritze report for the Sun. Be sure to check the maps.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s redistricting commission will release a plan in coming days to attempt to harness the Washington area’s surging — and largely Democratic — population growth over the last decade to help Democrats retake control of the House of Representatives, Aaron Davis reports for the Post. Davis also blogs about the story, complete with a nifty sliding comparison map at the bottom.

Maryland Juice is speculating, with the help of a source, that the maps are a red herring, while Red Maryland has found even more reason to blast the Democrats.

FOREIGN AID: The private developers of two high-profile state projects are seeking financing through a visa program that lets wealthy foreigners go to the front of the line for green cards and possible U.S. citizenship in return for a $500,000 investment, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

DISTRACTED DRIVING LAWS: Maryland police agencies have issued thousands of tickets to drivers for using handheld cell phones behind the wheel in the year since a ban took effect, Don Harrison of WMAR-TV reports. State Sen. Norman Stone, the bill’s sponsor, believes the ban has raised awareness but might be more effective if the violation was a primary offense. A ban on reading texts took effect Saturday.

Drivers who are ticketed can still choose to accept guilt and pay a $70 fine (plus one point on their license). If the texting leads to an accident, accepting guilt means an automatic $110 fine and three points.

ONLINE SALES TAX: A group of Maryland businesses and politicians are seeking to force online retailers to collect and deliver sales taxes to state and local governments by lobbying a key state legislator, Jimmy DeButts of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

NO TO BOTTLED WATER: The O’Malley administration has decided to stop buying bottled water for state facilities where tap water is available, saying it’s striking a blow for frugality and the environment at the same time, Tim Wheeler of the Sun reports.

HEALTHY EATING: Maryland first lady Katie O’Malley will be launching a new program to promote fun and healthy eating for Maryland families, according to an AP story at WTOP.

PAINT IT WHITE: While there is debate about what color or colors the State House dome should painted, there is no doubt in the mind of State Archivist Edward Papenfuse. He sees the State House and he wants to paint it white, Earl Kelly reports for the Annapolis Capital.

PASSAGE TO INDIA: Gov. Martin O’Malley will lead his first trade mission to India in late November, Bryan Sears and Doug Donovan report for Patch.com. Accompanying O’Malley will be Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

Here’s John Wagner’s piece for the Post.

This six-day trade mission to India will be O’Malley’s second overseas economic development excursion this year, writes Nick Sohr for the Daily Record.

O’MALLEY FOR PRESIDENT: In a Gazette column, Laslo Boyd writes about the positives that Gov. Martin O’Malley would have in a run for president.

Gov. O’Malley took a few swings at a favorite punching bag — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — and knocked the already-announced Republican presidential candidates as well during an appearance on national television yesterday, blogs John Wagner for the Post.

CONSTELLATION SALE: Jay Hancock, of the Sun; Paula Carmody, the Maryland People’s Counsel; and Rob Gould, a Constellation spokesman speak with Dan Rodricks of Midday on WYPR-FM to discuss the impact of the proposed Constellation sale to Exelon and what it means for BGE customers.

NEW ENERGY SOURCES: Maryland energy regulators are requiring Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and other utilities to solicit proposals for new natural gas power plants in the state, Scott Dance reports for the Sun. The PSC order moves forward a long-delayed debate over energy regulation in the state and the need for new power generation.

OCCUPY BALTIMORE: About 150 people gathered last night to begin planning Occupy Baltimore, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations that started in New York two weeks ago and have spread to other cities, according to the Sun.

NUTRIENT POLLUTION: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin will be holding a hearing this week on nutrient pollution of waterways nationwide, including the Chesapeake Bay, an AP story at WTOP reports.

MIKULSKI HONORED: U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, along with Billie Holiday and former Health and Human Services Department Secretary Donna Shalala, were inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame on Saturday, John Fritze blogs for the Sun.

WARGOTZ MAY RUN AGAIN: Republican Eric Wargotz, who got 36% of the vote last year in the race against incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski, said he will make his decision whether to run against first-term Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin by early November, Glynis Kazanjian writes for MarylandReporter.com.

ECONOMY TROUBLES: Maryland’s economy is heavily dependent on government spending, and the increasing pressure in Washington to rein in the nation’s deficits is definitely cause for worry. And despite a recent Census report that showed Maryland’s share of federal spending effectively remained flat between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2010, that’s bad news, but it’s hardly cause for panic, writes the editorial board for the Sun.

WASTED MONEY: The editorial board of the Carroll County Times writes that the Carroll County Board of Commissioners should not be wasting taxpayer money setting up a phony summit designed to showcase the conspiracy theories of one member at no benefit to residents.

CASINO SIGN: Perryville’s commissioners will try to resolve a pesky issue that has split their town of 3,670 residents: whether to allow the Hollywood Casino to erect an illuminated sign on its property so tall it would be visible from I-95, John Wagner writes for the Post.

HARFORD DEMS SHUT OUT: Harford County Democrats have decided not to appeal a court decision and will remain shut out of the process that sets council district lines for the next decade. Instead, they are looking to a broad review of the county charter to help protect their party’s interests in the future, Mary Gail Hare reports for the Sun.

PART-TIME COMMISSION? Frederick County’s Board of Commissioners is debating whether the commission is or is not a full-time commitment, Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News Post.

But, according to the paper’s editorial board, it wasn’t long ago that a previous board went before Frederick County’s state lawmakers arguing that what was originally conceived as a part-time position was taking up so much of their time they needed a pay raise.

FARM EQUIPMENT RENTAL: Last month, the Anne Arundel County Economic Development Corp. launched its farm equipment rental program, which allows farmers to rent five different pieces of equipment for $50 to $200 a day, depending on the type of machinery, writes Allison Bourg of the Annapolis Capital.