October 13, 2011

State Roundup, October 13, 2011

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MAP CHANGES COMING? Gov. Martin O’Malley will likely make changes to a proposed congressional redistricting map before submitting it to the General Assembly next Monday, following criticism from minority leaders and members of his own party, David Hill reports for the Washington Times.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus and the Maryland chapter of the NAACP met yesterday in Annapolis with top aides to Gov. O’Malley, requesting a number of changes to the proposed map, Luke Broadwater and Annie Linskey write for the Sun.

U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards said the O’Malley plan would reduce the number of African-Americans who are eligible to vote in the 4th Congressional district by nearly 2%, the AP’s Brian Witte reports in the Annapolis Capital.

State Del. Michael Hough of Frederick and Washington counties said he is working on a bill to challenge the proposed map that redraws Maryland’s congressional districts, Katherine Heerbrandt of the Gazette reports. In an AP story in the Hagerstown Herald Mail, Hough also said he will advocate a congressional redistricting plan backed by a minority political action committee that represents the interests of the black community in heavily Democratic Prince George’s County.

Post columnist Robert McCarthy expresses relief that a couple of liberal black female politicians from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties are challenging the Maryland Democratic establishment on behalf of minorities and the D.C. suburbs.

The Dagger runs a press release from state Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who is introducing a bill for a “Good Government Redistricting Plan,” which apparently has the backing of the Maryland Republican Party. Scroll down the article to view the map.

NO JOBS BILL: Lawmakers won’t see an O’Malley administration jobs bill next week, when they gather in Annapolis to approve a new political districts for Congress, Annie Linskey blogs for the Sun.

An administration official said the lack of a stimulus plan didn’t mean job creation was any less of a priority for O’Malley, blogs Aaron Davis of the Post.

Maryland’s biggest businesses, interest groups and labor unions increased spending on lobbyists to $15.5 million during the 2011 General Assembly session, Nick Sohr reports for the Daily Record.

JUDICIAL COMPENSATION: Megan Poinski is reporting for MarylandReporter.com that the Judicial Compensation Commission unanimously voted to recommend that the General Assembly increase judges’ salaries by $29,006 phased in over three years and starting in fiscal year 2014 — a similar recommendation to one it made two years ago that the legislature ignored.

GAS TAX: Melinda Roeder of WBFF-TV reports on the possible additional state tax on gasoline.

FISH FUTURE: Barbara Pash of MarylandReporter.com reports that the state hopes that an emphasis on restructuring the aquaculture industry will increase its worth from the current value of $2 million to at least $10 million in four years.

CURRIE REPORTED INCOME: The Post’s John Wagner reports that state Sen. Ulysses Currie reported income received from a grocery chain on his federal tax returns, according to evidence presented yesterday in his trial on bribery and extortion charges.

BIRTHDAY FUNDER: Attorney General Doug Gansler is getting some early support for a speculated run for governor from Frederick County Democrats in the form of a birthday party fund-raiser on Oct. 30 (He’s “turning 49!”), according to Maryland Juice.

NEW AREA CODE: Liz Kay of the Sun is reporting that, starting in March, telephone customers in Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore who are requesting new phone numbers for any device may get the area code 667.

CONSTELLATION MERGER: The Sun’s Hanah Cho writes that, despite continuing challenges to Constellation Energy Group’s plans to sell itself to Exelon Corp., analysts say the $7.9 billion deal is likely to overcome major regulatory obstacles, including those in Maryland, where critics are seeking concessions to make the merger more palatable. Click on the video of Jay Hancock as he discusses shareholder EDF Group’s objection to the merger, which Cho writes about further in her story.

Scott Dance of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Exelon Corp. and Constellation Energy Group Inc. are rejecting calls that they sweeten the terms of their deal for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers.  But they are repeating assurances that BGE executives would have a voice in the post-merger company.

BAKER HONEYMOON OVER? Prince George’s County Exec Rushern Baker’s nominee to head the county attorney’s office encountered hostile questions from several County Council members yesterday. So far, no council member has said he will back the nomination, while one has said she will oppose it, signaling the likely end of the honeymoon for Baker, who has been in office less than a year, Miranda Spivack blogs for the Post.

BAKER CAUTIOUS ON SLOTS BAN: While a County Council committee has backed a proposal to keep slots out of Prince George’s County, Exec Rushern Baker is objecting in light of the county’s financial needs and plans by the newly reopened Rosecroft Raceway to add video slot machines, which they claim could generate $415 million in annual tax revenues.

UNDERGROUND STRIP CLUBS TARGETED: The Gazette’s David Leaderman reports that Prince George’s County officials are taking aim at strip clubs that operate under the radar due to a loophole in zoning regulations.

TEACHERS OPPOSE HEAD COUNT: The Frederick County Teachers Association is asking the Board of Education to oppose the county commissioners’ position statement requesting authority for the public schools to count and report the number of students whose lawful presence within the United States cannot be reasonably documented, Blair Ames writes for the Frederick News Post.

FREDERICK TO CONTINUE PROJECT: Meg Tully reports for the Frederick News Post that a review by the Carroll County Commissioners of their participation in a joint waste-to-energy trash incinerator project with Frederick County will not halt its construction, according to Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young.

Meanwhile, Tully reports, three environmental groups are expected to release a report this week stating waste-to-energy trash incinerators are more polluting than coal-fired energy plants.

CONTROLLING BIG BOXES: Big box retailers, such as Wal-Mart, would have to negotiate with civic organizations before opening a store in Montgomery County, according to a proposal, writes the Gazette’s Erin Cunningham.

FULL TAXES SOUGHT: Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold has asked the County Council to introduce legislation targeting websites such as Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia and others to require these businesses to pay taxes on the rate they charge consumers for hotel rooms — not on the discount price at which they bought them, Alison Bourg reports for the Annapolis Capital.

HOCO SCHOOL BOARD BILL: Columbia Democrat Del. Frank Turner announced yesterday that he will withdraw his bill that would have changed the Howard County school board to a hybrid of appointed and elected members, Lindsey McPherson reports for the Howard County Times.

There was strong opposition from residents, parent-teacher groups and sitting members of the education panel, Joe Burris reports for the Sun.

BIKERS MAKE A CASE: Nick DiMarco of Patch.com reports that mountain bike enthusiasts — fighting to reclaim more than 20 miles of trails through Loch Raven Reservoir in Baltimore County — are hoping a walk through the woods with elected officials will help their cause.