October 17, 2011

State Roundup, October 17, 2011

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SESSION OPENS, O’MALLEY INTROS MAP: Two days before the start of the special legislative session, Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley released his congressional redistricting plan Saturday evening, hours after a handful of African-American lawmakers walked out of a Legislative Black Caucus meeting and prevented the group from taking an official position on an earlier draft, writes Annie Linskey and John Fritze for the Sun.

MarylandReporter.com writes that the session promises to be brief, but intense.

Redistricting plans separate from O’Malley’s map will be considered on their own during the special session — not only as amendments to the governor’s proposal, the AP’s Brian Witte reports in the Washington Times.

The O’Malley administration made the map available on the Maryland Department of Planning’s website. O’Malley will formally submit the map to the legislature today for a special session, according to an AP story in the Annapolis Capital.

The legislature must vote on new legislative maps that represents the last decade of population changes before the end of the year, for Maryland to hold its primary in April, Hayley Peterson reports for the Washington Examiner.

COMMITTEE MAP: Over vehement objections from Donna Edwards, one of Maryland’s African American members of Congress, black state lawmakers moved closer Saturday to endorsing a plan to lump 120,000 minority voters in Montgomery County into a mostly white district in Western Maryland to unseat the state’s senior Republican lawmaker, Aaron Davis reports for the Post.

Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times writes that Carroll County’s delegation to the General Assembly described the redistricting plan proposed by a five-member advisory committee appointed as “terrible,” “unfair,” “a political power grab,” “a travesty” and “a gerrymandered mess.”

VOTERS CRITICAL: The byproduct of Maryland Democrats’ effort to bolster political advantage through the redistricting process is farms mixed with suburbs, city centers combined with small towns and — most important from a political perspective — deeply conservative areas tied to staunchly liberal enclaves, writes John Wagner for the Post. And that is causing some voters across the state to question how any lawmaker could adequately represent such disparate communities.

Meg Tully of the Frederick News Post reports that only two of the 55 Frederick County residents writing to the governor about congressional redistricting supported a proposed plan that would split the county into two districts.

WHAT ELSE IS ON THE AGENDA: John Wagner of the Post reports that while same-sex marriage is not on the agenda this week when Maryland lawmakers convene in Annapolis for a special session on congressional redistricting, they are likely to hear a good deal about it.

Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin said he is not going to wait until the General Assembly’s next regular session this winter to fight what he calls the governor’s “War on Rural Maryland,” writes Daniel Divilio for the Easton Star Democrat.

And David Hill of the Washington Times writes that lawmakers are unlikely to take on other legislation despite earlier hints that economic reforms and tax increases would be considered.

But Hayley Peterson of the Washington Examiner writes that legislators will be cramming dozens of hearings into this week’s special session including generating more transportation revenues, expediting the development of an off-shore wind farm and closing the state’s roughly $1 billion budget shortfall.

And the Sun’s Annie Linskey reports that House Speaker Michael Busch noted that there are “a slew” of other key issues that will be previewed. House Democratic committee chairs have set aside time for briefings on the governor’s controversial wind energy legislation, county concerns about the education funding law and the process for raising tolls.

LIVE BLOG OF SESSION: Len Lazarick and Megan Poinski of Maryland Reporter.com will be blogging from the special session in Annapolis. You can catch their feed here beginning around 11 a.m.

BARTLETT RAISES LITTLE: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, the Western Maryland Republican who has become a target of the redistricting process in Annapolis, raised a mere $1,000 in third quarter of the year, writes the Sun’s John Fritze. He adds that that figure is likely to fuel speculation about whether he will retire instead of fighting to retain his seat.

BUSINESS UNFRIENDLY: Carolyn Swift of the Cecil Whig writes that representatives from about a dozen local small businesses expressed their indignation last week with what they described as an agency-wide “adversarial attitude” toward business in Maryland.

CURRIE DEFENSE STARTS: Prosecutors in the bribery trial of state Sen. Ulysses Currie are expected to rest their case today while his defense attorneys are to begin presenting their case to the jury, John Wagner writes for the Post.

CARDIN’S HAUL: Sen. Ben Cardin’s 2012 re-election campaign racked up another hefty fund-raising quarter over the summer, hauling in more than $700,000 over the past three months, blogs the Sun’s John Fritze.

This just demonstrates again that any challenger will have a steep financial hill to climb, blogs Ben Pershing for the Post. Former Secret Service agent Daniel Bongino, the most active Republican candidate in the race so far, raised $52,000 in the 3rd quarter, and had $31,000 on hand at the end of September.

CUMMINGS ON GOP PROBE: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings said yesterday that he agreed that the Republican-led investigation into the ATF operation known as Fast and Furious has become a witch hunt and argued that the controversial nature of the program had not been communicated to top Obama administration officials, John Fritze reports for the Sun.

FREDERICK CUTS: Frederick County Commissioners are considering cuts to the county’s housing and elderly programs, reports Sherry Greenfield for the Gazette.

BOE TAXING AUTHORITY: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post urges the General Assembly in Annapolis to give serious consideration to a proposal that the Frederick County Commissioners might send to it next year that would give taxing authority to the Board of Education to raise its own revenue.

MOCO BLOCKS SITES: Maryland Juice is reporting that Montgomery County government has blocked LGBT websites as pornography.

FIREFIGHTER UNDER FIRE: Arundel County firefighters are concerned that the county executive wants to eliminate a fourth shift of work, Scott Daughtery writes for the Annapolis Capital.

MARC DEVELOPMENT IN ABERDEEN: Aaron Cahall of the Dagger is reporting about state plans for the redevelopment of downtown Aberdeen that includes a MARC train station.