October 24, 2011

State Roundup, October 24, 2011

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REDISTRICTING AFTERMATH

BARTLETT FOES: With a bit of math and a few clicks of a mouse, state Democrats transformed a once-sleepy congressional district in Western Maryland last week into one of the most closely watched political battlegrounds in the nation, as potential candidates and powerful third-party groupsbegan jockeying for position in the redrawn 6th District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, John Fritze and Annie Linskey report for the Sun. (A reminder that the Baltimore Sun has instituted a new paywall for its content, and if you click through to more than 15 stories a month, you will be asked to subscribe.)

Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that Republican state Sen. Christopher Shank and Del. LeRoy Myers are considering jumping into a 6th District race if 10-term GOP incumbent Bartlett bows out.

Hagerstown Herald Mail columnist Tim Roland looks at what it means now that competition is coming to the 6th District congressional race.

COUNCILMAN MAY RUN FOR 4th: Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit, who is popular among his constituents, but is term-limited from seeking another four years on the council, is not “ruling out a run for Congress in District 4,” which is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, reports Jerry Shandrowsky of the blog Anne Arundel Politics.

DOJ TO REVIEW REQUESTS: Aaron Davis of the Post reports that a spokeswoman for the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department says that the department will take under advisement any request filed by Maryland Republicans and a grass-roots voter rights group to investigate if Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Democrats racially gerrymandered a congressional map for party gain.

SUSPENDED LICENSES SOAR: A new state law on how courts handle traffic cases is causing the number of suspended licenses to soar by 35%, writes Scott Daugherty of the Annapolis Capital. The state no longer assigns court dates in all traffic cases and drivers must now specifically request trials within 30 days of getting a ticket or risk the MVA suspending their licenses.

UM MERGER CRITICIZED: State Sen. Mike Miller’s proposal to merge the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park was met with harsh criticism Friday, as Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and others said a merger would be bad for the city, reports Alexander Jackson for the Baltimore Business Journal.

The editorial board of the Sun is asking both sides to look at what is good for education and to abandon both parochial and political views.

HOPE IN GAS TAX INCREASE: Donald Fry of the Greater Baltimore Committee writes, in Center Maryland, that the willingness on the part of the O’Malley administration and state legislative leaders to consider a gas tax increase to create jobs while addressing the massive backlog of unfunded transportation projects raises hope in the business community that, finally, our elected leaders may address Maryland’s escalating crisis in funding transportation infrastructure.

PROGRESSIVE SCORES: No state lawmaker got a perfect score from the Progressive Maryland Education Fund for votes on a series of measures the liberal advocacy group used to grade their records in the 2011 regular session, writes Margie Hyslop for the Gazette.

FRACKING RIGHTS: Despite the state’s moratorium on fracking, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler says that some energy companies are using high pressure tactics to gain property owners’ mineral rights to extract natural gas, reports Hank Silverberg, of WTOP.com.

PLANMARYLAND: A controversial British Lord will be headlining the Carroll County Board of Commissioner’s environmental summit at the Pikesville Hilton on Halloween. The summit, which the board of commissioners says is mainly for elected officials and state planners, will feature presenters who challenge the environmental and economic assumptions in PlanMaryland, the state’s proposed growth doctrine, Christian Alexandersen reports for the Carroll County Times.

Karen Lukacs, executive director of the Wicomico Environmental Trust, writes in an op-ed piece for the Salisbury Daily Times writes that, like most county comprehensive plans, PlanMaryland is both an aspirational statement of goals and a set of policy recommendations to meet them, not a war on rural Maryland.

SAME SEX MARRIAGE CAMPAIGN: Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is the latest notable to be featured in a video in support of gay marriage that made its debut Friday, becoming the second in a Web campaign that seeks to build support for same-sex marriage legislation in Maryland, John Wagner blogs for the Post.

SLOTS REVENUE PREDICTION: Maryland budget analysts say slot machines will generate nearly $475 million less for the state during the coming five years than previously forecast, writes John Wagner of the Post. That’s about 12% less than expected.

SEC OVERSITE: Gary Haber of the BBJ reports that a veteran Legg Mason executive has been tapped by the Securities and Exchange Commission to oversee the agency’s program for examining investment companies and investment advisors.

JOBS, UNEMPLOYMENT UP: Maryland added 5,900 jobs in September but its unemployment rate rose to 7.4% as more job seekers entered the market, reports the BBJ’s Jimmy DeButts.

LEGAL AID DEMAND: As the economy has slowed, the demand for free civil legal services has risen, but funding for those services has not increased, Barbara Pash reports in MarylandReporter.com.

LABOR & OCCUPY BALTIMORE: Thursday’s Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM hosted organizers from UNITE HERE! and Occupy Baltimore to discuss the protests, and the ways in which organized labor have supported the movement. You can listen to the show here.

The editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times, in describing what it believes about members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, says these protesters believe governments have a moral obligation to provide a measure of success and education to everyone … (that this) crew is comprised of bored morons who want handouts, who want to burn the system down.

LIQUOR LICENSE CONUNDRUM: Plans to make it easier for Baltimore County restaurants to obtain much-coveted liquor licenses are dividing the restaurant community between those who want a license but find them too expensive and those who hold a license and fear that their investment will be downgraded, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports.

AUDITORS FIND IRREGULARITIES: Miranda Spivack of the Post writes that auditors in Prince George’s County looking into more than $1 million in spending at the publicly owned Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro said in a draft audit to top officials that they have identified numerous irregularities.

NUDE DANCING: Ben Giles, writing for the Washington Examiner, says that legislation being considered by the Prince George’s County Council would give the police more authority to root out and shut down clandestine businesses operating as shops by day and nude dancing clubs at night.

WASTEWATER FIGHT: While an Allegany Circuit Court judge has denied a request by Mexico Farms LLC to halt a state environmental enforcement action, that challenge and a related case filed by the embattled company remain on the docket for decision, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News. Mexico Farms LLC acts as a wastewater treatment and disposal company for a soybean processing and manufacturing operation.