October 27, 2011

State Roundup, October 27, 2011

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PLANMARYLAND: A group of state, county and local politicians from Maryland’s rural areas plan to meet today in Annapolis to strategize about how to stop Gov. Martin O’Malley from implementing PlanMaryland, a statewide development policy that is expected to become policy later this fall, Nicole Fuller blogs in the Sun.

BOOZE TAX PROJECTS: Lindsey McPherson of the Columbia Flier writes about the school projects recently approved to receive funds from the alcohol tax hike, which sit in districts whose representatives voted for the hike, including Columbia.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE HELP: In an op-ed for the Sun, state Del. Heather Mizeur and Baltimore Community Foundation head Thomas Wilcox write that the U.S. Constitution would protect prisoners from facing conditions such as no heat in the winter, no air conditioning in the summer, windows painted shut since the 1950s and broken water fountains sit rusted outside crammed, crumbling classrooms. Why are Baltimore city public school students subjected to this?

MORE FEES, TAXES: Pamela Wood of the Annapolis Capital, following up several stories that ran yesterday, writes about a task force recommendation to double or even triple the state flush tax over the next several years to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Although the next legislative session is still a couple months off, it’s becoming apparent that new taxes will be one of the central issues before the General Assembly, reports Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

And Earl Kelly, also of the Capital, reports of a state panel’s recommendation to raise the gas tax and other related fees to bolster the state’s ailing transportation system. Stephanie Mlot of the Frederick News Post reports that the panel also suggested amending the state Constitution to prohibit transfers out of the transportation trust fund for anything other than transportation.

But Frederick County residents aren’t taking kindly to the suggestion of a gas tax hike, reports the Frederick News Post’s Ike Wilson, who interviewed some of them.

NEW STATE POLICE FACILITY: The new $10 million Maryland State Police facility being built along I-70 near Hagerstown has been drawing curious stares and questions, particularly about the large chimneys protruding from the roof, writes Dave McMillion of the Hagerstown Herald Mail, who takes us on a tour of the colonial brick facility.

BEAT THE DEM DRUM: The Sun’s John Fritze reports that, in the state’s first large-scale campaign event of the 2012 election cycle, Maryland Democrats hosted their party’s national leader yesterday for a rally intended to energize voters and drum up support for President Barack Obama’s re-election and for Democrats running in congressional races.

GAY MARRIAGE ADS: John Wagner blogs in the Post that actress, comedian and Baltimore native Mo’Nique also videotapes a spot advocating the passage of a same sex marriage bill in Maryland.

EHRLICH TESTIFIES: Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich was the first Republican to testify on behalf of state Sen. Ulysses Currie, calling him “a gentleman” and “very friendly,” writes Annie Linskey for the Sun.

An AP story in the Daily Record reports that Ehrlich also testified that he has known Currie since they were first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1986.

John Wagner of the Post also writes that Currie’s attorneys introduced evidence of a long-running pattern of omissions and sloppiness in the financial disclosure forms that the Prince George’s Democrat filed with the state — often months after they were due.

OCCUPY BALTIMORE: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says that she hopes to avoid a “violent exchange” with Occupy Baltimore protesters, though she and other city officials declined to say when or if they would forcibly remove the activists, Luke Broadwater writes for the Sun.

Myranda Stephens of WBFF-TV reports on the continuing protests.

CITY COUNCIL RACES: Jeff Abel of WBFF-TV reports that although the Democratic primary usually determines who will sit on the Baltimore City Council, a number of races face competition from eager candidates, including Republicans and write-ins.

GROUND RENT MESS: The General Assembly will have to return to the controversies surrounding ground rents to try to clear up the mess of an arcane system and a Court of Appeals that just made matters worse, opines the editorial board for the Sun.

LIGHT RAIL TO DC: A light rail line to Washington, D.C. is now Charles County government’s chief transportation-related desire, but the state transportation secretary told the county commissioners not to expect much of anything to happen soon, Erica Mitrano reports for SoMDNews.com.