October 31, 2011

State Roundup, October 31, 2011

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CONSERVATIVES RALLY: Earl Kelly of the Annapolis Capital reports on a meeting yesterday of 200 conservative activists who are almost exclusively white, and agreed that Muslims, liberals, illegal immigrants, environmentalists and Democrats are the source of just about every problem plaguing America today.

WAR WITH RURAL INTERESTS: Aaron Davis of the Post writes about the “war” that Senate Minority Whip E. J. Pipkin says that rural interests are in with Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has been pushing his environmental agenda that includes PlanMaryland, curbs on septic system growth, a sewer tax hike and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.

DREAM ACT SUIT: An Anne Arundel County court has ruled that MDPetitions.com can intervene in a lawsuit between proponents of the recently passed Maryland Dream Act and the state Board of Elections, Jessica Talson reports for the Annapolis Capital.

REDISTRICTING MAP MESS: The editorial board for the Washington Post opines that Gov. O’Malley’s redistricting maps make him a candidate for what might be called the Tom DeLay Honorary Gerrymandering Medal, named for the former House majority leader whose brazen manipulation of the electoral map in Texas made roadkill of incumbents from the rival party.

McDONOUGH TO CHALLENGE CARDIN? Pat McDonough could be getting serious about challenging Ben Cardin for his U.S. Senate seat, blogs Bryan Sears of Patch.com or maybe he just had some time on his hands this weekend. McDonough was spotted handing out literature proclaiming his candidacy for the Senate at the Maryland Conservative Action Network convention in Annapolis.

U.S. REP. RACES: Jerry Shandrowsky of the Anne Arundel Politics blog posts two items this weekend about Maryland congressional races following redistricting. He writes about how incumbent U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards finds herself as the underdog in the next election. And he also addresses U.S. Rep. Andy Harris’ silence on redistricting, which may indicate that he feel comfortable with the changes.

And state Senate Majority Leader Robert Garagiola will make stops in Frederick, Germantown, Cumberland and Hagerstown to rally support for his run against 6th District incumbent Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, David Hill reports for the Washington Times. Hill also reports that Garagiola may have made his intentions perfectly clear Sept. 26, when he registered the Web domain name garagiolaforcongress.com.

HEALTH HELP ALERTS: For the first time, small businesses and nonprofit organizations can get financial help for the health care coverage they offer their workers. But the program is so new, part of the Obama health care reform, that campaigns to alert businesses are taking place around the country, including in Maryland, writes Barbara Pash of MarylandReporter.com.

CLOSING RANKS AROUND CURRIE: The Sun’s Annie Linskey writes about the parade of politicians who took the stand to defend state Sen. Ulysses S. Currie in his corruption trial. She writes that politicians elsewhere might be reluctant to stand up for an official accused of corruption. Not here. There is a tradition in Annapolis of standing by a colleague under fire — at least until a verdict is in, sometimes even after a conviction.

And the Post’s John Wagner writes about the reasoning behind throwing all those politicians at a jury.

REASONS TO TAX: The Sun editorial board writes that there are compelling reasons why the recent tax hike proposals make sense for Marylanders: less traffic congestion, a cleaner Chesapeake Bay and thousands of new jobs.

GAS TAX DEBATE: Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner reports that Montgomery County activist Robin Ficker has challenged Maryland state Sen. Rob Garagiola to a debate on the 15-cent gasoline tax increase recommended as a way to fund the state’s transportation needs. Garagiola sits on the Blue Ribbon Commission, the panel tasked with filling an annual $800 million gap in the state’s transportation needs.

PORT FACILITIES: Harry Halpert, president of MTC Logistics, a worldwide temperature-controlled storage company, writes, on the op-ed page of the Sun, that for Maryland to keep ahead of the competition, it must upgrade how we transport cargo to and from the Port of Baltimore.

FIGHTING RECESSION: Carroll County editor Jim Lee writes that spending on infrastructure and transportation projects seems like a good way to begin crawling out of the hole of the recession.

Jamie Smith Hopkins of the Sun speaks with anthropologist Jo Anne Schneider about the long-term unemployed in Maryland, how the recession is affecting both young and older workers and what can be done to bolster job prospects.

TAX THE WEALTHY: And Don Kornreich, writing for the Frederick News Post, says that, although he is a fiscal conservative, he believes it is not a foregone conclusion that the wealthy use their money in ways that necessarily produce more jobs. So tax them in a pilot program and block grant the money to the states for job creation programs.

UM MERGER DISCUSSED: Leaders from the state’s top undergraduate university said Friday they support a merger with their graduate counterparts in Baltimore, but those representing the professional schools expressed serious doubts, the Gazette’s Andrew Ujifusa reports.

STUDENT REP ON MHEC: Stephan Jordan of Frederick has been was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley to serve as the student representative on the Maryland Higher Education Commission, John Yake reports for the Frederick News Post.

2nd ICC SEGMENT: The second segment of the Intercounty Connector, connecting I-370 in Montgomery County to I-95 in Prince George’s County, will be up and running in less than a month, writes Nesa Nourmohammadi for the Gazette, and drivers will be able to drive the entire length of the ICC for free from Nov. 22 to Dec. 4.

BAY TOLLS UP: The Frederick News Post reports that new toll rates for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge take effect first thing Tuesday morning.

ONLINE GAMBLING: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that as members of Congress grow increasingly desperate to balance the budget through increased revenue and spending cuts, nothing is off the table. But one measure may hurt revenue streams at the state level – legalizing online gambling across the United States. And Gov. Martin O’Malley is against it.

GAMING TOTALS UP: Gambling totals at Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington, which resumed simulcasting in August and live racing last weekend, have beaten expectations, reports Mimi Liu of the Gazette.

FRANK UNDERSTANDING: For the crisis in the Maryland horse racing industry to be resolved, writes Jay Hancock of the Sun, policymakers and horse breeders will need to understand what Frank Stronach wants. Also, Frank Stronach, who owns the Maryland Jockey Club, needs to understand what Stronach wants. At the same time, Stronach will have to keep his word. Betting on any one of those things is a long shot, Hancock says.

BECHTEL DEAL QUESTIONED: The Gazette’s Kevin James Shay writes that the state’s $9.5 million conditional loan being made to help keep some 1,250 Bechtel Power employees in Maryland is questionable policy, some lawmakers and corporate watchdogs say.

EXELON TRIES TO REASSURE: In a long piece for the Sun, Hanah Cho reports that, as Exelon Corp. continues to pursue Constellation Energy Group, the Chicago energy giant is pointing to a decade-old deal with a Philadelphia utility as a success that should reassure wary Marylanders — and regulators — about its intentions toward Baltimore’s last Fortune 500 company.

SUPERCOMMITTEE NEWS: Maryland Juice reports that, this morning, Halloween costumed advocates from the Sunlight Foundation and area residents will visit Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s Rockville district office as well as the offices of other members of the “deficit supercommittee,” who have been meeting behind closed doors to work on the federal deficit.

And the editorial board of the Frederick News Post writes that a recent bipartisan bill proposed by Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., would require Congress to pass a budget resolution by April 15 or suspend its authority to consider and approve any legislation. It’s an idea that has merit, the board writes.

HERO MILES PLUS: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger and Sen. Ben Cardin are to announce legislation today that would allow the families of wounded troops to receive free or reduced-rate hotel accommodations while visiting their recovering loved ones. This is an expansion of Ruppersberger’s “Hero Miles” program, where military families use miles donated by individual airline passengers for free airfare to visit hospitalized troops.

ZONING FIGHT: Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that a group of Prince George’s County residents who allege that the County Council secretly approved zoning legislation without a public hearing two years ago is engaged in a legal battle to overturn the measure.

ECONOMIC CLUB: Shantee Woodwards of the Annapolis Capital reports about a group of citizens who have formed the Economic Club to discuss issues from politics to the economy to the real estate market to job growth.

CARROLL MASTER PLAN: The Carroll County Planning and Zoning Commission continues to draft changes to the proposed 2012 Master Plan, taking into account suggestions from the Carroll County Board of Commissioners, writes Christian Alexandersen for the Carroll County Times. As the changes are being drafted, the community will have three chances, on Nov. 3, 15 and 28, to make comments about the plan

CONAWAY WRITE-IN: After losing the Democratic primary to a political newcomer allied with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Belinda Conaway, a two-term city councilwoman, chair of the powerful budget committee and daughter of a prominent political family, has launched a write-in campaign in which she paints herself as an enemy of — and threat to — the political establishment, Julie Scharper reports for the Sun.