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Published on November 4th, 2011 | by Len Lazarick

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State Roundup, November 4, 2011

BREAK OFF BGE: State Sens. E.J. Pipkin and Jim Rosapepe asked members of the Public Services Commission to require Constellation Energy to break off Baltimore Gas and Electric as a condition of its merger with Exelon, reports The Sun’s Hanah Cho. Exelon officials said this would be a deal breaker.

Ryan Sharrow of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that the senators said this deal could bring back “your father’s BGE,” with lower rates, local control, and more responsive service.

Margie Hyslop writes in the Gazette that Pipkin said the plan focuses on taxpayer relief, which the senators think is missing.

Both senators have constantly fought for more utility regulation, which would bring back competition, report’s The Washington Times’ David Hill.

GAS TAX PROSPECTS:  While an increase in the gas tax is needed, General Assembly Democratic leaders said at a business conference that it will be difficult to get one to pass, reports Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

But, The Sun’s Annie Linskey reports, Senate President Mike Miller seemed pretty convinced that the tax increase is going to happen.

However, all parties agreed it will be difficult to get the General Assembly to agree to any measure locking down transportation funds to be used for only that purpose, reported Scott Dance of the Baltimore Business Journal.

CURRIE JURORS DELIBERATING: After weeks of testimony and impassioned closing statements, the jurors are deliberating whether state Sen. Ulysses Currie misused his power as a senator by taking actions beneficial for Shoppers Food Warehouse, which paid him as a consultant and he did not disclose it, reports The Sun’s Tricia Bishop.

In an AP story appearing in The Capital, Brian Witte reports that Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise said in his closing arguments that Currie was essentially being paid to obtain benefits for Shoppers Food Warehouse. The Gazette’s Daniel Leaderman reports that Currie’s attorney called his client an honest, but disorganized, man.

WJZ’s Derek Valcourt has video, as does WBAL-TV.

GOP LEADERS: New Senate Republican leaders E.J. Pipkin and Ed Reilly say they will focus their efforts on protecting rural Maryland and advocating for their colleagues’ issues during the upcoming session.

IVEY CHALLENGES EDWARDS: Former Prince George’s County prosecutor Glenn Ivey filed paperwork on Thursday to challenge incumbent Rep. Donna Edwards for her House seat, setting the stage for a hard-fought Democratic primary, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

Ivey’s campaign confirmed rumors last week that he would be challenging Edwards, reports Miranda Spivack of The Washington Post.

WARGOTZ WILL NOT RUN: Though he is humbled to learn that he is still popular among the state’s Republican voters, Eric Wargotz announced that he will not run for Sen. Ben Cardin’s seat next year, calling the incumbent too strong, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

Wargotz, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski last year, said he is confident that he could win the Republican primary, but not the general election in strongly Democrat Maryland, reports The Post’s Ben Pershing.

With Wargotz’s decision, the most prominent Republican candidate for the seat is former Secret Service agent Daniel Bongino, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.

CARDIN KICKS OFF: Meanwhile, Cardin will kick off his re-election campaign in Baltimore on Sunday, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

Cardin’s announcement comes exactly a year before Election Day 2012, reports The Post’s Ben Pershing.

E-FILE DEAL: Maryland awarded a $45 million contract to help run the new court e-filing system to Dallas-based Tyler Technologies, reports the Baltimore Business Journal’s Jack Lambert.

UNIVERSITY MERGER: Both Gazette columnists focus on the study of a merger between the University of Maryland College Park and the schools on the Baltimore campus. Blair Lee is for it; Barry Rascovar says more funding would be a better solution.

PURPLE LINE HUGE ECONOMIC BOON: The Purple Line is forecast to bring in $1.8 billion in revenue, dramatically increase property values, and create tens of thousands of new jobs – if the near $2 billion project can find funding, reports The Examiner’s Rachel Baye.

PROGRESSIVE PROBLEMS: The liberal advocacy group Progressive Maryland is still struggling financially, Margie Hyslop reports in the Gazette.

SUGGESTION BOX: An online suggestion box for recommendations to reduce government regulations has produced a wide array of comments about state government, Sarah Breitenbach reports in the Gazette.

CUMMINGS QUESTIONS SHORTAGES: In an AP story in The Capital, Linda Johnson reports on Rep. Elijah Cummings’ probe into shortages of lifesaving drugs.

FRANCHOT: IMPROVE SCHOOLS: Comptroller Peter Franchot told members of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce that he has little appetite for tax increases, but would like to see school infrastructure improved through creative renovations, reports Towson Patch’s Tyler Waldman.

CONDEMNING KENTUCKY CANDIDATE: Maryland delegates Kumar Barve, Aruna Miller and Sam Arora all condemned Republican Kentucky gubernatorial candidate David Williams for making anti-Hindu remarks, David Moon blogs at Maryland Juice.

TECH ADVANCES: Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who is leading the state’s broadband initiative in central Maryland, is convinced that the network currently being installed will make Maryland fertile ground for new business initiatives and massive interconnectivity, Nick Sohr blogs for The Daily Record.

BAY GETTING BETTER: A new study by Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland researchers have found that in light of massive efforts to reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, the summertime “dead zone” has been shrinking, reports The Sun’s Timothy Wheeler.

CARROLL PREPARES FOR SESSION: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners and General Assembly delegation discussed potential legislation, issues with PlanMaryland, and other things that will be going on in Annapolis in January, reports Carrie Ann Knauer of the Carroll County Times.

NEW FREDERICK WEBSITE: A new website for the city of Frederick, set to go live on Nov. 10, will better show taxpayers how their money is spent, reports Patti Borda of the Frederick News-Post.

CITY SCHOOLS PROTEST: Baltimore City school children led a protest in front of City Hall on Thursday, demanding that officials take innovative measures to modernize their school buildings, reports The Sun’s Joe Burris. The protest was sponsored by Transform Baltimore. WJZ’s Meghan McCorkell has video.

OBAMA WIN: In the Gazette, Professor Allan Lichtman says his reliable keys to the White House model predict that Obama will win reelection.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on the Hindu prayer protest; Cardin challengers; Hrabowski’s award; a DREAM Act debate; and MoCo’s “Department of Jobs.”

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