November 9, 2011

State Roundup, November 9, 2011

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CURRIE ACQUITTED: After a six-week trial and three days of deliberation, a Maryland jury acquitted Sen. Ulysses S. Currie and two grocery chain executives yesterday of federal extortion and bribery charges, ending years of criminal suspicion surrounding the Prince George’s County Democrat, reports Tricia Bishop of the Sun.

Kenneth Lam of the Sun videotapes a short interview with Currie as he leaves the courthouse. You can view it at the top of Bishop’s story.

Following the verdict, Currie thanked his legal team, called the verdict a win for the General Assembly and his constituents and said he was headed to visit his ailing sister, Andy Marso reports for the Daily Record.

Here’s John Rydell’s report for WBFF-TV.

While Currie’s lawyers argued that the work was part of a legitimate consulting arrangement, they acknowledged that his activities amounted to a conflict of interest at times but contended he was not taking bribes, John Wagner reports for the Post.

In a strongly worded piece, the editorial board for the Sun is urging the state Senate to remove Currie from office even though he was acquitted of the federal charges.

And in a commentary, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com questions the utility of financial disclosure forms that legislators must file, if those like Currie don’t respect their use.

WORRIED BUSINESSES: Maryland business leaders told a state panel in Annapolis yesterday that businesses are being squeezed by frugal consumers, tight credit and uncertainty about what the future holds in terms of tax changes and new regulations, Gary Haber reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

Professionals in industries including banking, financial services, real estate, retail, utilities and manufacturing presented a mixed picture of conditions in their fields. But, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter writes, they basically described an economy that is flat, with consumers and businesses holding off on spending.

GROUND RENT HOLDERS CHALLENGE: Another challenge by ground rent holders to Maryland’s 2007 reform laws has been revived, with lease holders claiming that a state law unconstitutionally diminished the value of their property by making collection of payments costly and difficult to enforce, the Sun’s Andrea Siegel reports.

FLAWED THINKING: In an op-ed for the Sun, David Salkever, a professor in the Department of Public Policy at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, writes the proposed merger of the University of Maryland College Park and UMBaltimore in an attempt to push up its rankings is flawed thinking.

ROCKY GAP PLANS: Representatives of the two competing bidders descended on the long struggling Rocky Gap resort in Western Maryland yesterday and presented vying plans to transform a state-backed development failure into a revenue generating casino, Annie Linskey writes for the Sun.

The companies dangled Willie Nelson and a water park before the commission that will select the licensee next year, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

OYSTERS’ FUTURE: The Annapolis Capital’s editorial board writes that while the devastating oyster die-off bodes ill for the state’s oystermen, it wouldn’t help the future of Bay oysters to loosen up on harvesting restrictions set by the O’Malley administration.

SAVE THE BAY: Pamela Wood of the Annapolis Capital writes about the long and storied history of the “Save the Bay” motto.

PLANMARYLAND DEBATE: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners has sent letters to Gov. Martin O’Malley and Attorney General Douglas Gansler expressing the board’s displeasure with PlanMaryland, the state’s proposed plan for growth, and asking for more time to debate it, Christian Alexandersen reports for the Carroll County Times. Click on the links on the left of the article to read the letters.

In her biweekly Sun column, Marta Mossburg says that under PlanMaryland, “Future generations of Marylanders will be forced to live where current residents are fleeing.”

SCARE TACTICS: Columnist Marta Mossburg writes in the Frederick News-Post that politicians are using scare tactics and talking down to constituents to push their agendas.

ANNAPOLIS PARTY: A bunch of Capitol Hill staffers apparently caused quite a ruckus in Annapolis with a two-day party in a rented house over the Columbus Day weekend, Neda Semnani and Warren Rojas report in Roll Call. At least two staffers for a Mississippi congressman were apparently fired over the incident.

DC SUBURBS’ GROWTH: The Post’s Victor Zapana blogs that an expert on the Washington region said yesterday that Montgomery and Prince George’s counties must overcome a perception problem to spur their economies over the next decade, though Montgomery is expected to outpace its neighbor to the east.

ELECTION RESULTS: Maryland Juice offers this roundup of links to Election Day results.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE WINS: As Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake embarks on a full four-year term after yesterday’s election victory, she faces the challenge of forging a legacy in a city grappling with decades of decline and years of financial shortfalls, Julie Scharper reports for the Sun.

DEMS FIGHT CHALLENGES: Reporting for the Sun, Luke Broadwater and Jessica Anderson write that the Democratic nominees for the Baltimore City Council were poised to overcome write-in candidates amid low voter turnout.

BACO DISTRICTING FIGHT: Baltimore County residents seeking a referendum on the County Council’s plans to redraw political lines say it’s unlikely they will gather enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, blogs the Sun’s Alison Knezevich.

PG RACES: Miranda Spivack and Jimm Phillips of the Post blog that Prince George’s voters in three cities re-elect most incumbents, while one contest in College Park remains too close to call.

GAITHERSBURG VOTES: Incumbents hold on in Gaithersburg’s elections. It was a low turnout despite increase in registered voters, writes Jen Bondeson of the Gazette.

ROCKVILLE RE-ELECTION: The Post’s Victor Zapana blogs that Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio was re-elected yesterday, defeating Piotr “Peter” Gajewski after a race marked more by allegations of campaign finance violations and rancor than by policy debates.

Alison Bryant of the Gazette also writes about the Rockville races.

ARUNDEL COUNCIL HOPEFUL: Peter Smith, a Marine from Severn, confirmed that he’s “seriously considering” seeking a spot on the Anne Arundel County Council. Unless the boundaries unexpectedly change, that means Smith would vie for the seat currently occupied by the term limited Daryl Jones, writes Jerry Shandrowsky of Anne Arundel Politics blog.

MOVING MONEY: Frederick County officials decided to buy some wiggle room last week with money previously bound for farm preservation and parks projects, Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports.

FREDERICK ROAD WORK: Frederick has drastically whittled down its road maintenance in recent years because the state has cut back the share of highway user revenue it sends Maryland’s cities and towns, reports Patti Borda of the Frederick News-Post.

COUNCILMAN DIES: Bob Hawkins, a World War II veteran and longtime Pocomoke City councilman, died yesterday as the result of injuries suffered in an automobile collision, Brian Shane of the Salisbury Daily Times reports. He was 92, and was driving with the top down on his MG convertible having just played a round of golf.