State Roundup, November 21, 2011

November 21, 2011 at 7:49 am

DISABILITIES AID: Scott Daugherty of the Annapolis Capital humanizes the news about the state Developmental Disabilities Administration returning $25 million of unspent money to the state General Fund. He interviews an Edgewater couple with a 4-year-old son with disabilities who has been kept waiting for two years for aid, while the state continued to say it didn’t have the funds to help.

FRACKING TAX: Maryland lawmakers are starting to debate how much “severance tax” should be imposed on the natural gas that might be produced from the Marcellus Shale rock formation in Western Maryland, even though it is not clear when, or even if, Maryland will allow drilling there, writes the Capital News Service’s Greg Master in the Cecil Whig.

LEGISLATURE WARNED ON BORROWING: The General Assembly’s chief budget analyst warned lawmakers that too much borrowing to achieve Gov. Martin O’Malley’s goal of creating jobs through public works spending could put the state’s sterling bond rating in jeopardy, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

MILLER FAVORS VOTE: Steve Kelly of the Gazette reports that Senate President Mike Miller favors a super-majority vote in the legislature to transfer transportation money to other uses rather than a constitutional amendment that would keep the money off limits for other purposes. The issue surfaced recently with talk of a possible gas tax increase to fund transportation projects.

HEALTH CARE OVERALL: Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette reports that even as the Supreme Court prepares to consider the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, officials in Maryland say they’ll keep pushing forward with plans to implement portions of the law.

ONE-SIDED O’MALLEY: The editorial board for the Sun writes that the next time Gov. Martin O’Malley has the desire to bully the environmental law clinic at the University of Maryland, he or his staff should get both sides of the argument. If he had, he would not have written his letter to Maryland School of Law Dean Phoebe Haddon.

REGISTER REVERSAL: Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com reports that The Maryland Register, a state news publication that provides updates on state regulations, legal opinions and hearings, has reversed a decision to charge consumers for its real-time, online news. The policy reversal came after two articles and a legislative inquiry highlighted a new annual fee for consumers to view information the same day it was published.

FRANCHOT’S TIN EAR: The Sun editorial board opines that, if nothing else, state Comptroller Peter Franchot’s objection to Bowie State University’s purchase of 32 new Steinway pianos for its $79 million new performing arts center shows the state’s top financial watchdog has a tin ear for value. Who would spend that kind of money on a state-of-the-art music facility and then fill it with penny-whistle instruments?, they ask.

UNIONS THRIVE: Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner writes that membership in public-sector unions is thriving in Maryland as the number of residents who belong to traditional trade unions dwindles, partly because of the poor economy and the state’s union-friendly environment, experts say.

INTERNET TAXES: A paper by Seth Cooper at the Free State Foundation disagrees with a Baltimore Sun editorial favoring taxes on Internet sales, in reaction to a study of the issue by Comptroller Peter Franchot.

MORE CUTS TO DOCTORS: In what the American Medical Association calls an “annual crisis,” physicians are once again facing a cut in Medicare reimbursements – almost 30% in 2012 – unless the U.S. Congress acts by Jan. 1. This year, though, there appears to be an added layer of uncertainty because of the supercommittee, whose decisions are due this week, Barbara Pash writes for MarylandReporter.com.

NURSING CERTIFICATES PULLED: The state of Maryland has revoked the certificates of 157 nursing assistants after health officials found that a state employee awarded the medical documents to those who didn’t apply or didn’t meet minimum standards for the positions, the Washington Examiner’s Ben Giles writes.

MAGGIE’S FIRM: Mark Newgent of Red Maryland writes about Del. Maggie McIntosh’s political consulting firm and says that using your elected office to drum up clients isn’t illegal in Annapolis either.

VIRGINIA GOES TO INDIA: Virginia and Maryland have shelved their historic rivalry for business when it comes to emerging international markets, writes Steve Contorno for the Washington Examiner. VA Gov. Bob McDonnell returns today from a two-week trip to Israel and India just as Maryland Gov. O’Malley heads to India on a six-day trade mission.

EX-DELEGATE LOBBYIST: The Post’s John Wagner blogs that Alexander & Cleaver, one of the top lobbying firms in Annapolis, has added another former Maryland lawmaker to its team: Murray Levy, an affable Democrat who represented Charles County for six years in the House of Delegates.

6th DISTRICT POLL: Questions are arising surrounding a purported “push poll” over the weekend that appears to promote former Montgomery Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg while criticizing State Sen. Rob Garagiola in the Democratic Primary for the 6th Congressional District, Maryland Juice reports.

‘WAR ON RURAL MD:’ Charges of Democratic gerrymandering and complaints that Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley is conducting ”a war on rural Maryland” came up Saturday morning when Republican members of Washington County delegation’s to the Maryland General Assembly met with the Washington County Republican Central Committee, Don Aines of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports.

EHRLICH STILL A PLAYER: Washington Examiner columnist Gregory Kane won’t count former Gov. Bob Ehrlich out of Maryland politics any time soon. He writes about a recent encounter at Towson University.

HAMER MAY SUE CHARLES: A representative of a Maryland voting rights organization has warned that the group might sue Charles County if it decides that new commissioner electoral districts harm racial minorities, Erica Mitrano reports for SoMDNews.com.

BAY CLEANUP & ST. MARY’S: The costs to St. Mary’s County of an ambitious plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay being spearheaded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency remain unknown as the local government submits an update on its efforts, reports Jason Babcock for SoMDNews.com.

GOP OFFICE FOR RENT: We knew it was going to happen, and the Post’s John Wagner blogs that a large banner hoisted Friday across the front window of the financially troubled Maryland Republican Party HQ in Annapolis advertises that its office space is now for “LEASE.” The state GOP, he continues, is expecting at least a short-term financial boost next month when a signing party for Ehrlich’s new book will double as a party fundraiser.

TRANSGENDER PROTECTION: Today, Howard County will become the latest local government to take up a bill that would add gender identity and expression to the county’s anti-discrimination laws, reports Jessica Anderson for the Sun.

GETTING GOV’T CONTRACTS: Jessica Goolsby of SoMDNews.com reports that the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic and Community Development will sponsor a conference Nov. 30 to help businesses interested in securing government contracts.

FOOD STAMP USE RISES: The number of people receiving food stamps in Anne Arundel County has nearly tripled since the economic downturn started, writes Earl Kelly for the Annapolis Capital. He offers anonymity to a couple to tell their story.

AUDITORS REPORT: Frederick County auditors, who have found themselves on the block for possible outsourcing, have issued an annual report highlighting the savings they have brought to local government, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News-Post.

FREDERICK ETHICS: To keep in line with state law, the Frederick County Commissioners adopted a law that forever bans county employees from working for a company that does business with the county, Sherry Greenfield of the Gazette reports.

CUT HOLIDAYS: The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post writes that the County Commissioners are right to take aim at eliminating two paid holidays per year and reducing sick days for county employees in an effort to trim expenses.

ANNAPOLIS CHARTER CHANGES: An Annapolis commission charged with examining ways to improve the city’s governing structure has recommended several changes to the city charter, including making city elections nonpartisan and the creation of an audit committee, according to a draft of its proposals, the Sun’s Nicole Fuller reports.

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