December 5, 2011

State Roundup, December 5, 2011

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SHA AUDIT: The Sun’s Michael Dresser writes that the State Highway Administration repeatedly requested new contracts from the Board of Public Works while concealing that millions of dollars remained unspent from previous awards for the same work, according to legislative auditors.

Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com writes that the audit also found that the construction inspection office did not maintain any documentation of what contractors were supposed to do, and had no standard method of estimating how much different projects should cost.

RIVALRY ESCALATES: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, are the leaders of their parties’ governors association, write Steve Contorno and Brian Hughes of the Washington Examiner. And their long-time feud has been generally good natured ribbing. But now, with governorships on the line, the rivalry is reaching another level.

ROBOCALL CASE: The embattled former campaign manager for Bob Ehrlich took the witness stand in his own defense Friday, denying that he planned a last-minute Election Day effort last year to suppress the black vote in Baltimore and Prince George’s County in a desperate push for Ehrlich to regain the governorship, Andrea Siegel writes for the Sun.

John Wagner and Aaron Davis of the Post write that the case is expected to go to the jury today.

BROWN FUND-RAISER: Gov. O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake are acting as co-hosts of a fund-raiser for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Dec. 14 as he apparently prepares to run for governor in 2014, blogs Michael Dresser for the Sun.

HOUSING DEPT. MOVE: In a column published in the Daily Record but linked to through WBAL-AM, Marta Mossburg details the financial problems of the developer chosen for the move of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

FARM BILL: In an op-ed for the Sun, Dennis McGinn and Ernest Shea write that initiatives that protect the Chesapeake Bay while reducing dependence on foreign oil should be preserved in Farm Bill.

FOOD STAMPS: Local talk show hosts were wagging their fingers over a recent report that Maryland has a relatively high food stamp overpayment rate of 6.11%, a problem that is far more attributable to administrative error than fraud, opines the editorial board for the Sun. The program has grown in recent years not because there’s more fraud but because a great deal more people are genuinely eligible.

ABORTION PROTEST: Nesa Nourmohammadi of the Gazette writes that anti-abortion demonstrators will mark a year of protesting outside of the year-old practice of a Nebraska abortion doctor in Germantown this morning.

MILLIONAIRE TAX: Jay Hancock of the Sun writes that Gov. O’Malley’s notorious but temporary “millionaire tax” doesn’t seem to have prompted rich folks to flee Maryland in much greater numbers than usual, according to the latest data. But that doesn’t mean they’re not fleeing, and it doesn’t mean the tax should be resurrected, as some advocate.

6TH DISTRICT RACE: For those interested in the 6th Congressional District Democratic Primary and the candidates who have thus far lined up, Maryland Juice offers up a summary on each from their websites and other statements. They are Rob Garagiola, Milad Pooran, John Delaney and Duchy Trachtenberg.

The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that as Republicans line up to run against incumbent Roscoe Bartlett in the 6th Congressional District Primary, whoever comes out on top will be the worse for the fight.

MUSE VS. CARDIN: Robert Lang of WBAL-AM reports that Prince George’s County Democratic state Sen. Anthony Muse says he will announce ”in two to three weeks” whether he will challenge U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin in the primary election in April.

IMPACT ON CIVIL LIBERTIES: While U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger is co-sponsoring legislation that he says would begin to break down communication barriers between the nation’s intelligence agencies and U.S. companies to ward off cyberthreats, Matthew Hay Brown of the Sun reports that some express concern about the potential impact on civil liberties — from government agencies gaining access to personal details about private citizens to the possibility of an information clampdown as threat data is labeled secret.

EHRLICH PENS AGAIN: As he hawks his first book, former Gov. Bob Ehrlich said he is 50 pages into writing his second one, blogs John Wagner of the Post.

JOHNSONS’ SENTENCING: As Jack and Leslie Johnson are scheduled to be sentenced this week on federal corruption charges, Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner takes a look back at the case. Here’s a bit of the transcripts from the wiretaps.

BAKER’S 1ST YEAR: Prince George’s County Exec Rushern Baker looks back upon his first year in office – one of sleepless nights, the fallout from corrupt politicians and a corrupt system, crime and renewal. Miranda Spivack writes the story for the Washington Post.

BAG FEE: Prince George’s County’s state lawmakers were asked Saturday to help establish a fee for using disposable bags, arguing that the bags contribute to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and are eyesores, writes the Gazette’s Daniel Leaderman.

JONES’ BENEFITS: Even if Anne Arundel County Councilman Daryl Jones decides to resign before reporting to federal prison next month for failure to pay years-worth of taxes, county codes say he’ll still collect his county pension and retiree health benefits once he hits 60, Allison Bourg reports for the Annapolis Capital.

HOWARD COFFERS: Jessica Anderson of the Sun reports that Howard County income tax collections — the second-largest source of county revenue — continue to increase, which will likely help the county avoid a serious budget shortfall this coming year.

AGAINST BGE: A power struggle has taken hold in Howard County as residents organize against BGE over outages and reliability issues, writes Kevin Rector of the Howard County Times.

RECALL POWER: Some Frederick County residents want the power to recall their elected leaders, and on Saturday, they asked state lawmakers to help them get it, Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News Post.

Frederick residents were unhappy with the program cuts, loss of services and legislation that the Frederick County Board of Commissioners has implemented since it took office a year ago, writes Sherry Greenfield for the Gazette.

Maryland Juice writes that there is little doubt in its mind that the request for recall power is aimed at Frederick County Tea Partier Blaine Young, the president of the Board of Commissioners.

EXEC FORM OF GOV’T: After 160 years, Frederick County’s form of government could be changing to one with an executive at the helm and five council members elected by district, reports the Gazette’s Sherry Greenfield.

FRACKING DISCUSSION: The activist group Citizen Shale will present a free educational program Thursday at Garrett College to discuss the economic and environmental impact of fracking for gas in Garrett County. Speakers include reps from the Garrett County Board of Realtors Food and Water Watch, according to the Cumberland Times-News.

ONE-TIME HIKE: The Calvert County Board of County Commissioners unanimously agreed to grant qualifying county government employees a one-time pay increase on Tuesday, SoMDNews.com reports.

ON FACEBOOK: Jason Babcock of SoMDNews.com writes that St. Mary’s County government joined Facebook on Thursday. So go Like em!

ROOM TAX FOR HARFORD: Government officials from Harford County and the City of Havre de Grace, as well as several community leaders, vowed to make a more streamlined, persistent effort to get a room tax through the Maryland General Assembly this coming legislative session, Bryna Zumer reports for the Aegis.

JOB FOR BEREANO? Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times writes that the Carroll County Board of Commissioners is considering hiring Bruce Bereano as its legislative lobbyist.

CARROLL BILLS: Carroll County’s delegation in the General Assembly will hold its annual public hearing on proposed county legislation on Tuesday, Dec. 13, according to Explore Carroll. Click here for more information.