December 7, 2011

State Roundup, December 7, 2011

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ROBOCALL GUILTY VERDICT: John Wagner of the Washington Post reports that Paul Schurick, the 2010 campaign manager for former Gov. Bob Ehrlich was convicted yesterday of four counts stemming from a robocall that prosecutors said was intended to suppress the black vote.

Schurick will be sentenced in February, reports John Rydell of WBFF-TV. But his attorney intends to appeal.

Herb Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College, said that the robocall in Schurick’s case was an extreme example of “dirty tricks” in campaigns, Luke Broadwater reports for the Sun.

Columnist Dan Rodricks of the Sun writes that there’s a long, deep and even bloody history behind the law that says you can’t “willfully and knowingly … influence or attempt to influence a voter’s decision whether to go to the polls to cast a vote through the use of force, fraud, threat, menace, intimidation, bribery, reward, or offer of reward.” Click on the video above the column to hear from defense and prosecuting attorneys.

The Sun editorial board calls the conviction a sad end to a long career in Maryland politics.

7 YEARS FOR CORRUPTION: Cheryl Thompson of the Post reports that former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson pleaded for leniency yesterday before a judge sentenced him to more than seven years in a federal prison for masterminding a corruption conspiracy that netted him as much as $1 million in bribes and implicated his wife and several developers, county officials and businessmen.

Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette writes that Johnson walked into court using a cane, and his attorneys sought a lighter sentence, claiming that Johnson has Parkinson’s Disease, a claim the prosecution disputed.

Johnson, a 62-year-old Democrat, was arrested on extortion, bribery and evidence tampering charges in November 2010 while serving out the final weeks of his eight years as the leader of Maryland’s second-most populous county, reports Michael Dresser of the Sun.

Johnson faced 14 years in prison, Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner reports.

BLACK CAUCUS MAPS: The Legislative Black Caucus plans on submitting General Assembly redistricting maps to the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee this week, saying black voters are under-represented in the legislature, Glynis Kazanjian reports for MarylandReporter.com.

LOWER CORPORATE TAX: Del. Andrew Serafini says that state legislators from Washington County plan to try to lower Maryland’s corporate income tax during the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session, Heather Keels of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports.

OFF-SHORE WIND: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Times writes that environmental groups are gearing up for the 2012 legislative session by encouraging elected officials to support legislation that could make Maryland the first state to build an offshore wind farm.

GENDER IDENTITY: Advocates are hoping state lawmakers will support a measure to make gender identity a protected class similar to the one the Howard County Council approved this week, reports Lindsey McPherson for the Howard County Times.

INDIA TRIP: The six-day trip to India with Gov. Martin O’Malley was more successful than anticipated for representatives of the University of Maryland College Park, Yasmeen Abutaleb writes for the Diamondback.

C FOR SPORTS: The state school board is recommending that students maintain a C average to be able to play sports in public high schools over concerns raised by some educators and coaches that marginal students might drop out without the incentive of sports.

RIGHT TO RECALL: The Frederick News-Post editorial board writes that “the law in 29 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia permits recall of local officials. Maryland is not among them. We believe it should be.”

O’MALLEY RE-ELECTED: The nation’s 20 Democratic governors re-elected Gov. Martin O’Malley as head of their national political organization, assuring O’Malley a national voice in the run-up to the 2012 election, writes Aaron Davis for the Sun.

In a news release, O’Malley called 2011 a “banner year” for the DGA and said next year he hopes to build on the group‘s “strong foundation,” writes Annie Linskey for the Sun.

CURFEW TABLED: The Montgomery County Council has tabled a proposed teen curfew and an alternative anti-loitering bill, choosing not to vote on legislation proposed by County Executive Ike Leggett in July, Kristi Tousignant reports for the Gazette.

FOOD STAMP WASTE: Columnist Marta Mossburg writes in the Frederick News-Post about Maryland’s waste and fraud in the federal food stamp system.

MOVE ON: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker marked his first anniversary in office yesterday by calling on county leaders and residents to move forward after his predecessor and political rival Jack Johnson was sentenced to seven years in prison in a wide-ranging corruption scheme, Miranda Spivack reports for the Post.

While former Prince George’s County Exec Jack Johnson was being sentenced to seven years in prison for a “pay to play” scheme, a divided Prince George’s County Council was selecting new leaders.

WASTE TO ENERGY: Frederick County is forging ahead with a waste-to-energy incinerator despite some hesitation from its partner in the project, Pete McCarthy writes for the Frederick News-Post.