December 19, 2011

State Roundup, December 19, 2011

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REDISTRICTING: Minority growth in Washington’s Maryland suburbs translates into more African American, Hispanic and Asian state lawmakers under a plan released late Friday by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s redistricting commission, Aaron Davis reports for the Post.

A plan for rearranging the state’s legislative boundaries calls for a Baltimore city district to follow migration growth into the suburbs and creates 12 majority black districts across the state, Sarah Breitenbach reports for the Gazette.

While House Speaker Michael Busch calls the map a “fair and balanced approach,” some Republicans are unhappy to be put into districts where they will have to face one another for a seat, Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com

Howard County could get another state delegate in the General Assembly if a state legislative redistricting plan is adopted, writes Lindsey McPherson of the Howard County Times.

Harford County’s legislative districts would be dramatically shifted under the proposed plan, writes Brian Goodman of the Dagger. Among the shifts, state Sen. Nancy Jacobs will lose her entire Cecil County constituency.

Maryland Juice reports about the changes to state Del. Don Dwyer’s and state Sen. Jim Brochin’s districts.

STATE CENTER COUNTERSUIT: A Baltimore City Circuit Court judge Friday dismissed a $100 million countersuit filed by the state Department of General Services against a group of plaintiffs suing to halt the mega State Center development based on charges that the state violated its own procurement laws in hiring the developer, Melody Simmons reports for the Daily Record.

OFFSHORE WIND: State lawmakers are preparing to resume debate on one of Gov. O’Malley’s major green initiatives, an offshore wind energy bill that stalled during the last legislative session amid concerns about the cost to utility companies and their customers, Greg Master of Capital News Service reports in the Salisbury Daily Times.

GAMING ALLOWANCE: Responding to concerns raised by a high-profile applicant for a downtown Baltimore slots casino, Maryland officials have relaxed a rule designed to keep people with past gambling transgressions from winning licenses to operate such facilities, John Wagner writes of the Post.

ARSENIC BAN: A proposal to ban the use of arsenic as a feed additive will be before the General Assembly again in the upcoming session, bolstered by a new report detailing the health risks, Margie Hyslop of the Gazette reports.

TAX OVERHAUL: A state lawmaker who helps set tax policy is calling for an overhaul of Maryland’s property tax cap law, after a Baltimore Sun investigation documented how the program has resulted in Baltimore homeowners paying vastly different amounts for similarly valued houses, write Scott Calvert and Jamie Smith Hopkins for the Sun.

PLAN MARYLAND: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital says that the O’Malley administration is on solid ground with PlanMaryland but the way they approached rolling it out to the public made that ground quite a bit more bumpy.

Former Govs. Harry Hughes and Parris Glendening will join O’Malley in Annapolis today for the presentation of PlanMaryland, according to the Salisbury Daily Times.

RACE TO TOP: Emma Brown of the Post reports that Maryland is one of nine states that will share a total of $500 million in federal grants under the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative to improve early childhood education.

O’M THANKS OBAMA: Gov. O’Malley, a longtime critic of the Iraq war, fired off a four-sentence “open letter” to President Obama on Friday, thanking him for or “doing what you said you would do in bringing our troops home,” John Wagner blogs for the Post.

FELON LONG GUN BAN: As it ponders its 2012 legislative wishlist, the Charles County commissioners considered whether to ask the Maryland General Assembly to extend a handgun ban for convicted felons to shotguns and rifles as well, Erica Mitrano reports for SoMDNews.com.

REPEAL PENSION LAW: The editorial board for the Sun opines that a law that allows the Baltimore County executive and two former councilmen to bank their pensions while earning salaries and new benefits should be repealed.

CARROLL DISTRICTS: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times writes that the county commissioner elections districts may remain the same if the Carroll County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly doesn’t receive information on another option.

FBI MOVE TO MD: A historic development deal between Metro and the federal government’s leasing arm has Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker confident the county will finally be able to lure a federal headquarters complex — perhaps the coveted FBI relocation, writes Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner.

The Sun’s John Fritze writes that state officials are working behind the scenes to lure the FBI’s headquarters from its longtime home base in downtown Washington, bringing nearly 12,000 jobs to a 2.1 million-square-foot office complex in Prince George’s County and making it one of the largest economic development coups in years.

CHECK CHECK: At the fundraiser for Prince George’s County Exec Baker was a somewhat surprising guest: the Laurel physician who was a pivotal part of a nearly decade-long bribery scheme, and was caught on a federal videotape handing $15,000 to former County Exec Jack Johnson on the day of his arrest in 2010, reports John Wagner for the Post. The Baker campaign returned the doctor’s check once they realized who it was.

REMOVAL BILL: The Anne Arundel County Council will consider emergency legislation today that would remove Councilman Daryl Jones from office, if approved by five of the seven council members. It would declare Jones’ seat vacant in light of his pending federal prison sentence, Allison Bourg writes for the Annapolis Capital.

OC TAX BASE DOWN: Ocean City’s real property tax base will decrease by about 10% overall heading into next year, leaving Worcester County with at least a $7 million budget hole, Brian Shane writes for the Salisbury Daily Times.

And the Salisbury Daily Times editorial board says that with a bit of austerity, Worcester County can come out of this just fine.

RON SMITH HONORED: The Maryland Press Club has honored WBAL’s Ron Smith with a lifetime achievement award for a 40-year journalism career that included seven years as a news anchor on WBAL-TV and 27 years as a talk show host on WBAL Radio, WBAL-TV reports.

You can click on the link to the video of the presentation to fill-in host Marta Mossburg on WBAL-AM here.