December 21, 2011

State Roundup, December 21, 2011

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REMAP CHALLENGE: Three federal judges expressed skepticism yesterday that Maryland’s political mapmakers intentionally diluted black voting power when they drew new congressional districts, as the map’s opponents have argued, Annie Linskey writes for the Sun.

Meanwhile, Aaron Davis of the Post blogs that the panel expressed disbelief when a state lawyer argued there was no evidence Democrats had gerrymandered the state’s congressional map.

The challenge could force a delay in the April 3 primary since ballots must be drawn up and others prepared for military personnel serving overseas and neighborhoods must be surveyed to verify precincts, writes Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

SLOTS DEALS: The owner of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course plans to ask the state for up to $6 million in slots subsidies to help run 146 days of live racing at the two tracks next year, Hanah Cho reports for the Sun.

John Wagner of the Post blogs that the state Board of Public Works will be asked today to sign off on a $169 million lease arrangement to fill Maryland’s largest planned casino – in Arundel County – with slot machines.

He also blogs that slower-than-anticipated background checks have delayed a decision about a slots license at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort.

The Rocky Gap license will be awarded in February at the earliest, Matthew Bieniek writes for the Cumberland Times-News

LOTTERY ONLINE? Pat Warren of WJZ-TV reports about the possibility of online sales of lottery tickets in the state of Maryland.

BLOCKING DEATH PENALTY: Gov. O’Malley has considered the idea of defunding executions in the state budget in an attempt to block them, writes John Wagner of the Post, but his spokeswoman says that such a move is unlikely.

SHODDY SHA: Jeff Barnd of WBFF-TV interviews a whistleblower who used to work with the State Highway Administration about recent audits that found shoddy spending habits and the fact that President Obama has gotten involved in the situation.

JOBLESS DROP: Maryland’s unemployment rate fell to 6.9% in November, down from 7.2% in October, according to the state labor department, reports Gary Haber for the Baltimore Business Journal.

INCREASE TAX BASE: Writing in the Frederick News-Post, columnist Marta Mossburg says that if Maryland is going to solve its ongoing $1 billion-plus budget deficits, it needs to increase the tax base instead of trying to squeeze more from a smaller number of poorer people.

GRANDPARENT CHALLENGE: A group of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren spoke to state Sen. Christopher Shank about the many challenges they face, Don Aines reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

STATE REMAPPING: Anne Arundel County politicos studying the state legislative redistricting proposal concluded that new legislative districts in Anne Arundel could lead to the ouster of two Republican members of the state delegation, reports Erin Cox for the Annapolis Capital.

The plan makes changes to Howard County’s legislative districts that have some pondering the plans of the county’s current General Assembly representatives, as well as those of others who may be interested in an office in Annapolis, Lindsey McPherson writes for the Howard County Times.

Columnist Eric Hartley of the Annapolis Capital offers up a well-reasoned argument about why Democrats should be as outraged as Republicans over both recent legislative maps.

And the editorial board for the Sun writes that compared to Maryland’s new congressional district maps, Gov. O’Malley’s proposal for new legislative district lines looks downright rational.

BILLS TO OUST JONES: The Anne Arundel County Council will consider dual pieces of legislation that would force Councilman Daryl Jones out of office six days before he reports to federal prison, reports Allison Bourg for the Annapolis Capital.

BA CO PENSION DEAL: A Sun editorial about the Baltimore County pension system that allows three members of county government who used to serve on the council to get large, lump-sum payments upon retirement has the new County Council talking, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports.