December 22, 2011

State Roundup, December 22, 2011

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FIRED, HIRED: Hayley Peterson of the Washington Examiner writes that, according to a state audit, 61 Maryland Department of Transportation employees who were fired for egregious conduct were then hired by other state agencies. Personnel policy differences apparently come into play here.

SLOTS DEAL STRUCK: A divided Maryland Board of Public Works signed off yesterday on a $169 million plan to lease slot machines for the state’s largest planned casino — but only after one member, Comptroller Peter Franchot, said he was “disgusted” by the use of gambling revenue to bolster the state budget, blogs John Wagner of the Post.

PLANT, POO ELECTRICITY: In a move that increases Maryland’s commitment to renewable energy, the BPW also approved a deal under which a Virginia company will be given a 30-year lease on land at an Eastern Shore prison to build a plant that will generate electricity out of a mixture of crops and chicken manure, the Sun’s Michael Dresser reports.

PEPCO FINED: The Daily Record reports that the Public Services Commission has ordered Pepco to pay a $1 million initial fine for failing to maintain its system properly over a period of years, and for subjecting its customers to excessively high frequencies and long durations of electric outages.

DRUG CONTRACT HELD: The Board of Public Works also deferred action on a $120 million pharmacy contract for the state’s prison inmates after a long and contentious debate, according to an AP report in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

State officials told the BPW that they strongly endorsed Pennsylvania-based Diamond Pharmacy Services to get the contract, replacing current provider Correct Rx Pharmacy Services of Linthicum, writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

SHORE SANCTUARY: The Sun’s Tim Wheeler writes that, in a deal approved by the BPW and hailed as a model for land preservation in lean budget times, a wealthy businessman has agreed to give up development rights — and grant limited but free public access — to a 950-acre former wildlife sanctuary on the Eastern Shore that he bought 18 months ago.

BRINKLEY OPPOSES: State Sen. David Brinkley is opposing one-third of the recommendations made by the Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal because he considers them assaults on rural areas, farming communities and property owners, writes Christian Alexandersen for the Carroll County Times. Here’s the Task Force recommendations.

EXELON MOVES AHEAD: Exelon Corp.’s proposed $7.9 billion acquisition of Constellation Energy Group got another keystone approval yesterday in the form of a settlement with the Department of Justice over competition concerns, Ben Mook of the Daily Record writes.

HOMESTEAD CREDIT: Dan Rodricks of WYPR-FM hosts a show on Maryland’s Homestead Property Tax Credit with Baltimore Sun reporters Jamie Smith Hopkins and Scott Calvert and Carl Stokes, chairman of the Baltimore City Council’s taxation committee, who is among those calling for reforms of the 34-year-old program. Scroll down and click on the noon-1 p.m. Wednesday show.

TAX EVASION: Richard Stewart, a member of the five-person Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee, pleaded guilty last Thursday of failing to pay almost $4 million in federal Social Security and income taxes for a company he owned, reports Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

ARUNDEL SPARED: The Annapolis Capital editorial board writes that the recent state legislative redistricting plan could have been far worse for Anne Arundel County.

ST. MARY’S SHIFT: The proposed map would drastically redraw the district represented by state House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell (R-Calvert, St. Mary’s) of Lusby, so that about two-thirds of its geographic area would be in St. Mary’s, Jeff Newman writes for SoMDNews.com.

FREDERICK UNFAZED: And Frederick County Republicans are not losing much sleep over the redistricting map, Katherine Heerbrandt reports for the Gazette. The map, legislators say, does not hurt Republican members of the delegation, nor does it expand opportunities for Democrats.

MARYLAND CITY MOVES: Russett and Maryland City will move from legislative District 21 to District 32 if a state redistricting plan created by the Governor’s Redistricting Advisory Committee is adopted — and residents have no problem with that, Lindsey McPherson reports for the Howard County Times.

BACK IN THE SADDLE: The Sun editorial board writes that the pendulum for Maryland horse racing has swung again, with Maryland Jockey Club owner Frank Stronach agreeing to a full schedule of live racing for 2012, provided the horsemen and state pony up millions in subsidies to cover losses at the track. This is progress; less than two months ago, Stronach was insisting on a paltry 40 days of racing.

BARTLETT LEADS: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports that results of a recent poll have U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett defeating a Democratic challenger. The results are circulating among his supporters, showing activity in a campaign whose vitality has been questioned.

PAYROLL TAX: In the face of yet another Capitol Hill logjam, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris thinks working-class Americans need not worry whether or not their take-home income is going to shrink due to the lack of an agreement to extend a payroll tax break before lawmakers left Washington for the holidays, Daniel Divilio reports for the Easton Star Democrat.

GROUND RENT REFORM: A second ground rent reform law has been invalidated, with an Anne Arundel County judge ruling that the 2007 law dealing with collection of overdue rents is unconstitutional because it tramples ground rent holders’ property rights, Andrea Siegel reports for the Sun.

BAKER UNDERESTIMATED: Looking back on his first year in office, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said he underestimated how long it would take to get some of his initiatives off the ground. But although he must adjust the timeline, Baker plans to stay focused on government reforms, writes David Leaderman of the Gazette.