April 18, 2012

State Roundup, April 18, 2012

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SPECIAL SESSION MORE LIKELY: After meeting with key Senate leaders for over an hour yesterday afternoon, Gov. Martin O’Malley said progress is being made toward calling a special session, writes Earl Kelly in the Annapolis Capital.

“The second we have consensus, we’ll have a session,” O’Malley told reporters after the meeting, reports Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

CONSERVATIVES FIGHT IT: Justin Snow and Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that Republican legislators and conservative groups are mounting a campaign against a special session of the legislature to raise taxes, as teachers and public employees advocates are organizing to bring the lawmakers back to Annapolis to do just that.

The Sun’s Tim Wheeler quotes Republican House leader Anthony O’Donnell as saying, “We can live with this budget for a year.” O’Donnell added that Marylanders should be spared any more tax increases because they are still struggling to recover from the worst economy in 75 years.

MOODY’S WARNS COUNTIES: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com blogs that Moody’s Investors Service says Maryland counties could face a downgrade of their bond ratings due the state cuts in education aid and the new maintenance of effort law “limiting the ability of local governments to cut their own spending.”

ANALYZING ANNAPOLIS: In this Daily Record podcast, reporter Alex Pyles gives an eyewitness account of how legislators ran out of time on budget negotiations and what role gambling legislation played in the final outcome. Also discussed are some of the 800 bills the legislature did pass during its 90-day session.

ELECTRIC RELIABILITY: Maryland energy regulators have adopted new regulations designed to improve electric service and reliability in the state, Hanah Cho of the Sun reports. The standards set rules for tree trimming and customer service performance and require greater accountability by the utilities.

BECAUSE THEY CAN: In an op-ed in the Sun, Republican Larry Hogan goes after the state’s Democratic leaders for rallying around “quixotic” ideas like wind energy and taxing a population that believes it is already taxed enough, saying that they do this “Because we can.”

MIZEUR’S STAR POWER: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes that Del. Heather Mizeur may rising to the top of the state’s Democratic leadership, calling her “that rare Annapolis lawmaker who matters beyond the legislative session.”

 BAY HEALTH DOWNGRADED: The Chesapeake Bay’s pollution grade dipped again in 2011, earning a D+ in the wake of a series of unusual weather events. It was its second-lowest grades since 1986, writes Pamela Wood for the Annapolis Capital. The D+ is a downgrade from a C- the year before.

SEN. BAKER, 84, DIES: Walter Baker, who served 24 years as a Democratic state senator from Cecil County, died at Christiana Hospital early yesterday morning. He was 84. Cheryl Mattix has the story for the Cecil Whig.

BONGINO ON PROBE: Former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino, who’s now running for U.S. Senate in Maryland against incumbent Sen. Ben Cardin and whose brother was on the Secret Service detail in Colombia now being investigated for its activities with prostitutes, spoke to CNN about the allegations, and said his brother is “not part of the prostitution investigation.” The video appears on WMAR-TV.

WICOMICO FACES MANDATE: Introduction of Wicomico County’s budget is on hold for two weeks after the County Council was told it would have to include a $14 million spending mandate from the state. But it did vote unanimously to increase the income tax rate from 3.1% to 3.2%, the maximum allowed by state law.

COMMISSIONERS MAY STEP UP: If the Frederick County Board of Education is left with $9.7 million in state funding cuts due to the “doomsday” budget recently accepted by state legislators, the county commissioners could make up nearly one-third of that deficit, Blair Ames reports for the Frederick News Post.

PENSION RECOVERY: Baltimore County pension officials are privately scrambling to meet a deadline to file a lawsuit in an attempt to recover $21 million in county pension money that, nearly five years ago, was invested by a county employee in a fund made up primarily of subprime mortgages, reports Bryan Sears for Patch.com.