April 25, 2012

State Roundup, April 25, 2012

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TWO SPECIAL SESSIONS POSSIBLE: Gov. Martin O’Malley and top leaders of the General Assembly are considering the possibility of holding two special legislative sessions — one in May to deal with the state budget and another in summer to consider an expansion of casino gambling in Maryland, Liz Bowie and Michael Dresser report in the Sun.

John Wagner of the Post quotes Gov. O’Malley as saying, “I think that both issues deserve a hearing and some resolution. What made this session very disappointing and frustrating by the end was considering both of those issues at the same time.”

O’Malley told reporters that he wanted to hold a meeting with his staff and budget negotiators from each chamber this week, writes Daniel Leaderman and Danielle Gaines for the Gazette. A budget resolution is necessary before May 23, when the state’s Board of Public Works will meet to consider $130 million in cuts required to balance the “doomsday budget,” O’Malley said.

After the meeting, O’Malley told WBAL-AM that the group had a “good conversation.”

Neil Bergsman of Maryland’s Money Matters says the need to fix the budget is more urgent than the recent doomsday clock issued by the Save Our State coalition since most local governments now have less than 40 days to get their own budgets in order.

And what does the Sun editorial board think of two special sessions? “In the bizarro world our State House has become, this is actually a sign of progress. It should allow lawmakers to correct the problems caused by their failure to pass two key budget measures without getting bogged down in a divisive (and entirely elective) debate about expanded gambling.”

SESSIONS GET MIXED RESPONSE: Frederick County officials gave mixed responses to news that the governor is considering two special sessions. State Sen. David Brinkley said he doesn’t support holding a mid-May session aimed at altering the state’s “doomsday” budget and Angie Fish, president of the Frederick County Board of Education, said she welcomed it as a way of staving off large decreases in state funding for education, Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News Post.

TRADE WITH INDIA: Gathering on a top floor of Baltimore’s World Trade Center with a panoramic view of the harbor, O’Malley addressed more than 60 business leaders from India and Maryland in an attempt to strengthen trade and investment between the state and the South Asian country, writes Justin Fenton of MarylandReporter.com.

DNA COLLECTION BLOCKED: Maryland’s highest court on yesterday blocked police in most cases from collecting DNA samples when they arrest suspects in violent crimes and burglaries, dealing a blow to one of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature initiative, reports Yvonne Wenger of the Sun.

FINANCIAL FRAUD: A bill intended to help protect the elderly from financial fraud is expected to be signed into law by Gov. O’Malley next month. It requires employees of banks and other fiduciary institutions to report “knowledge of behavior or unusual circumstances or transactions” that indicate an elder adult may be the victim of financial abuse, Jeremy Arias reports in the Gazette.

ROCKY GAP SLOTS DECISION: A decision to recommend the award of a slots license at Rocky Gap is expected tomorrow when the state Video Lottery Facility Location Commission meets at noon in Annapolis, Matthew Bieniek writes in the Cumberland Times-News.

PROTEST FOR PETITIONS: In an event coordinated to rival O’Malley’s visit to Hagerstown, 11 people gathered in the wind and rain Monday to urge people to sign a petition that would give Maryland voters the chance to vote on same-sex marriage and other recently passed pieces of legislation, Dan Dearth writes for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. State Del. Neil Parrott, who helped organize the petitioning effort and protest, accompanied O’Malley on his trip and said he was “thankful” the governor came, blogs Andrew Schotz.

O’MALLEY GREETS SUPER: Gov. O’Malley made a rare appearance at the state school board meeting yesterday to welcome the new state school superintendent, Lillian Lowery, and encourage the members to work harder on preparing principals and providing vocational training to students, Liz Bowie writes in the Sun. Lowery, who is Delaware’s secretary of education, will begin work in Maryland July 1.

BUSCH TREATED FOR SKIN CANCER: House Speaker Michael Busch was treated this week for what he called a non life-threatening form of skin cancer — a condition he attributes largely to his years of work as a lifeguard at a time when sunblock was less effective and often went unused, blogs Michael Dresser in the Sun.

DOUG DUNCAN RETURNS? David Moon of Maryland Juice tosses in a report from News Channel 8’s Bruce DePuyt to blog about the possible return of former Montgomery County Exec Doug Duncan to the political scene – in a run for comptroller or maybe county exec.

LITTLE HOPE FOR JOBS: June Smith, wife of the late radio commentator Ron Smith, in an opinion piece for Red Maryland, writes about looming college debt and little hope for the jobs that those B.A. Degrees were meant to bring.

SHORE MAIL CENTER SPARED: John Fritze reports in the Sun that key U.S. senators reached a tentative agreement to save a mail processing center considered significant to the Eastern Shore economy but left the fate of more than a dozen post offices in the Baltimore region uncertain as they considered a sweeping bill to overhaul theU.S. Postal Service.

EDWARDS ON FINANCE REFORM: U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards has made campaign finance reform one of her signature issues. She joins Marc Steiner on his WEAA-FM show to discuss how money has changed politics and on her efforts to take the money out of politics.

MIKULSKI TOUTS ROSEN: U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski is glad Wendy Rosen in running for Congress against incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Harris in the first district. The senator expressed her pleasure at the 2012 Eastern Shore Democratic Summit on Saturday during a luncheon that included Democrats from counties all over the Eastern Shore, Chris Polk writes for the Salisbury Daily Times.

MISSING $21 MILLION: Following up a Bryan Sears story in Patch.com, Alison Knezevich of the Sun writes about Baltimore County’s loss in a $21 million investment that quickly went bad in 2007 and its consideration of suing Merrill Lynch.

EMBATTLED KAMENETZ: Bryan Sears of Patch.com writes a detailed piece about Baltimore County Exec Kevin Kamenetz, contrasting his peaceful first year in office with the contentious situations he find himself in now with labor unions, state legislators and the County Council. And the problems, many say could be Kamenetz’s uncompromising and arrogant attitude. Sears also interviews Kamenetz on legislative initiatives for this video.

TEMPERS OVER CARROLL BUDGET: Tempers boiled over yesterday as members of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners argued with and insulted each other during a press conference unveiling their proposed fiscal 2013 operating budget, writes Christian Alexandersen for the Carroll County Times.

O’MALLEY BACKS FUNDS FOR STADIUM: Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that if local government and business leaders want a new multiuse stadium in Hagerstown, the state could help fund it, according to O’Malley. O’Malley is the second high-ranking state official to express support for a stadium in recent weeks, joining Comptroller Peter Franchot.