June 13, 2012

State Roundup, June 13, 2012

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ALSTON GUILTY: Freshman Del. Tiffany Alston was convicted yesterday of stealing $800 in General Assembly funds to pay an employee of her law firm, reports Andrea Siegel of the Baltimore Sun. If the guilty verdicts on counts of misdemeanor theft and misconduct in office survive her expected challenges, the Bowie Democrat could lose her seat in the Maryland legislature.

The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge delayed sentencing until at least October, after Alston, 35, is scheduled to stand trial on separate charges that she misused campaign funds to cover personal expenses, including $3,560 for her wedding, John Wagner reports for the Post.

MORE GAMBLING: Michael Dresser is reporting in the Sun that the staff of the General Assembly and its consultants told a work group on gambling expansion yesterday that Maryland could gain as much as $161 million in revenue by authorizing a casino in Prince George’s County and adding table games statewide.

That finding, reached with consultants form PricewaterhouseCoopers, was presented to a work group launched by Gov. Martin O’Malley that is examining the wisdom of adding a casino site and authorizing Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five existing slots locations, John Wagner blogs in the Post.

Allowing a casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s would cut into the number of gamblers at Maryland Live! analysts did say. But, they added, if the General Assembly legalizes table games, the week-old casino at Arundel Mills mall could more than make up any shortfalls, and would earn more money than currently projected, Earl Kelly reports for the Capital-Gazette.

And Prince George’s County Exec Rushern Baker has pitched a waterfront National Harbor as the ideal location for a high-end casino resort that would draw customers from Washington, D.C., and Virginia, including tourists visiting the nation’s capital, Daniel Leaderman reports in the Gazette.

BUT NOT THIS ONE: Meanwhile, a Canadian developer whose bid to build a slots casino in Baltimore was dismissed last year has been rebuffed again by a state appeals court, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

OCEAN DOWNS REVENUE UP: Brian Shane of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that the Maryland Lottery is saying that the Casino at Ocean Downs brought in 21% more revenue for the month of May than it did a year ago.

LOTTERY BUCKS REIGN: And in an op-ed in the Sun, Thomas Schaller writes that despite nearly doubling since 1998 from $2.4 billion to $4.5 billion, casino-derived state revenues in 2010 constituted less than a fifth of the $24 billion that states raised overall from gaming. Lottery receipts provide most of those revenues.

DREAM ACT: High-powered Democratic lawyers and immigrant rights groups asked Maryland’s highest court to reverse a lower court ruling that the Dream Act – which would give undocumented immigrants in-state college tuition breaks – amounts to a fiscal measure and therefore cannot be petitioned to referendum, blogs the Post’s Aaron Davis.

“Tuition is about money,” said Joseph Sandler, a Washington-based attorney representing Casa de Maryland, an immigrants’ rights group that supports the Dream Act. Pamela Wood reports the story for the Capital-Gazette.

REFERENDUM ROUNDTABLE: Dan Rodricks of WYPR-FM holds a roundtable discussion on the state’s anticipated ballot issues including same-sex marriage, redistricting and the Dream Act and whether online petitions have made it too easy to override the General Assembly. Jim Snider, of Marylanders for a State Constitutional Convention, Avi Rubin, of Johns Hopkins University, and John Willis, former Maryland secretary of state, join Rodricks.

CREDIT UNION MERGER OK’D: Members and regulators have approved a merger of SECU, Maryland’s largest state-chartered credit union, and the Anne Arundel County Employees Federal Credit Union, writes Lizzy McLellan for the Daily Record.

HENSON SENTENCING: Julius Henson, who worked for former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s campaign during his rematch with Democratic Gov. O’Malley, faces up to a year in prison at sentencing today following his conviction on conspiracy for 2010 robocalls that prosecutors said were aimed at keeping black voters from the polls, Steve Fermier and Associated Press report at WBAL-AM.

DIXON FUNERAL: Alisha George of the Carroll County Times writes that family and friends are grieving the loss of Richard N. Dixon, the state’s first African-American treasurer, but all of those at his funeral service yesterday rejoiced at the time they spent with him and spoke of the powerful legacy he leaves behind.

OBAMA IN MD: President Barack Obama swung through Baltimore yesterday for fundraisers: At a small gathering of wealthy contributors in Owings Mills and a separate event that drew about 600 people to the Hyatt Regency at the Inner Harbor, Obama focused his remarks on the economic recovery while taking jabs at challenger Mitt Romney — at one point suggesting the Republican’s campaign message is so thin it could be summed up in a tweet, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

There’s a gallery of Sun pictures by Algerina Perna.

The executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, noting that Obama’s larger fundraiser of the day will take place at an Inner Harbor hotel, said, “If this was four years ago, he’d be filling the convention center.” But, writes John Fritze for the Sun, the event is a fundraiser, not a rally. Fundraisers usually draw smaller crowds.

You can listen to much of Obama’s speech thanks to Robert Lang, at WBAL-AM. Click on the audio links on the lower right side of the page.

SPJ AWARD: MarylandReporter.com wins SPJ award for series uncovering failure of disabilities agency to disburse funds while thousands wait for aid.