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Published on June 22nd, 2012 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, June 22, 2012

$1.6 BILLION UNPAID: Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner reports that a state audit has found that Maryland is owed $1.6 billion in unpaid debt, but the agency responsible for recovering the funds has not been doing enough to collect.

GAMBLING FALLOUT: House Speaker Michael Busch has left the door open to continued efforts to reach an agreement on expanded gambling in time to call a special legislative session this summer, saying he expects to talk with the governor and Senate president to try to resolve the remaining issues, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

But, reports John Rydell for WBFF-TV, there will not be another special session of the General Assembly on gambling.

Any expansion of gaming – either to a new location or for table games – requires approval by the voters in a referendum, according to the Maryland’s Money Matters. If there is indeed no special session prior to the November election, those issues will need to wait for the next statewide general election in November 2014.

Boosters of a Prince George’s County casino are vowing to continue their push despite the collapse Wednesday of an expanded gambling plan developed by a Maryland work group, writes John Wagner in the Post.

Meanwhile, Gov. Martin O’Malley chastised members of the House of Delegates for backing away from a deal to expand gambling in the state at the last minute, which for now has halted plans for a proposed casino at National Harbor, writes Ben Giles of the Washington Examiner.

David Hill of the Washington Times quotes O’Malley as saying, “For some reason, the House leadership at the last minute decided they did not want to share in that consensus. Finding common ground will be difficult if House leadership has become invested in the notion that the Anne Arundel site should enjoy a virtual monopoly for as long as possible.”

There’s still the problem getting the 71 votes in the House needed for an expansion of gambling, Daniel Leaderman reports in the Gazette.

INACTION A GOOD THING: The editorial board of the Sun writes that politics, not policy, prevented the work group from coming to a consensus on at least some expansion of gambling — specifically, a proposal to legalize table games. But inaction, for the moment, serves the state’s best interests.

The editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times agrees, saying why the rush now, after the initial adoption of racetrack-affiliated slots parlors took years and years to embrace? It’s the same allure that draws people to gambling in the first place – the promise of easy money.

Gazette columnist Blair Lee recalls the good old days when a wide array of Maryland officials opposed slot machine gambling, only to embrace it today.

SUPPORT FOR DREAM ACT: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign sent out an email blast this week, asking voters to consider donating up to $100 in support of the Dream Act, set to appear on the November ballot, writes Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette. His plea comes days after President Barack Obama announced plans to stop deportations of young illegal immigrants.

REMAP CHALLENGE: Marylanders seeking a referendum on the state’s new congressional map will have until the end of the month to collect the necessary signatures, reports David Hill in the Washington Times. The state Board of Elections has given petitioners the official go-ahead to continue collecting voter signatures after determining that they met a May 31 signature deadline.

ONLINE PETITION SUCCESS: Dana Aminhere of MarylandReporter.com reports that the ability of Del. Neil Parrott’s online petition website to quickly mobilize a statewide campaign “increases the scope” of who is able to participate in the democratic process, especially those who live in harder to reach areas. But critics say it makes it too easy to change the law.

FILING TO RUN FOR OFFICE: A news item in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail says that candidates seeking to run in the Nov. 6 general election in Maryland outside of the major political parties have until June 29 to file a declaration of intent. The Maryland State Board of Elections said candidates need a declaration of intent if they are seeking the nomination of a nonprincipal political party, which includes the Green and Libertarian parties.

1st STATE HOUSE UNCOVERED: Archaeologists have uncovered the stone and brick foundation of a St. Mary’s City structure that served as Maryland’s first state house, according to an AP report in the Sun. The Calvert House site was identified in the 1980s.

O’MALLEY IN NEW YORK: Gov. O’Malley was watching yesterday’s fallout from a collapsed casino plan from afar, blogs John Wagner in the Post. Aides confirmed that the governor was in New York meeting with prospective donors to a number of causes and preparing for an appearance today on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

FARM BILL & THE BAY: U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski say a farm bill passed by the U.S. Senate retains important bay conservation programs, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says it is encouraged by the bill, which passed yesterday. The foundation says the Senate had originally eliminated $50 million a year in cost-share programs for farmers, which senators from bay states were able to save, according to an AP report in the Daily Record.

$28 MILLION HEALTH REBATE: About 141,000 Maryland consumers will get $27.9 million in rebates from health care insurers under a provision of the Affordable Care Act, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.

KAMENETZ’S OTHER JOB: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is also an attorney, continued to do some legal work after his election, reports Bryan Sears for Patch.com. Even though the county charter requires the executive to “devote his full time to the duties of the office,” the county attorney’s interpretation of “full-time” has been inconsistent.

JONES OUT OF PRISON: Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette reports that a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons says that former Anne Arundel County Councilman Daryl Jones was released from prison yesterday morning.

VETERANS HEALTH: State services are slowly ramping up to take care of the health care needs of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including high rates of suicide, Benjamin Ford writes in the Gazette.

CRISFIELD ELECTION: U.S. Department of Justice officials monitored a municipal election in Crisfield this week to ensure there were no violations of the federal Voting Rights Act, Benjamin Ford reports in the Gazette. The monitoring was apparently due to complaints about voting irregularities in a 2010 election.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on the late Richard Dixon; Peter Franchot; a land grant to the Boy Scouts; muted political coverage; nuns on a bus trip; and the peace for the War of 1812.

SCHOOL SPENDING: Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, and Baltimore City were in the top five large school systems in the nation for spending per pupil in their public schools, reports the Gazette’s Jen Bodeson.

HENSON SENTENCING: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar says the prosecution and sentencing of Julius Henson for a 2010 political robocall was a violation of the First Amendment free speech rights and a political witch hunt.

UNIVERSITY PRESIDENTS: Laslo Boyd in his Gazette column writes about the ouster of the University of Virginia president and how the situation compares with Maryland.

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