July 9, 2012

State Roundup, July 9, 2012

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SHRINKING TAX BASES: Tax bases in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties shrank a bit in 2010 as the wealthy moved away from the Washington-area suburbs, according to an analysis of recent Census data by Change Maryland, a grassroots advocacy group that blames the losses on Maryland’s tax policies. Ben Giles writes the story for the Washington Examiner.

Brian Shane of the Salisbury Daily Times also writes about the report, which finds that Worcester County is a bright spot as taxpayers are voting with their feet.

The editorial board of the Washington Examiner opines that while overburdened taxpayers flee Maryland for more hospitable states, Marylanders themselves are leaving the most populous jurisdictions with the highest local taxes and relocating to smaller Eastern Shore and western counties.

DIGITAL TAX: A wave of states, including Virginia, have passed laws that will require consumers to pay sales tax on all Internet purchases as soon as next year, writes Amrita Jayakumar for the Post. In Maryland, Gov. Martin O’Malley wants to go further and levy a tax on songs and other digital products bought through popular sources such as iTunes.

O’MALLEY & PEPCO: In light of Pepco’s poor performances in getting power restored to its customers and an Atlantic article on Gov. O’Malley’s failure to hold the company accountable, Mark Newgent of Red Maryland takes a quick look back at O’Malley and his history with the Public Service Commission and the utility companies.

SOLAR POWER: Don Aines of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that O’Malley joined a groundbreaking ceremony Saturday for what will be the largest solar power array in the state — and one of the biggest on the East Coast — when it is completed later this year.

NO SPECIAL SESSION YET: Maryland lawmakers will not be traveling to the state’s capital this week to hash out an agreement on gambling, Jennifer Shutt reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

The governor’s spokeswoman said the governor will continue to seek a decision from legislators on plans to allow a new casino in Prince George’s County and statewide gaming tables, much in the style of Las Vegas, Chris Knauss and Chris Polk report for the Easton Star-Democrat.

CORDISH & PETERSON: John Wagner of the Post offers up profiles of David Cordish, the developer of Maryland Live! in Anne Arundel County, and Milton Peterson, who wants to develop a high-end casino at National Harbor. Both have reached their 70s but remain combative and blunt. Each presides over a company bearing his name that employs his sons. And both have become accustomed to getting their way.

PRIVATE GAMBLING HALLS: Four restaurants in Chesapeake Beach and three aging “bingo halls” in Anne Arundel County offer gambling opportunities. All seven were supposed to shut down this month under a state sunset provision passed in 2009, writes Annie Linskey of the Sun. But in the waning days of this year’s General Assembly, the legislature quietly passed a law that will let six of the seven continue to operate indefinitely.

LEGGETT BACKS PG CASINO: Blogging in the Post, John Wagner writes that Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett spoke out Friday in favor of allowing a new casino in Prince George’s County, saying his counterpart there has “made a very strong case.”

CHIEF JUDGE SEARCH: Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes that the final year of Robert Bell’s tenure as chief judge of Maryland’s top court began Friday, when he turned 69 in a state where the Constitution requires jurists to retire at 70.

NEW JOBS: John Fritze of the Sun is reporting that Gov. O’Malley says that the $100 billion transportation bill President Barack Obama signed into law Friday will put 10,000 people in Maryland to work on state bridges and roads and represents “what can actually be accomplished if Congress comes together.”

INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING: Writing in Center Maryland, Donald Fry says that Maryland isn’t the only state struggling with an infrastructure funding crisis, but some states are opting to address infrastructure issues more aggressively than others, according to a May 9 report issued by the Urban Land Institute and Ernst & Young LLP.

MAP MAY NOT CHANGE: Even if voters in November decide to scrap the current congressional redistricting map, “There’s absolutely nothing to prevent the General Assembly from passing another similar map,” according to the Secretary of State. Pete McCarthy writes the story for the Frederick News-Post.

HEALTH EXCHANGE PANEL: Three Southern Maryland residents have been appointed to the Navigator Advisory Committee for the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange, writes Amanda Harrison for SoMDNews.com.

FORMER SEN. PAUL DORF DIES: Paul Dorf, a former state senator and Baltimore City circuit judge who championed the use of arbitration and mediation as alternatives to an overcrowded court system, died of renal cancer Thursday at his home in Harbor Court. He was 86, writes Chris Kaltenbach in the Sun.

SCAMS AGAINST IMMIGRANTS: Immigrant advocates – including Casa de Maryland – are warning people who plan to apply for a work permit under a new federal immigration policy to beware of scammers and hold off on taking any formal action until more details emerge about how the program will work, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

O’MALLEY BLASTS MITT: John Wagner blogs in the Post that O’Malley, on TV yesterday, lambasted Mitt Romney for his Swiss bank account and other overseas financial activities, saying, “I’ve never known a Swiss bank account to build an American bridge, a Swiss bank account to create American jobs or Swiss bank accounts to build the levies to protect the people of New Orleans.”

POWER TO TAX, DESTROY: The power of Congress to directly tax the citizenry was one of the most hotly debated provisions of the new Constitution as the states considered whether to ratify it back in 1787 and 1788, and it continues to be one in the health care debate, writes Len Lazarick in an analysis for MarylandReporter.com.

ACLU CONSIDERS AA SUIT: The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is contemplating suing Anne Arundel County to obtain more documents it believes are related to the indictment of County Executive John Leopold, writes Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette.

EMPLOYEE RECORDS: The City of Baltimore has been selling records containing personal information about its employees, including home addresses and driver’s license numbers, even though the city’s own lawyers say the information cannot legally be disclosed under state law, reports Scott Calvert of the Sun.

NO VIOLATION: The Carroll County Board of Commissioners did not violate the state’s Open Meetings Act when it met in closed session in January, according to an opinion from the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board, Christian Alexandersen writes of the Carroll County Times.