July 20, 2012

State Roundup, July 20, 2012

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VAN HOLLEN JOINS UTILITIES FRAY: U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen called on regulators to amp up pressure on the state’s electric utilities yesterday after last month’s derecho left some customers without power for more than a week, adding his voice to a chorus of local elected leaders who have called on BGE and Pepco, which serves the Washington region, to bury at least some power lines, report John Fritze and Michael Dresser for the Sun.

In a strongly worded letter to the Montgomery County Council president, Van Hollen criticized Pepco’s performance after a June 29 storm that ravaged the region, Victor Zapana blogs in the Post.

PEPCO DEFENDS ACTIONS: A Pepco executive vice president defended itself before the Montgomery County Council and a packed house, saying that “There is no overhead electric distribution system that can withstand damage from this sort of hurricane-force event,” writes Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner. Meanwhile, the PSC is scheduled to rule today on Pepco’s request for a $68 million — or 4% — rate increase.

NO TO MORE GAMBLING: Comptroller Peter Franchot, in an op-ed in the Sun, says that awarding tax breaks to the national gambling industry, after the state repeatedly raised taxes on Maryland families and businesses, would represent the most profound misplacement of priorities that he has seen in 25 years in public life.

O’MALLEY GAMBLING PLANS: Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to unveil details today of a proposal to add a sixth casino in Maryland, at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, as well as to legalize table games, reports Robert Lang for WBAL-AM.

Gazette columnist Blair Lee gives his analysis on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s quest for 71 votes in the House of Delegates to expand gaming in Maryland.

SPECIAL SESSION BOYCOTT: A Washington-based group known as the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is calling on Maryland legislators to boycott a planned special session of the General Assembly this summer, John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports.

MINI-CASINO FIGHTS SHUTTING: An Anne Arundel County judge pulled the plug yesterday on the gambling operation at a Chesapeake Beach bar, but said the Crooked I Sports Bar & Grill can try to restore its mini-casino when the case goes to trial, reports Andrea Siegel in the Sun. The business is challenging a new state law that would end its lucrative gambling business, contending that the law allows other small Southern Maryland gambling venues to remain open.

MOOLAH FOR MARRIAGE EQUALITY: The Post’s John Wagner writes that supporters of same-sex marriage said they raised $250,000 on Wednesday night to benefit the campaign to uphold Maryland’s new gay nuptials law.

OPPONENTS SPEND: The Maryland Marriage Alliance has spent more than $160,000 on collecting enough signatures to force a referendum on Maryland’s new same-sex marriage law, reports Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

MINORITY CONTRACTS: Minority business participation in state contracts last year reached its highest level since the program began in 1978, writes Dana Amihere for MarylandReporter.com. But Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors Association President Wayne Frazier says that the numbers are skewed by nonprofits’ inclusion as MBEs under preference procurement.

AAA BOND RATING: Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp says all three bond rating agencies have affirmed the state’s triple-A bond rating, the AP reports in the Daily Record.

DNA COLLECTION RESUMES: On Wednesday evening, Chief Justice John Roberts issued an order temporarily halting a decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals that granted a convicted rapist a second chance in Wicomico County Circuit Court, reports Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times. Roberts’ order stays a decision by Maryland’s highest court that barred law enforcement officers from collecting the DNA of certain arrestees without a warrant.

A number of police departments throughout the state, including Howard County, have decided to resume collecting DNA samples as they await further word from the high court, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports.

Baltimore County police have resumed collection of DNA samples from people arrested on felony charges. State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger said he changed his mind after Maryland State Police officials gave assurances that they were able to resume accepting the samples and that “their meticulous record keeping would allow us to identify the samples should the stay later be lifted,” writes Bryan Sears for Patch.com.

BUY LOCAL WEEK: To kick off “Buy Local Challenge” week July 21 – 29, the governor and first lady Katie O’Malley hosted a “buy local” cookout, reports WBAL-TV.

JUDGE APPOINTMENTS: Gov. Martin O’Malley has appointed five judges to benches in Montgomery, Wicomico and Washington counties, the AP reports in the Daily Record.

Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that John Phillip Rue, a former assistant state’s attorney in St. Mary’s and Wicomico counties and former district public defender for the Lower Shore, was appointed as a Wicomico County District Court judge.

District Judge Dana Moylan Wright to be the first woman to serve on Washington County Circuit Court, reports Don Aines for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

FROSH MULLS ATTY GEN RACE: Longtime state Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee chairman Brian Frosh may throw his hat into the Attorney General race in 2014, he confirmed to The Sun via text message. “I want to be attorney general,” Frosh said in an interview, writes the Sun’s Annie Linskey.

Frosh said he believes it might be time for him to start enforcing as attorney general the laws that he has helped draft during his 25 years in the General Assembly, blogs Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

David Moon of Maryland Juice blogs about the potential impact of a Frosh run, including rumors that Jamie Raskin plans on remaining in the state Senate.

BONGINO CAMPAIGNS: Dan Bongino plans to win a seat in the U.S. Senate the old-fashioned way, by going door-to-door, waving signs and talking issues. Bongino visited the Allegany County Fair and Ag Expo yesterday to meet voters. Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times-News also interviewed him.

ROMNEY TYPO: Maryland’s Republican Party seems to be solidly behind presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, but the party raised some eyebrows today with an email solicitation that includes a typo in Romney’s name, blogs Annie Linskey in the Sun.

PRISON PRESCRIPTIONS: The current provider of prescription drugs for prisoners, Correct RX, has been in a two-year battle to retain its contract, reports Holly Nunn in the Gazette. The fight now goes to the Board of Contract Appeals.

PROCUREMENT: In his Gazette column, Barry Rascovar explains why the state procurement system needs a major overhaul.

NOTEBOOK: The Gazette’s Reporters Notebook has items on a same-sex marriage flap; Michael Steele and the GOP’s black outreach; pitcher Jim Palmer; a sewer line to a private museum; and plain writing in federal documents.