State Roundup, July 26, 2012

July 26, 2012 at 8:14 am

SPECIAL SESSION LIKELY, OUTCOME UNCERTAIN: Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to call a special session to expand gambling in Maryland — including adding a casino in Prince George’s County — now that he has lined up the votes necessary for the legislation’s approval, the speaker of Maryland’s House of Delegates told lawmakers, reports Ben Giles for the Washington Examiner.

House Speaker Michael Busch said that within a couple of days Gov. O’Malley is likely to call the special session to deal with the issue of expanded gambling — even though there is no guarantee the votes will be there to pass a bill, the Sun’s Michael Dresser reports.

While word is that a deal for the special session was close, that may not be the case, writes Adam Bednar of Patch.com. Del. Shawn Tarrant, who was at meetings yesterday with House Speaker Michael Busch, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and 10 other members of the delegation, said a deal hasn’t been brokered.

A spokeswoman for the governor said no date for a session has been set, Ben Giles reports is the Washington Examiner.

A new gaming facility would most likely rise at National Harbor, the 300-acre mini-city on the banks of the Potomac River, reports John Wagner in the Post. Other locations nearby would also be permitted to bid. And he reports that Penn National, the largest national gaming company currently operating in Maryland, is vowing to “fight furiously” against any expanded gambling plan that does not include Rosecroft Raceway in the mix.

A NOT-SO-FINE MESS: Len Lazarick, writing for MarylandReporter.com, says there appear to be lots of good reasons not to bring the General Assembly back to Annapolis. They include interrupted vacations, long delayed jobs and revenues, sticky details yet to be worked out and the continuing lack of votes in the House of Delegates.

The editorial board of the Sun says that it is increasingly becoming apparent that if O’Malley wants to move forward with gambling expansion legislation in time to get it on the November ballot, he will need to agree to a Rube Goldberg of a bill — a complicated mess of concessions to appease various interested parties, with uncertain effects on the future success of the state’s gambling program.

UTILITY RELIABILITY PANEL: The Post’s John Wagner blogs that, in the wake of last month’s storm that knocked out power for hundreds of thousands and prompted widespread outrage, Gov. O’Malley yesterday announced a work group that will explore ways to “strengthen Maryland’s utility infrastructure and create a more resilient electric distribution system.”

The executive order directs energy adviser Abigail Hopper to oversee the gathering of input and recommendations from several agencies to make the state’s electric grid more resilient, writes Daniel Leaderman in the Gazette.

SEPTIC REGULATIONS: A state rule is moving forward that will require high-tech septic systems in almost all new homes that aren’t on the public sewer system, Pamela Wood reports in the Capital-Gazette. A joint committee of delegates and senators approved the regulation this week, allowing the state to put the rule on the books this fall.

YOUNG BLAMES POLITICS: Frederick County Board of Commissioners’ President Blaine Young is blaming politics instead of state law for Maryland’s recent rejection of portions of the county’s 2011 water and sewer plan because planners found it inconsistent with the area’s own growth plan, Katherine Heerbrandt writes in the Gazette.

NO TO ZERO TOLERANCE: After a two-year study, state school leaders are one step closer in banning zero-tolerance discipline policies in all Maryland schools. WJZ-TV’s Gigi Barnett has the latest on the move to keep students in class.

CIGGY SMUGGLING: Maryland’s seizures of contraband tobacco quadrupled between 2010 and 2012, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. Comptroller Peter Franchot attributes the increase in part to lax penalties that fail to deter cigarette smugglers from a highly profitable enterprise.

MD PHYSICIANS BOARD: An official review is recommending that the Maryland Board of Physicians have its duties and powers more explicitly outlined by the General Assembly, and be split into two panels that can independently perform investigatory and disciplinary operations, reports the Sun’s Kevin Rector.

PREPAID TUITION: In Maryland, participation in the so-called prepaid tuition 529 college savings programs dropped by more than 45%, from 4,300 in 2003 to 2,300 in 2011, the latest year of available data, writes Steve Contorno for the Washington Examiner.

O’MALLEY PAC: David Moon of Maryland Juice is referencing a Roll Call report that Gov. O’Malley has launched a new federal PAC. Presumably, the effort is in furtherance of his presumed 2016 White House bid, and will allow him to continue building his national presence.

MORE LIBERTY THAN TEA: As the Tea Party continues to gather attention on the national political stage, the originators of Frederick County’s Tea Party movement say they are more comfortable identifying with the “liberty movement” these days and feel more at home exchanging ideas with like-minded academics than wannabe politicians, Katherine Heerbrandt writes for the Gazette.

TRASH TO ENERGY: Anne Arundel County government is turning rotting trash into a profit at the Millersville Landfill, reports Pamela Wood for the Capital-Gazette. Officials unveiled a miniature power plant that’s fueled by gas generated from decomposing trash. The electricity it produces should be enough to power 2,000 homes.

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