November 16, 2012

State Roundup, November 16, 2012

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LEGAL POT: With two states voting to legalize marijuana and a video resurfacing of President Obama at one time supporting decriminalizing pot, some in Maryland are now talking about bringing up the issue, according to a report at WBFF-TV.

Maryland lawmakers who support reform of the state’s marijuana laws are not planning to introduce legislation in the upcoming General Assembly session, despite the popular votes in Colorado and Washington state to legalize pot. Benjamin Ford reports in the Gazette.

FISCAL CLIFF IN MARYLAND: An AP story in the Frederick News-Post says that uncertainty about the “fiscal cliff” in Washington could have a significant impact on consumer behavior over the holidays in a state like Maryland that relies on the federal government for so many jobs, the head of the Maryland Retailers Association told a panel of state officials yesterday.

MDOT CONTRACTORS: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com reports that state auditors have found that the Maryland Transportation Department violated procurement procedures by allowing some contractors to perform work outside the scope of their original contracts without rebidding the jobs and without the approval of the state Board of Public Works.

CORDISH PULLS UP A CHAIR: Tim Prudente of the Capital-Gazette reports that David Cordish, owner of Maryland Live!, may have sat on the sidelines while more than $90 million was spent to shift public opinion on the gambling-expansion ballot item that voters approved. But he expects to intervene in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the approval of Question 7, which allows a casino in Prince George’s County and Las Vegas-style table games at all state casinos. Which side though?

AIRPORT-CASINO BUS: A proposed bus route would ferry passengers from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to the Maryland Live Casino and elsewhere through the Hanover neighborhoods of Anne Arundel County, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.

NO GROWTH BLAMED ON TAX: Representatives from the alcohol industry told the Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates Wednesday that the state’s year-old 9% sales tax on alcoholic beverages has produced stagnant growth in liquor sales in the past year, while growth in neighboring Virginia and Delaware was above the national average, writes Sam Smith of MarylandReporter.com.

REPLACING MOONEY: Looking back upon recent history, writes Richard Cross on his Cross Purposes blog, it seems that chairs of the Maryland Republican Party have as much likelihood of success, or longevity, as drummers in the fictional rock group Spinal Tap. So if Alex Mooney is dumped, who will replace him?

SO MANY ISSUES: Republican partisans may have bit off more than they could chew by getting so many referendums on the ballot, blogger Richard Cross writes for his column, Cross Purposes.

BALLOT MEASURES’ EFFECTS: Dan Rodricks of WYPR-FM follows up on three major ballot measures approved by Maryland voters. Now that same-sex marriage is legal, will there be a gay-friendly business boom? Will more gay and lesbian couples move to Maryland? Also, a look at what happens next with the passage of casino gambling expansion. And what does the Maryland Dream Act mean for high school students, the regional economy and the effort to pass a national Dream Act?

UNITED FRONT: In an op-ed for the Sun, Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign and Ben Jealous of the NAACP write that gay marriage opponents attempt to divide blacks and gays to conquer the referendum failed because their partnership was borne out of shared values: a commitment to equal protection under the law and an obligation to call out unfair treatment wherever it emerges.

ANNAPOLIS NOTES: In Political Notes in the Capital-Gazette, Allison Bourg writes about the state’s new legislative website and Al Sharpton is among guest speakers at the Maryland Black Caucus conference this weekend.

WASHINGTON REPLACES DEL. ROSS: The Hyattsville Times reported on Twitter tonight that the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee has chosen Alonzo Washington to replace Del. Justin Ross. Ross, blogs David Moon of Maryland Juice, stunned politicos by announcing his departure from the House of Delegates earlier this fall. Notably, the Times also states that Ross wanted Washington to replace him.

ALSTON REPLACEMENT: Two decades ago, Gregory Hall was a 21-year-old crack dealer who took part in a gun battle that killed a seventh-grade honors student as he and his family left a church service, writes Anne Marimow for the Post. Hall, now a businessman and former Prince George’s County Council aide, is the nominee to replace suspended Prince George’s County lawmaker Tiffany Alston in Maryland’s House of Delegates.

TRASH BURNER STIRS OPPOSITION: Saying that Anne Arundel County residents will be harmed by a trash-burning power plant just over the line in Baltimore, a group of state and county officials – including Arundel County Executive John Leopold — as well as nearby residents, came together yesterday to voice their opposition to the project – and demand to be included in the discussion, reports Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew.

CITY CHILD SUPPORT: The state contractor that collects child support payments in Baltimore continues to have trouble meeting the terms of its agreement, according to a report released Wednesday by the Office of Legislative Audits calling for better oversight by the Department of Human Resources, writes Yvonne Wenger in the Sun.

PHANTOM PHONE LINES: Baltimore City is likely wasting tens of thousands of dollars a month on “phantom” phone lines that are never used, the city’s new information technology director said yesterday. Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes that Chris Tonjes, who heads the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, said he’s discovered 51 idle phone lines in his agency alone.

BONGINO FOR GOV?: Daniel Bongino might not have succeeded in his bid for U.S. Senate, but a 2014 gubernatorial run is not out of the question, according to Benjamin Ford in the Gazette. Republican Bongino said he and his wife will discuss whether he should enter the Maryland gubernatorial race.

DEMOCRATIC FIELD: Gazette columnist Barry Rascovar analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the Democrats contemplating a run for governor.

WHY DEMS WON: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland opines that the Maryland Democratic establishment, aided by money, brute force and, oh yes, being on the right side of history in at least a couple of instances, as even brutish empires sometimes are, was able to push through all its ballot questions.

ELECTION ANALYSIS: Gazette columnist Blair Lee sees some rewriting of history in the post-election analysis by winners of the vote on gay marriage.

SPEED CAMERAS: The number of speed cameras has increased, but the amount of revenue they are generating has gone down, as drivers adjust to their presence, Holly Nunn reports in the Gazette.

SPAY/NEUTER FUNDING: Members of a task force looking at the feasibility of a statewide spay-and-neuter fund are sparring over how to finance such an effort. Holly Nunn of the Gazette writes that task force members have failed to agree on whether the fund should be financed through voluntary charitable contributions, additional fees on pet registration and rabies vaccines, or a tax on pet food.

ASSEMBLY LEADERS: In a Gazette column, Gail Ewing examines how the stagnation in General Assembly leadership may lead younger members to leave the legislature.