November 21, 2012

State Roundup, November 21, 2012

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MARYLAND’S BUDGET CRISIS: Rachel Baye of the Washington Examiner reports that Maryland is facing hundreds of millions of dollars in budget gaps in the coming years, even after raising taxes and taking other recent steps to boost sluggish revenue growth.

JOBS GROW IN MARYLAND: In a state-by-state breakdown of jobs numbers, writes Aaron Davis of the Post, the top line is that Maryland gained 14,000 nonfarm-related jobs from September to October, dropping its unemployment rate two-tenths of a percent to 6.7%.

Jamie Smith Hopkins of the Sun reports that James Bohnaker, an associate economist with Moody’s Analytics, called the October jobs performance “a huge gain,” one that comes on the heels of an also substantial 9,500-job increase in September.

The gain came on the heels of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce recently releasing its legislative agenda for next year that calls for more emphasis on increasing competitiveness in the state to boost private-sector jobs, reports Kevin James Shay in the Gazette.

TRANSPORTATION CRISIS: According to Warren Deschenaux, Maryland’s top government policy and budget analyst, when you combine relatively flat revenue from Maryland’s Transportation Trust Fund with the growing cost of road and infrastructure construction and escalating transit operating costs, you’ve got a big problem staring you in the face, opines the editorial board of the Frederick News-Post.

BIG TEN DEAL: The deal to move University of Maryland athletics from the ACC to the Big Ten may be a good financial for the university, but the swift and secret process to achieve it was bad policy, Len Lazarick writes in MarylandReporter.com.

ICC SCOFFLAWS: Nearly one in three motorists who use the Intercounty Connector without an E-ZPass transponder don’t pay the toll later, making Maryland’s newest and most expensive highway home to a toll violation rate four times higher than the state average, writes Katherine Shaver in the Post.

SEPTIC LAW: Local farmers and their supporters flooded Howard County government offices for a public hearing on a county proposal to conform with state law that would limit the development rights of farmers, writes Blair Ames of the Howard County Times. Combined with supporters of anti-bullying legislation and detractors of a new zoning regulation, the Banneker Room nearly reached its 250-person capacity during the six-and-a-half hour hearing.

ORGAN DONOR BILL: State Sen. Ron Young plans to introduce a bill in the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly that would ask drivers who are renewing or obtaining a driver’s license if they want to opt out of the organ donor program, a change from the current system that asks drivers if they’d like to become a donor, Ryan Marshall reports in the Gazette.

WIND TURBINE SETBACKS SOUGHT: Elaine Blaisdell of the Cumberland Times-News reports that the Board of Garrett County Commissioners is again requesting legislation that will address wind turbine setbacks when the 2013 General Assembly convenes in January.

ALSTON OUT, SAYS GANSLER: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has advised the governor that Del. Tiffany Alston, convicted of misconduct in office, cannot return to the General Assembly even though a judge subsequently granted her probation before judgment, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.

“Alston was removed from office, by operation of law, by virtue of her official misconduct and her waiver of rights to appeal,” Gansler wrote in a letter to Gov. Martin O’Malley, according to Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette.

Greg Hall, the Prince George’s County man chosen to replace Alston, is still in line to take her place after state officials ruled her seat to be vacant and a county committee declined to act on the governor’s request to withdraw his appointment, writes David Hill for the Washington Times.

CARDIN AG FUNDER: David Moon of Maryland Juice blogs that Del. Jon Cardin has announced a fund-raiser for 2014 Attorney General. In an email, Cardin announces the “Jon Cardin for AG cocktail reception,” in which Cardin applauds passage of the Maryland Dream Act, which is unusual since he voted against it in the House.

GOV DELAYS MIDDLE EAST TRIP: Gov. Martin O’Malley has postponed his planned post-Thanksgiving economic development trip to the Middle East, saying he does not want to create a distraction during the conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was dispatched to Israel in an apparent attempt to head off an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, a step that would mark a major escalation of the week-old conflict in which 113 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed, Aaron Davis writes in the Post.

CONSERVATIVES BACK TO GRASS-ROOTS: In the Sun opinion pages, columnist Marta Mossburg writes that Maryland conservatives may have felt the blows of a Democratic Party trying to knock them out of the running, but they are hanging on in local elected positions.

PG COUNCIL PUSH: Plans for an expanded ethics office, more farmers markets and increased recycling were among more than two dozen issues addressed yesterday as the Prince George’s County Council held its annual end-of-session marathon before quitting for the year, reports Miranda Spivack in the Post.

SNOWDEN FOUND GUILTY: Annapolis civil rights leader Carl Snowden was found guilty of one count of marijuana possession yesterday, reports Allison Bourg in the Capital-Gazette. He was then sentenced to a year of probation with mandatory drug and alcohol screening. He also received a suspended 60-day jail sentence, and was ordered to pay court costs.