November 28, 2012

State Roundup, November 28, 2012

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GRADUATION RATES: While many officials hail Maryland schools as No. 1 in the nation, new data show that the state is behind 11 others in the percentage of students that graduate, reports Holly Nunn in the Gazette.

STATE SPEED CAMERAS: Maryland’s legislative auditors criticized the State Highway Administration for inadequate monitoring of its speed camera program in an audit report released Tuesday, saying the state began using the cameras without conducting sufficient tests to ensure they could accurately record a vehicle’s speed, reports the Sun’s Scott Calvert.

The revenue loss to the state, writes Megan Poinski for the Washington Times, could be as much as $850,000.

In another aspect of the audit, Sam Smith of MarylandReporter.com says the highway agency also extended and modified millions in contracts without the approval of the Board of Public Works, a problem identified in an SHA audit last year.

GANG PROBLEM: Although a new tool in the federal government’s fight against the violent gang MS-13 may help curb the growing problem in Maryland, local officials say state laws aren’t so effective, reports CNS’s Colleen Jaskot in the Capital-Gazette.

FRACKING BILLS: The Cumberland Times-News is reporting that state Sen. George Edwards doesn’t think any Marcellus Shale drilling legislation is immediately needed, but expects that bills – including one imposing a fracking moratorium – will be filed by other legislators during the upcoming General Assembly session.

THE DAM & BAY POLLUTION: State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, in an op-ed for the Sun, asks, why does the Chesapeake Bay Foundation refuse to take seriously the threat posed by the Conowingo Dam’s inability to hold back Susquehanna River pollution? With respect to the effect of Susquehanna River pollutants, the bay foundation has taken an inexplicable U-turn in its long-held doctrine regarding pollutants and the Chesapeake.

ACC SUES UM: University of Maryland President Wallace Loh has asserted repeatedly that the school would not end up paying the full exit fee of more than $50 million to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Loh, a Yale law graduate, has said the court would throw that penalty out, writes Chris Korman for the Sun. The ACC is suing the University of Maryland, seeking a declaration that the school owes the full $52,266,342 stipulated by the conference’s constitution.

The decision to leave the conference the school helped to create nearly 60 years ago was largely motivated by the promise of a multimillion-dollar boost for the Terps, who had to cut seven sports teams this year because of a budget shortfall, reports Rachel Baye for the Washington Examiner.

COLLEGE SPORTS EVIL: When it comes to college athletics, it’s time to speak truth to evil. You might think evil is too strong a word for what’s going on in college athletics, but consider how Webster’s Dictionary defines evil: morally reprehensible; causing harm; offensive. That pretty much sums up the state of big-time college sports today. The move of Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten is simply the latest example, write Ralph Nader and Ken Reed in an op-ed in the Sun.

BIG TEN MOVE GOOD: State Sen. Jim Rosapepe opines in the Sun that University of Maryland alumni and other Terp fans are understandably outraged by the sudden, secret decision to move from the ACC to the Big Ten. It’s never good when public institutions exclude the public from even asking questions before decisions are made. But in this case, even though it was a bad process, the result made good sense.

VOTES FOR SANTA: Brian Goodman of the Dagger wraps up the Nov. 6 elections by taking a close look at who got the write in votes in Harford County. The votes went to those both real and imaginary.

CARDIN EXPLORES ATTY GEN RUN: Del. Jon Cardin announced Tuesday that he has launched an exploratory committee to consider running for attorney general in 2014, a move that confirms his much-rumored interest in the job, reports John Wagner in the Post.

SEPTIC SYSTEMS: A conservation group is warning that many of Maryland’s counties are skirting a new state law requiring them to rein in development of rural lands, Tim Wheeler writes in the Sun. 1000 Friends of Maryland says that more than a third of the state’s 23 counties have done little or nothing so far to comply with the the law that aims to restrict new housing on septic systems in rural areas.

CONSERVATIVES NEXT MOVE: Almost a month out from the election, it’s time for conservatives in Maryland to stop focusing on politics and start spending their time, energy and money on culture. Why? No get-out-the-vote drive or mailer can ever be as powerful as millions of people who believe a certain way, writes Frederick News-Post columnist Marta Mossburg.