May 24, 2013

State Roundup, May 24, 2013

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We’re taking Monday off to observe the Memorial Day holiday. The roundup and the newsletter will be back on Tuesday.

FB UPDATES FROM JAIL: Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services officials are investigating whether an inmate at the Baltimore City Detention Center has been using a contraband cellphone to post photos and updates on Facebook and Instagram online accounts, Ian Duncan reports in the Sun.

MISSPENT SCHOOL FUNDS: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris will request an expanded review of the Maryland Department of Education’s use of federal funds after an audit found that the state may have to return up to $540,000 in misspent stimulus dollars and money designated for poor children, report Erin Cox and Scott Calvert in the Sun.

Jeff Hager of WMAR-TV reports that Baltimore City schools’ chief Andres Alonso says, “If you actually read the audit, the audit says that MSDE and Maryland did a really good job and, overwhelmingly, the funds were used on the right purposes so it’s picking on sensational items and that’s just the way it is.”

Andy Brownfield of the Washington Examiner follows up on the misuse of federal education funds to detail how Prince George’s misspent its money, writing that, among others, “expenditures include $8,736 for 145 engraved watches and velvet bags to hold them, 100 engraved laser pens that doubled as USB drives and 150 personalized folders that were handed out during a 2011 principals’ meeting.”

STORMWATER FEES: Potentially substantial new stormwater fees facing many businesses in the Baltimore region and Maryland’s D.C. suburbs offer a compelling lesson in how not to make public policy, writes Donald Fry in Center Maryland.

Owners of homes in some of Anne Arundel County’s rural areas could pay an annual stormwater fee of $85, instead of $170. The County Council on Thursday amended one of four pending bills to change the controversial fee, pushing the vote back until June 3, writes Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette.

LOOPY OVER GUNS: The editorial board for the Sun takes the Carroll County Commissioners to task for its resolution to ignore new state gun control laws. The Sun editorial says, “That the commissioners in Carroll County would willfully misread the law or thumb their noses at the state is buffoonish but ultimately not deeply consequential.”

The Sun’s isn’t the only opinionator to write that the Carroll Commissioners are way off base. The Carroll County Times’ Mitch Edelman seems to think so as well, and calls the resolution the commissioners passed “a bizarre creation,” a “loopy thing” within “so much political theater.”

CLEAN NUCLEAR POWER: The Maryland Conservation Council says nuclear power is our only real shot at making the rapid and massive reduction — more than 80% — in carbon dioxide emissions needed to stabilize our changing climate short of disaster. Instead of fighting nuclear energy, writes longtime enviromentalist Tom Horton in a commentary for the Sun, maybe we should embrace it.

TRANSPARENT GOVERNMENT: To better understand the state’s challenges to political transparency, the OpenGov Foundation and MarylandReporter.com teamed up to lead a small focus group last Thursday to analyze the access point to all of Maryland’s State House information — the state legislative website, writes Becca Heller for MarylandReporter.com. The conclusion? Transparency in Maryland has a long way to go.

ROCKY GAP CASINO OPENS: Rocky Gap Casino officially opened its doors to a crowd of about 1,000 visitors, Greg Larry reports for the Cumberland Times-News.

ULMAN ON MARYLAND: Marc Steiner on WEAA-FM talks about the issues facing Maryland with Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who is expected to run for governor.

FASHIONABLE FIRST LADY: John Wagner of the Post picks up on first lady Katie O’Malley’s magazine fashion spread.

POLS FLOCK TO VEGAS WEDDING: Baltimore politicians and other influential Marylanders gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate the nuptials of Lisa Harris Jones and Sean Malone. The bride and groom are already a team, both members in the Annapolis-based lobbying firm Harris Jones and Malone, according to Krishana Davis in the Afro newspaper. Harris Jones also does podcasts with Damian O’Doherty for Center Maryland.

MoCo BUDGET: Montgomery County residents will pay a bit more in property taxes and a bit less in energy taxes, after the County Council unanimously passed the fiscal 2014 operating budget of $4.8 billion Thursday morning, up $12.3 million from the previous budget, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette.

GOP RACE FOR GOVERNOR: Republican Harford County Executive David Craig , expected to announce a run for governor early next month, has hired a new campaign staffer from the camp of a man once rumored to be considering a run of his own, Daniel Leaderman writes in the Gazette. Jim Pettit has spent over a year working for Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland, helping the organization assemble reports critical of the economic policies of Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Blair Lee’s Gazette column continues his analysis of the governor’s race, including potential run by Dutch Ruppersberger and the candidate he considers best for the GOP, new Anne Arundel Executive Laura Neuman.

MoCo BEATS FAIRFAX: The director of Montgomery County’s Department of Economic Development said figures from Economic Modeling Specialists International showed Montgomery added almost 25,000 jobs between 2010 and 2012, a 3.9% growth rate, reports the Gazette’s Kevin James Shay. “That was No. 1 in the region, beating out that other county over the river,” Steven Silverman said, referring to Fairfax County’s job growth in that time being only 3.6%.

MoCo EXEC RACE: Republican attorney James  Shalleck of Montgomery Village says he’s “seriously considering” a run for Montgomery County executive in 2014, the Gazette’s Daniel Leaderman reports. Shalleck, 67, said he’s displeased with how the administration of current County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Democratic County Council treat the county’s police and firefighters.

VOTING MACHINE CHALLENGE: A former Republican congressional candidate wants Montgomery County elections officials to investigate reports of voting irregularities and change election procedures to reduce the risk of tampering, writes the Gazette’s Dan Leaderman. Kenneth Timmerman, who challenged Rep. Chris Van Hollen in 2012, said the county’s practice of delivering voting machines to polling places as much as a week before voting begins leaves the touch screen voting machines vulnerable to attacks such as the uploading of programs that could manipulate vote totals.

CORRECTION OFFICER SCREENING: The director of Montgomery County’s jails tells the Gazette’s Dan Leaderman that  rigid background checks for prospective officers keep contraband and gang activity out of the county’s facilities. “We are very selective,” said Arthur Wallenstein, director of the county’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation. “We select about one of every 15 people who applies.”

LAST CHANCE TO VOTE: We’d like to hear from our readers on whether we should be including more content from the Daily Record. Baltimore’s legal and business newspaper has lots of good coverage of state issues, but almost all its original coverage is behind a paywall that doesn’t even allow a minimum number of page views first, as do the Sun and the Capital. If you’re not a subscriber, you can view only one sentence of a story. Would you like MarylandReporter.com to include more Daily Record stories in its State Roundup even though nonsubscribers won’t be able to read the story? If the answer is YES, just send an email to Len@MarylandReporter.com and put the word YES in the subject line. So far we’ve gotten about 25 YES emails — not exactly overwhelming.