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Published on May 29th, 2013 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, May 29, 2013

SMITH TO HEAD TRANSPORTATION: Gov. Martin O’Malley will turn to a longtime political ally, former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, to lead the Maryland Department of Transportation as it begins a new era of stepped-up construction, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.

The arrival of Smith would come at a key time – as the transportation department is preparing to spend a major influx of revenue on road and transit projects as the result of a gas-tax increase passed by the General Assembly this year, John Wagner of the Post is reporting.

TRAFFIC & AGONY: The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post writes that whatever the studies – and politicians – predict in the growth in traffic over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge as the state determines whether to build a third span, it’s inevitable that the traffic and the agony will continue to climb.

HOUSING DEPT. MOVE: The state Board of Public Works is expected to vote today on a contract that would clear the way for the Department of Housing and Community Development to move from its park-like campus in Crownsville to a transit hub in Prince George’s County, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. The board’s members — Gov. Martin O’Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp — are expected to hear from both supporters and opponents of the hotly debated move to New Carrollton.

RAIN TAX UNEVEN: The state’s 10 most populated counties are required by law to implement a stormwater utility fee by July 1. The revenue will be used to fund watershed protection and restoration programs. Seven jurisdictions have set a fee, but three others are still in the process of setting fees or getting local approval. The fees range all over the place, reports Christopher Goins in MarylandReporter.com, from a penny to thousands of dollars.

NONPROFIT STORMWATER FEE CUT: The Anne Arundel County Council voted Tuesday to give nonprofits and the owners of multifamily residences discounts on their annual stormwater bills, writes Allison Bourg in the Capital-Gazette. The council voted unanimously to cut fees for nonprofits in the county to around $600 an acre, roughly a third of the rate for commercial properties.

DELANEY PLAN PRAISED: Speaking of transportation projects, the editorial board of the Sun is giving a proposal by U.S. Rep. John Delaney two thumbs up that would help fund the nation’s infrastructure needs while repatriating offshore funds of U.S. companies.

COOL RECEPTION TO JAIL TASK FORCE: Maryland lawmakers reacted coolly Tuesday to news that Gov. O’Malley named a task force to weed out corruption and gang problems at the state’s jail in Baltimore, saying the legislature had not been consulted and would take cues about reforms from its own probe, the Post’s Aaron Davis is reporting.

CELL CELLPHONE: John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports on the Instagramming Inmate apparently at the City Detention Center. He used an illegal cellphone to post pictures of himself on his own Instagram account while jailed. State Sen. Verna Jones-Rodwell calls the situation appalling.

JAIL DISMISSAL FOUGHT: The former security chief at the Baltimore City Detention Center is fighting her dismissal, her lawyer said Tuesday, arguing that she was used as a scapegoat in the wake of a federal corruption indictment that targeted corrections officers and inmates, writes Ian Duncan for the Sun.

COMMON CORE REPEAL: Three years after the Maryland State Board of Education unanimously voted to adopt the Common Core reading, writing and math standards, Frederick County education advocates are working to repeal the curriculum changes, writes Rachel Karas for the Frederick News-Post. Those advocates are not alone. Nine of the 45 states in the U.S. that adopted the standards are now seeking to slow or altogether repeal the program, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

CASINO FUNDS QUESTIONED: About $20 million in revenues from the Maryland Live! casino at Arundel Mills mall should be set aside in a designated account, rather than poured into Anne Arundel County’s general fund, the county’s chief auditor said. Allison Bourg of the Capital-Gazette is reporting that auditor Teresa Sutherland cautioned Anne Arundel councilmen that the current setup raises questions of transparency, and could also trigger another battle between county officials and the school system over whether the county is meeting state funding requirements.

ABORTION LICENSES: The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene suspended the licenses of four surgical abortion clinics, including three whose licenses were previously suspended but briefly reinstated, reports Maria Wiering for the Catholic Review. The licenses of the four locations of Associates in OB/GYN Care LLC, in Baltimore, Cheverly, Frederick and Silver Spring, were suspended May 9 after the DHMH’s Office of Health Care Quality “identified serious deficiencies in the medical oversight of patient care.”

Ryan Marshall of the Gazette is reporting that another clinic, in Germantown, was cleared by the OHCQ following the death of a New York woman who sought a late-term abortion at the facility. The agency said it found “no deficiencies” in its review of the clinic.

FUEL LEAK FINES: Tim Wheeler of the Sun reports that the state Department of the Environment is saying that Royal Farms has agreed to pay a $600,000 penalty for fuel leaks at two of its Maryland outlets and to check dozens more for possible problems.

LAWYERS LIKE BROWN: John Wagner of the Post is reporting that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Tuesday picked up an early endorsement of his 2014 gubernatorial bid from the state’s trial lawyers association. The Maryland Association for Justice said in a statement that its political action committee was backing Brown over Attorney General Doug Gansler and others jockeying to succeed Gov. O’Malley next year.

COMMISSIONER HAS MILD HEART ATTACK: Frederick County Commissioner David Gray was discharged from Frederick Memorial Hospital on Tuesday after spending two days recovering from a mild heart attack, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.

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