July 15, 2013

State Roundup, July 15, 2013

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O’MALLEY TO HEAD HOMELAND SECURITY? Gov. Martin O’Malley’s name surfaced Friday on several lists of possible replacements for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who announced that she would step down to become president of the University of California system, reports The Washington Post

But, writes Tim Wheeler of the Sun, Gov. O’Malley’s press secretary says he’s not interested.

SMITH ON TRANSPORTATION JOB: Jim Smith had no interest in overseeing a state transportation network so tight on money that new roads and transit systems had little chance of being built. At 71, he had an impressive résumé: seven years on the Baltimore County Council, 16 years as a Circuit Court judge and two terms as Baltimore County’s executive. When people close to Gov. O’Malley asked last summer if he’d be interested in heading the state Transportation Department, Smith said he told them “no.” But now, writes Katherine Shaver for the Post, the environment has changed.

BWI EXPANSION: The O’Malley administration is launching a three-year, $125 million construction project that will set the table for more international flights from BWI Marshall Airport, reports Candy Thomson for the Sun.

AAA WITH A WARNING: The governor and state treasurer cheered Maryland’s retention of its AAA bond ratings released Friday, and the three New York rating agencies continued their praise of Maryland’s high incomes, diversified economy and strong fiscal management. But, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com, the agencies also sounded what have become routine warnings about the state’s dependence on federal spending in an era of cutbacks and sequestration and its high pension debt.

STOVE REBATES: Maryland has increased the payments in its rebate program for purchasers of wood and pellet stoves. The rebates available now total $500 for wood stoves and $700 for pellet stoves, according to a story in the Cumberland Times-News.

CONTRIBUTORY NEGLIGENCE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Ann Marimow of the Washington Post talk about Maryland’s unusual practice of denying damages in civil lawsuits if the plaintiff is partially at fault for his or her injuries, and why the Court of Appeals recently placed the issue back in the General Assembly’s hands.

GAS TAX FACTS: You’ve read lots about Maryland’s gas tax and you think you understand it pretty well? Christopher Summers of the Maryland Public Policy Institute writes about four surprising facts about the tax you thought you knew.

RISING SEA LEVELS: Scientists in Maryland say that the sea levels could rise as much as two feet by 2050. How should Maryland prepare? Dan Rodricks of WYPR-FM speaks with several experts on climate change and related fields.

A NECESSARY FEE: When your property tax bill arrived by mail, you may not have noticed a slight addition: an extra $21, $32 or $39 — depending on your type of residence — for “Stormwater Remediation,” writes Barry Rascovar in the Political Maryland blogs. This is overdue recognition that stormwater pouring from roofs and parking pads pollutes the Chesapeake Bay, promotes flooding and soil erosion and leads to drinking water contamination.

The editorial board of the Sun opines that there’s a certain irony that only days after several Baltimore County beaches had to be closed as unsafe, some Baltimore County businesses and politicians were complaining about a tax on stormwater runoff. After all, it wasn’t the presence of a great white shark that closed the county beaches but rain that swept bacteria and other pollution into the water.

COMMON CORE FIGHT: The Common Core, academic standards adopted in 45 states (including Maryland) plus the District of Columbia that raise the bar significantly for what students are expected to know, “may be the most far-reaching experiment in American educational history,” in the words of a recent New York Times op-ed. But there is no doubt that Common Core is now the fiercest political battlefield in the education wars, with an unusual bipartisan coalition of conservatives and liberals seeking to stall or kill implementation, writes Kalman Hettleman, former state human resources secretary, in an op-ed in the Sun.

Harford County Executive David Craig, a candidate for governor and former educator, supplies a blistering critique of Common Core in the Washington Times.

HOTEL HOOPLA: Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich responds to Gov. O’Malley’s contention that Baltimore taxpayers are saddled with the Hilton Hotel debt because Ehrlich, as governor, would not commit state taxpayer dollars to leverage bonds for the project, reports Dave Collins of WBAL-TV. “I have no specific recollection or document that they requested the state during my administration,” Ehrlich said, adding. “This was a bad decision by the mayor of Baltimore. It’s bleeding dollars. It appears they can’t keep up with the debt payments, and to now to blame my administration seven to eight years later is ludicrous.”

VAN HOLLEN OPENS OFFICE: U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen will hold a meet and greet tonight for the grand opening of a new satellite office in Mount Airy, writes Kelcie Pegher of the Carroll County Times. Van Hollen, a Democrat who became Carroll’s representative following redistricting, held a town hall meeting at the end of June that was met with jeers and insults from Republican attendees.

KING OF CRAB FEASTS: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times explains the history and significance of the annual J. Millard Tawes Crab & Clambake, the most important political meet and greet in the state.

GANSLER MAKES THE ROUNDS: Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is gearing up to announce his bid for governor in September, on Friday proposed the creation of a new preference in the state procurement process for Maryland-made goods and services, writes the Washington Post. 

Attorney General Gansler was talking manufacturing jobs instead of litigation Friday in a meeting with labor and management at the United Auto Workers Local 171 union hall in Hagerstown, writes Don Aines for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

BRAVEBOY ON ATTY GEN RACE: State Del. Aisha Braveboy, a candidate for Maryland Attorney General, sits down to talk with Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM about her plans and philosophy.

FOREHAND SEEKS RE-ELECTION: State Sen. Jennie Forehand of Montgomery County, one of the General Assembly’s longest-serving members, survived a tough primary challenge in her last election. She could be in for another one next year, reports John Wagner for the Post. Forehand, 77, said in an interview this week that she is planning to run again and attributed recent speculation about her possible retirement to “people who want my seat.”

PRIVATE SECTOR: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s chief spokesman for the past three years, Ryan O’Doherty, has resigned to work in the private sector, the mayor announced Friday afternoon, writes Melody Simmons in the Daily Record.

CLAGETT BEHIND THE SCENES: Galen Clagett has not added his voice to the mix at boisterous public meetings on the sale of Frederick County’s nursing home and assisted living center, writes Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. The state delegate and Frederick mayoral candidate has not written any strongly worded letters to the editor. He has not participated in any demonstrations. However, he has been working behind the scenes to raise questions about privatizing Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living.

CLAGETT BLASTS SIGN DAMAGE: State Del. Galen Clagett, a Democratic candidate for Frederick mayor, wants whoever is damaging his campaign signs — knocking them down and breaking the poles — to know that their activities may soon be monitored, Jen Bondeson reports for the Frederick News-Post. Clagett is considering putting surveillance cameras up to monitor his signs, he said.