July 24, 2013

State Roundup, July 24, 2013

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STUDENT TEST SCORES DROP: Maryland’s student test scores declined significantly for the first time in a decade, a drop officials attributed to the beginning of a tumultuous time in public education that will bring widespread changes to what is taught from kindergarten through high school, Liz Bowie and Erica Green report in the Sun. The drops in test scores for both elementary and middle schools were seen in nearly every school district and were as great in the higher-performing districts of Howard and Montgomery counties as they were in Baltimore City.

Allegany: Trending with the rest of the state, Maryland School Assessment scores took a slight step back for Allegany County public school students in 2013, as the school system moves forward with the new Common Core learning standards, according to the Cumberland Times-News.

Montgomery: Both elementary and middle school students in Montgomery County Public Schools dropped in math proficiency, as did elementary school students in reading proficiency, reports Lindsay Powers for the Gazette.

Carroll: While Carroll didn’t experience the larger declines in Maryland School Assessment test scores that were seen in some parts of the state, school officials are content with the county’s relatively flat scores this year given the circumstances, Alisha George writes in the Carroll County Times.

Anne Arundel: The percentage of Anne Arundel County elementary school students passing state math and reading tests dropped last year, Tim Pratt and Tina Reed write in the Capital-Gazette. A smaller percentage of middle school students passed Maryland School Assessment math tests, as well.

Frederick: Frederick County placed in the top four school districts in the state for reading and math proficiency, writes Rachel Karas in the Frederick News-Post. The district was outperformed by Howard, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties for its elementary school scores, and Calvert and Howard counties for middle school achievement.

RENEWABLE ENERGY PUSH: Gov. Martin O’Malley will propose more-ambitious targets for renewable-energy use in a speech on climate change Thursday, reports Steve Mufson of the Post. O’Malley is expected to propose boosting the state’s renewable portfolio standard, requiring utilities to make renewables 25% of their mix of electricity generation by 2020, up from the current target of 20% by 2022.

CLIMATE CHANGE CONCERN: A survey of Marylanders released this week showed that most are concerned about climate change, especially its health effects and want state and local governments to take action to minimize those problems, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News.

CONOWINGO DAM: A coalition of conservation groups from the Lower Susquehanna River Basin and the Chesapeake Bay have filed a motion to intervene in the federal relicensing negotiations of the Conowingo Hydroelectric Dam – calling for a commitment from the dam’s owner, Exelon Corp., to mitigate almost 200 million tons of sediment pollution that has amassed behind the dam since its construction in 1928, reports Dan Menefee for the Chestertown Spy.

FEWER MARYLANDERS IN COLLEGE: The number of foreign students attending Maryland colleges and universities increased while the overall number of students counted statewide eased downward from fall 2011. Each year, the Maryland Higher Education Commission counts the number of students taking at least one course for credit at institutions of higher learning in the state. The survey reveals that for academic year 2012-2013, there were 6,368 fewer students than the 373,359 tabulated in 2011-2012, Eugene Goll of the Education News Service writes in the Easton Star-Democrat.

MARYLANDREPORTER.COM HONORED: For the second year in a row, Baltimore magazine has named MarylandReporter.com the best political website. And last month, the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists named MarylandReporter.com the winner of its blog category in the chapter’s 2013 Dateline Awards for Excellence in Local Journalism.

MD. SPENDING RANKED: Government spending in Maryland grew 30.5% over 10 years beginning in 2001, according to a nonprofit group that researches tax policies, writes Chris Goins in MarylandReporter.com. The Tax Foundation report ranks Maryland 19th overall in terms growth of government spending, which spans the administrations of three governors and two political parties.

KENT PROJECT CONTROVERSY: The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that opponents of a giant housing development proposed for Kent Island have opened a new front in their battle to stop the project — questioning the ethics of a county commissioner who supports the proposal. The issue of whether to grant the permit to build a pier and install an underwater sewer main will go before the state Board of Public Works today. The board, led by Gov. Martin O’Malley, rejected such a request in 2007, but New Jersey-based developer K. Hovnanian appealed in court.

The complaint filed with the Queen Anne’s County Ethics Committee asks for an examination of a possible conflict of interest regarding Commissioner Steve Arentz, who voted in May to support the Four Seasons development. After a 3-2 vote, a letter was sent by the commission to the state Board of Public Works supporting the project, Pat Furgurson reports in the Capital-Gazette.

WORTH WONDERING: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew takes on the Sun’s recent feature on “50 Women to Watching,” which includes plenty of politicians, and wonders “Did we doze off in this heat and wake up in the 1950s? Or did the Baltimore Sun switch URLs with The Onion when we weren’t looking?” Would John Paterakis or Martin O’Malley pose for this?

DELANEY PROFIT: U.S. Rep. John Delaney stands to gain $69 million when the company he founded, CapitalSource Inc., sells to PacWest Bancorp for $2.3 billion, reports Bryant Ruiz Switzky of the Washington Business Journal.

OPEN GOP PRIMARY TO INDEPENDENTS: In discussing a possible “open primary” for Repubicans – or a semi-closed one, as he calls it, Republican John East writes in Center Maryland writes that critics — including those in his party — fear that allowing Republicans to reach out to independent-minded voters will “dilute” the Republican primary. The fears are not well-founded.

WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about the intense debate within the Maryland Republican Party concerning whether or not to allow unaffiliated voters cast ballots in the 2014 GOP primary.

MIZEUR’S SERVICE CAMPAIGN: Del. Heather Mizeur kicked off her campaign for governor with a series of events across the state emphasizing the importance of service, Ryan Marshall reports in the Gazette.

Mizeur led a cleanup crew Sunday morning at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge as part of a statewide service program that is among the elements of her campaign, Gail Dean reports for the Easton Star-Democrat.

Bill Hughes of the Baltimore Post-Examiner does a short piece on Mizeur, with video and links to pix on his Facebook page.

LOLLAR TO LAUNCH: Maryland Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charles Lollar plans to formally launch his 2014 campaign as early as September with a statewide bus tour, John Wagner of the Post reports. Lollar, a Charles County resident who has been the subject of a draft movement for months, said in an interview that he has no doubt that he will move forward with a full-blown bid for office.

NO GOP FOR AG? Alexander Pyles of the Daily Record writes that no less than four Democrats are readying campaigns to be Maryland’s next attorney general, leaving some political observers with an obvious question: Where’s the Republican Party?

FRANCHOT TO TAKE QUESTIONS: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, described in his official biography as a “fiscal watchdog for the taxpayers of Maryland,” will answer questions from readers of The Dagger at a meeting Friday. Franchot has announced that he is running for re-election.