August 6, 2013

State Roundup, August 6, 2013

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AMAZON FOUNDER BUYS POST: Amazon.com Inc. founder Jeff Bezos will buy The Washington Post for $250 million in a surprise deal that ends the Graham family’s 80-year ownership and hands one of the country’s most influential publications to the tech entrepreneur, reports Jennifer Saba of Reuters in the Sun. Bezos called his acquisition a personal endeavor and reassured Post employees and readers that he will preserve the paper’s journalistic tradition while driving innovation.

The Post itself broke the story late Monday afternoon, and has extensive coverage, beginning with this story by Paul Farhi, which includes links to all the other articles, videos and background.

STATEWIDE RACES: Now that the endless statewide campaigning has begun, MarylandReporter.com will offer a monthly roundup of stories about those races.

PIPKIN QUITS SENATE: Maryland Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin of Cecil plans to resign from the chamber next week to pursue a new career in sports management, reports John Wagner of the Post.

Erin Cox of the Sun writes that Pipkin, 56, served as Republicans’ chief debater in the Maryland Senate, leading opposition in recent years to the state’s new gun-control law, legalization of same-sex marriage, repeal of the death penalty and off-shore wind program.

Jack Schaum of the Easton Star-Democrat has a nice interview with Pipkin about his leaving, and speaks with several colleagues as well.

Scott Wykoff of WBAL-AM interviews Pipkin about the resignation. They discuss the political makeup of Maryland and whether the liberal stronghold had any play in the decision.

Because Pipkin will not serve out his term, which was set to end in January 2015, the Senate Republican Caucus will have to pick a new minority leader for the 2014 session, reports Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette. Minority Whip Sen. Ed Reilly said that will likely happen when the caucus convenes at a scheduled October meeting.

ETHICS PROBE: Maryland’s legislative ethics committee announced a rare summer meeting on Monday, a day after a Washington Post story about a complaint filed against Del. Joseph Vallario that alleges a conflict of interest, reports the Post’s John Wagner. Del. Brian McHale, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, declined to say whether the Aug. 21 meeting is to discuss the complaint against Vallario.

GOP SKEPTICAL ON O’MALLEY PLAN: A plan unveiled by Gov. Martin O’Malley to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 has drawn skepticism and concern from Washington County Republican lawmakers, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Del. Andrew Serafini said the environment is important, but he remains concerned about the economic impact of the plan, which he said could increase costs of doing business, especially in Western Maryland, and raise energy costs for consumers. There’s a video interview with Sen. Christopher Shank above the story.

WITHOUT AETNA: Sarah Gantz of the Baltimore Business Journal looks at what will happen now that Aetna and its other company, Coventry, have pulled out of Maryland’s insurance program for individuals, and the effect it will have on consumers and the program.

INDIVIDUAL COVERAGE COSTS TO RISE: In an op-ed for the Sun, Marc Kilmer of the Maryland Public Policy Institute writes that, with full implementation of the Affordable Care Act less than two months away, Marylanders may expect their health insurance to become more affordable. It’s right there in the title of the law, after all. However, if you plan on buying an individual insurance plan through Maryland’s state exchange, you will probably be paying more.

GANSLER ON RECIDIVISM: Attorney General Doug Gansler took aim Monday at the “extremely high” rate at which ex-offenders return to prison in Maryland, saying that he would attack the problem with more than “lip service” if elected governor next year, writes John Wagner for the Post. “We’ve had no strategic, well-coordinated plan,” Gansler said.

Gansler pushed a novel solution for closing what he called the “revolving door” of ex-offenders returning to prisons: Give inmates tablet computers, writes Erin Cox for the Sun. It’s one element of Gansler’s 10-part proposal for integrating former inmates into communities.

FREDERICK RACES: WYPR’s Joel McCord and Jen Bondeson of the Frederick News-Post talk about the many races coming up in Frederick, including this fall’s mayoral election.