August 16, 2013

State Roundup, August 16, 2013

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DOVER BRIDGE: Flush with transportation money from a recent increase in the state’s gas tax, Gov. Martin O’Malley will visit the Eastern Shore today to announce more than $150 million in road projects in that region — including the long-sought replacement of  the Dover Bridge on the Choptank River, the Sun’s Michael Dresser is reporting.

The Dover Bridge, an 81-year-old swing-span structure on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, has become a symbol of the state’s inability to fund its transportation needs, the Post’s John Wagner writes.

CAUCUS HEARING ON CROWNSVILLE: The head of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland says the group will hold a public hearing on the former Crownsville State Hospital on Sept. 18, Jack Lambert reports for the Capital-Gazette. The hospital, formerly known as the Hospital for the Negro Insane, closed in 2004.

ELECTION FRAUD PROBE: Following up on a Frederick News-Post story, the Sun’s Michael Dresser writes that Del. Kelly Schulz, supported by the House GOP leadership, is seeking an investigation into a report that an election fraud watchdog group found 173 cases in which people voted in the same election in Maryland and Florida. While officially nonpartisan, the group is largely supported by Republicans.

AFTER LABOR DAY SCHOOL: Eastern Shore and Western Maryland lawmakers joined Comptroller Peter Franchot on Thursday in calling for school to start after Labor Day, a change that is hailed as a way to promote family time and extend the tourist season, reports Erin Cox for the Sun.

Brian Shane of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that a post-holiday start date could give Maryland a $74.3 million boost in direct economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages, according to the results of an economic impact study prepared by the state Board of Revenue Estimates.

BROWN ENDORSEMENTS: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s gubernatorial campaign plans to announce endorsements from several county-level elected officials, adding to a roster that includes several high-profile Democrats and dozens of elected municipal leaders at the Ocean City conference of the Maryland Association of Counties, writes Erin Cox of the Sun.

GANSLER, BROWN & RACE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Charles Robinson of Maryland Public Television talk about Attorney General Doug Gansler’s secretly recorded comments about Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown.

GANSLER FLAP: About Gansler’s comments, Gazette columnist Blair Lee writes: “The only things we learned from Ganslerflap is one, Gansler’s biggest liability is his mouth and two, John Wagner and the Post are backing Brown. Gosh, judging by the Post’s smear job, you’d think Gansler was a Republican!” Then Lee takes on the topic of Maryland’s racial politics.

HARRIS ‘CLIMATE CHANGE DENIER:’ From the Capital-Gazette’s Political Notes column: The Maryland League of Conservation Voters presented U.S. Rep. Andy Harris with a “climate change denier award” on Tuesday to call attention to what the organization calls the Republican lawmaker’s “extreme anti-science views.” The organization said Harris’ views on climate change put him at odds with 97% of scientists and a majority of the American people.

HARRIS’ CONTRADICTIONS: The editorial board for the Aegis writes that U.S. Rep. Andy Harris certainly is the darling of Harford County’s conservative voters. At a Bel Air Town Hall meeting, he touched on all the issues that have been of interest to his base, namely federal spending, energy policy, immigration and health care reform, among others. From a very broad perspective, his views, taken individually, are well within the range of what is considered the political right of mainstream thinking. Taken in aggregate, however, they sometimes seem a bit contradictory.

ARUNDEL POLICE: The editorial board for the Capital-Gazette opines that a sigh of relief and the thought that it could have been much worse are the likeliest initial reactions to an 10-page report compiled by a panel of outside police officials asked by County Executive Laura Neuman to assess the Anne Arundel County Police Department. The task force drew up 10 recommendations, one of which — the selection of a new permanent chief from outside the department — is already a reality. Most of the others are sound ideas.

HARBOR POINT: The developer of Harbor Point in Baltimore plans to buy the initial offering of city-issued bonds for the $1.8 billion project, allowing him to collect millions in interest from the controversial public financing deal, city officials confirmed Thursday, according to Luke Broadwater in the Sun. Developer Michael Beatty’s Harbor Point Development Group LLC plans to purchase about $35 million of the $107 million in bonds and would earn an estimated 6.5 percent interest rate, according to Stephen M. Kraus, the city’s chief of treasury management.

ATTEMPTED KO OF COUNCILMAN: Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports that following Monday’s Baltimore City Council meeting where Carl Stokes stood out as the only councilman vocally opposed to a $107 million TIF financing subsidy for Harbor Point, the developer’s public relations consultant marched up to the councilman with a blunt message. “You’re done,” Steve Kearney told Stokes, according to two witnesses. “I’ll make sure you’re through in politics in Baltimore.” Kearney, Gov. O’Malley’s former communications director, is a principal in KO Public Relations, the firm he co-founded with Damian O’Doherty.

ST. MICHAELS ETHICS: St. Michaels commissioners sat down on Wednesday for a special session to discuss what has been a nearly two-year long effort — updating the town’s ethics policy to match legislation passed by state representatives, writes Josh Bollinger for the Easton Star-Democrat.

PIPKIN FALLOUT: Former state Sen. E.J. Pipkin’s resignation has set off two battles of succession, Kate Alexander writes in the Gazette. One is over who will represent his Eastern Shore district, and the other is over who will become the Senate’s new minority leader.

DELEGATE RACE: Another candidate, Will Smith, has entered the delegate race in Montgomery County’s District 20, the Takoma Park-Silver Spring area, writes The Gazette’s St. John Barned-Smith. Incumbents are Dels Sheila Hixson, Tom Hucker and Heather Mizeur.

FINANCE COMMITTEE: MoCo state senators are concerned that Rob Garagiola’s departure next month will leave the county with no voice on the important Senate Finance Committee, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette.