August 20, 2013

State Roundup, August 20, 2013

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WIND TURBINE WORK: A crew of the 15 scientists and technicians aboard a 138-foot vessel has been working almost nonstop since late June to map a 94-nautical-square-mile expanse of sea floor off Maryland’s coast, gathering data that could help place up to 40 huge wind turbines there to generate power. Weather permitting, they hope to be done next week, reports Tim Wheeler for the Sun.

PAYDAY LOANS: Maryland’s financial regulator is trying to stop illegal online payday loans by going after the banks that help make the loans possible, reports Eileen Ambrose for the Sun. “Without the payday lender’s bank, the payday lender can’t operate in my state,” said Mark Kaufman, commissioner with the state’s division of financial regulation.

TRANSPORTATION TASK FORCE: A new Maryland task force will study ways to raise more transportation money on a regional level, and one state lawmaker wants to consider a broader metropolitan region among the possible solutions. Sen. Richard Madaleno said he hopes the task force will explore options that include more than just Maryland, writes Kate Alexander for the Gazette.

POST-LABOR DAY SCHOOL: The president of the Washington County Board of Education said he is skeptical but is keeping an open mind about a proposal by Comptroller Peter Franchot to extend summer break to allow Maryland schools to open after Labor Day, Kaustuv Basu reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. A video interview with the board chief tops the story.

The editorial board for the Sun has no such open mind on the issue. It says school days should be extended, not vacations days.

DELANEY & MINIMUM WAGE: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes that, lost in all of last week’s hoopla over Doug Gansler’s secretly recorded words was U.S. Rep. John Delaney’s declaration that he would devote significant personal resources to the push to raise the state minimum wage. It was a smart and interesting play. Further down in his column, Kurtz addresses the Gansler-Brown kerfuffle.

JOB LOSSES UP:Federal sequestration budget cuts likely had “some impact” on jobs declining by about 9,200 statewide in July from June, Maryland Labor Secretary Leonard Howie said on Monday. The figures released by the federal Labor Department included a 2,400 loss in Montgomery and Frederick counties, those counties’ first month-to-month job loss since January, reports Kevin James Shay for the Gazette. The public sector showed a 3,100 job loss in July, as private employers increased their overall workforce by 700.

The unemployment rate in Maryland rose from 7% in June to 7.1% in July, writes Ryan Sharrow of the Baltimore Business Journal.

HELPING EX-CONS: The editorial board for the Sun, addressing one of Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler’s proposals to improve prison conditions, writes that there are many barriers to helping former convicts stay out of jail including housing, employment and health care.

EX-ATTY GENS BACK FROSH: Two former Maryland attorneys general will endorse state Sen. Brian Frosh for the office, praising his character and record of service in the General Assembly, reports the Sun’s Michael Dresser. Joe Curran and Stephen Sachs will throw their support behind Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, at a news conference today in Baltimore.

COMPTROLLER COINS REVIVED: Comptroller Peter Franchot is seeking to capture some of the Louie Goldstein magic by distributing his own version of Goldstein’s souvenir coins, which bore the inscription “God Bless Y’all Real Good.” Franchot’s are larger and heavier than the Goldstein baubles, but Franchot acknowledges the source of his inspiration.

14 SEEK PIPKIN’S SEAT: Fourteen Eastern Shore Republicans have applied to fill the District 36 Senate seat of Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, who resigned as of Aug. 12 and is moving to Texas, according to MarylandReporter.com.

DEM SEEKS KITTLEMAN SEAT: Senate President Mike Miller traveled more than an hour to Ellicott City from his Chesapeake Beach home for breakfast Monday to introduce a Democratic candidate for the Senate in District 9 that is being vacated by Republican Allan Kittleman, who is running for Howard County executive, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

GANSLER’S GAFFE WASN’T: In an interesting piece for his politicalmaryland.com blog, Barry Rascovar asks – and answers – questions surrounding gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler’s recent “gaffe” concerning opponent Anthony Brown and race and whether it was playing the race card or just truth-telling.

In agreement with Rascovar is professor Richard Vatz, who argues in the op-ed in the Sun, that you cannot run a campaign without implying that you are a better candidate than your opponent and/or saying he or she has not made the case for his or her candidacy. People who resent such campaigning in primaries simply resent the fact of primary challenges.

DON’T RUN FOR PRES: Sun columnist Susan Reimer tells Gov. Martin O’Malley that if he wants to do good, he shouldn’t run for president.

FREDERICK COMMISSIONERS SUED: Assisted-living residents, charitable givers and several others have filed a lawsuit against Frederick County commissioners seeking to prevent two county-owned care centers from being sold to a for-profit company, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News-Post.

HARBOR POINT DEAL: Opinionmakers at the Sun write that news that developer Michael Beatty intends to buy the first round of Harbor Point bonds is a modestly pleasant surprise but a reminder of the lack of transparency in this Baltimore City deal.