September 23, 2013

State Roundup, September 23, 2013

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DAM-BAY CONTROVERSY: The Clean Chesapeake Coalition, which Carroll County joined last year, includes six other rural counties in Maryland, and attempts to change conventional wisdom on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration efforts. The coalition advocates for cost-effective policies that will help the bay, pointing to the Conowingo Dam, which they say releases the largest amount of pollution into the bay, writes Timothy Sandoval for the Carroll County Times. But some have questioned the effectiveness of such a coalition.

Environmental groups, such as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, think the Conowingo is being used as a red herring by anti-tax officials. While they acknowledge the dam is a major issue, they say it should not distract from important and necessary stormwater management projects and wastewater treatment upgrades, reports Timothy Sandoval for the Carroll County Times. They also note that all jurisdictions need to do their part to help save the bay.

EPA COAL PLANT RESTRICTIONS: CNS’s Ronnie Feinberg, in a story in the Cumberland Times-News, reports that industry representatives are saying that the Environmental Protection Agency’s restrictions on new coal and natural gas power plants meant to reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change would be a disaster for Western Maryland’s coal mining business.

GUN PERMIT CHECKERS: A Maryland judge on Thursday denied a temporary restraining order that would have prevented Maryland State Police from using outside agency employees to process a backlog of gun applications, reports Andrea Noble for the Washington Times.

HIKE IN FOOD STAMP USE: CNS’s Natalie Kornicks and Zainab Mudallal report in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail that despite a national increase in food stamp participants – including a 9% hike in Maryland — the House of Representatives voted 217-210 in favor of $4 billion a year in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The most significant rise in enrollment in Maryland was in Prince George’s County, where an additional 16,000 people received assistance, or an 18% increase.

SAFETY LAWS EFFECTIVE OCT. 1: Maryland altered two of its safety laws to take effect Oct. 1, which will ban any handheld cellphone by drivers and require passengers in the back seat of a car to wear their seat belts, reports Kelcie Pegher for the Carroll County Times.

SAYLOR COMMISSION: In an editorial in the Frederick News-Post, the board on the one hand praises Gov. Martin O’Malley for setting up the Saylor Commission looking into whether police officers are trained well enough in how to deal with people with developmental disabilities, while chiding the administration for not conducting an independent investigation into the actions by officers that could have lead to the death of Robert Ethan Saylor.

SUCCESS WITH SECESSION: Opinionator Barry Rascovar of politicalmaryland.com writes in MarylandReporter.com that the five rural counties in Maryland that one blogger thinks should secede from Maryland to form the 51st state stand a better job of succeeding without secession.

HEALTH REFORM: Patti Borda of the Frederick News-Post writes that the clock starts ticking for everyone Oct. 1 when a virtual marketplace opens to sell health insurance to those who do not already have it. But one former veteran has been frustrated by a lack of information about what he is supposed to do as an uninsured person.

Several health organizations in Maryland are preparing to provide one-on-one, in-person assistance to help uninsured and underinsured residents enroll in new health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, reports CNS’s Kirsten Petersen for the Cumberland Times-News.

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OBAMA ON HEALTH REFORM: President Barack Obama will travel to Prince George’s County on Thursday to discuss health care days before health insurance exchanges created under the Affordable Care Act will open for business, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

COLLEGE DRINKING STUDY: Rachel Roubein of the Carroll County Times reports that drinking in college has become routine, almost ritualistic. Abusive and underage drinking in college has become a significant public health problem, and as freshmen arrive on campus, they can become susceptible to these social pressures and preconceived notions of college parties. That’s why state officials are researching underage drinking at Maryland colleges.

PARENT ARRESTED AT SCHOOL FORUM: Robert Small said he wanted to express his dismay over the introduction of a new school curriculum at a public forum Thursday night in Towson, but instead the Ellicott City parent was pulled out of the meeting, arrested and charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, reports Liz Bowie for the Sun. There’s a video of the incident above the story.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: The editorial board for the Capital-Gazette opines that, while a minimum wage increase of $1 and $2 an hour doesn’t sound like a lot to many of us, it would be momentous for people trapped on the lower fringes of the economy, sometimes working two or three jobs to keep their noses above water. And while a minimum wage interferes with the free market, so does bailing out stricken banks and auto companies.

HARRIS BULL ROAST: More than 100 people came out to U.S. Rep. Andy Harris’ Annual Bull Roast, held in Queenstown on Saturday to hear Harris speak on his goals and accomplishments. Laura Wormuth of the Easton Star-Democrat has a photo package of the event.

MIKULSKI BACKS BROWN: U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski threw her support behind Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Sunday in the 2014 governor’s race, praising him as “a man of honor and a man of commitment,” writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

Sen. Mikulski said she felt strongly enough about Brown for governor to get involved in a Democratic primary, which is unusual for her, writes John Wagner in the Post.

GANSLER’S NEXT MOVE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Joel McCord talk about Attorney General Doug Gansler’s official entrance into the 2014 governor’s race and what his next moves should be.

POLITICOS IN PRINCE G’S: Hundreds of politicos gathered in Prince George’s County Saturday afternoon to mix and mingle at an annual event hosted by some of the state’s most powerful Democratic lawmakers, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

KEEPING HAITHAM: Soon after taking office, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker began purging top administrators from county government, worried that holdovers from Jack Johnson’s administration might be caught in the unfolding “pay-to-play” corruption probe, reports Miranda Spivack for the Post. But one name kept popping up as Baker weighed his options three years ago. “Keep Haitham,” he heard repeatedly. Haitham (pronounced Hi-them) is Syrian-born Haitham Hijazi, a 54-year-old civil engineer and one of only two department heads Baker retained.

AA DELEGATION MEETING: Anne Arundel County delegates and senators will host a meeting in November to listen to what community groups think should be their priorities during the 2014 General Assembly, writes Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

AA STORMWATER FOE: Critics of Anne Arundel’s stormwater management fee may have a new ally, but will it be enough to overturn the controversial law? Daryl Jones, who returned to the County Council last week after a nearly two year legal battle, said repealing the fee is one of his priorities, writes Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette.

JONES RECONNECTS: Kate Yoon of the Capital-Gazette writes that Arundel County Councilman Daryl Jones will be working to re-establish trust with his constituents in District 1, said former Councilman Pete Smith, who handed back the seat on Monday. Smith knew he would step aside if Jones was reinstated, and said they met to ensure the transition went smoothly.

THE COHENOCRACY: Paul Foer of the Capital-Gazette, in his Ninth Ward column, writes that he’s not sold on the idea that Mike Pantelides, at 30 years old, is ready to be mayor of Annapolis, even following his win in the Republican primary. But he says he is convinced that four more years of Cohen will be disastrous.

NO MORE MASS ARRESTS: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake released a statement Friday afternoon, saying her police department would not return to the days of “mass arrests” under Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tenure as mayor, writes Luke Broadwater for the Sun. “Returning to the days of mass arrests for any and every minor offense might be a good talking point but it has been proven to be a far less effective strategy for actually reducing crime,” Rawlings-Blake said in a statement.

CONCUSSIONS IN ALLEGANY: The Allegany County Public School system continues to make moves to combat concussions in football and other sports through increased education and the implementation of state guidelines for assessing and managing the traumatic brain injury, Greg Larry reports in the Cumberland Times-News.

FIBER OPTIC IN WA CO: Public officials are talking positively about Washington County’s recently completed broadband impact study, but not everyone involved in compiling the report shares the same opinion about its recommendations, writes C.J. Lovelace for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The study suggests that additional infrastructure investments in the form of more fiber-optic cable could pave the way for new economic development opportunities for businesses and residents alike, improving upon current service levels by expanding access, speed and capacity.

FREDERICK TRANSIT PROJECTS: Frederick County staff members and representatives from the State Highway Administration met with the commissioners last week to go over transportation priorities for Frederick County, the Frederick News-Post’s Kelsi Loos reports. Transportation projects tend to develop slowly, so many of the items on the county priorities list were carried over from earlier years.