September 25, 2013

State Roundup, September 25, 2013

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LEAD POISONINGS FALL: The number of Maryland children poisoned by lead fell to a new low again last year, even as state officials expanded their effort to deal with a much larger pool of youngsters harboring lower levels of the harmful substance in their blood, Tim Wheeler reports in the Sun.

DNR OFFICES MOVE TO STATE PARK: By next summer, portions of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources will have left the William Donald Schaefer Building at 3 Pershing St. in downtown Cumberland for offices at Rocky Gap State Park, reports Michael Sawyers for the Cumberland Times-News. The first move takes place this week when the licensing office relocates.

CASINO CASH: It was all smiles when Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman handed out giant cardboard checks last week, representing $21.4 million in casino revenues being spent in the community around Maryland Live! But, opines the editorial board for the Capital-Gazette, we’re a long way from feeling relaxed about the way this money is spent.    It is a mixed record so far.

TESTING TO GO ON: Maryland’s state Board of Education said Tuesday that state testing will go forward as planned, despite calls from school district superintendents and the teachers union for a one-year moratorium, reports the Sun’s Liz Bowie. The state board voted 10-1 Tuesday to seek waivers from the U.S. Department of Education that would prevent double testing of students and place a one-year delay on the use of student test data to evaluate teachers’ job performance.

COMMON CORE IN CECIL: Cecil County Public Schools will host a “Community Forum on Education” at Elkton High School on Thursday night to discuss impending Common Core changes in state curriculum as well as safe school practices, according to a school system spokeswoman, Jacob Owen writes in the Cecil Whig.

FREE SPEECH LESSON: The editorial board for the Sun, writing about the arrest of a parent trying to get answers during an education forum on the new Common Core standards, offered state educators a lesson in free speech.

STATE PENSIONS, CONT’D: Some issues never lend themselves to permanent solutions, writes columnist Barry Rascovar for Politicalmaryland.com. Government-run pension plan projections fall into that category. And so, Del. Andy Serafini, a financial planner, again addresses the issue.

POLICING BALTIMORE CITY: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun talk about the disagreement between Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Martin O’Malley on policing policy in Baltimore City.

In an op-ed for the Sun, Gov. Martin O’Malley defends his policing and arrest policies while mayor of Baltimore City, writing that earlier and smarter interventions in the lives of vulnerable young people and increased access to drug treatment were big parts of the equation in bringing down the violent crime rates. But, so too, was a higher level of enforcement effort by the Baltimore Police Department.

GANSLER JOINS RACE: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler formally joined a fiercely competitive Democratic primary for governor Tuesday, casting himself as the outsider in the race and pledging to put the interests of middle-class Marylanders first, reports John Wagner in the Post.

“I am not your candidate if you want the status quo. I have never just gone along to get along,” Gansler said before a crowd of about 300 in Rockville, the first stop in a six-day, 17-event statewide tour, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.

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FUNDING JOURNALISM: Online journalism can’t survive without a wealthy benefactor, writes media commentator Matt Ingram. He describes the business models that are keeping journalism alive.

OPEN MEETINGS COMPLAINTS: At least two complaints of an Open Meetings Act violation have been lodged against the Frederick County commissioners for their closed-session vote on a $200,000 grant repayment, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News-Post. The submissions to the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board claim that the decisions should have happened in the open because they relate to public business.

CRAIG OPPOSES RAIN TAX: Harford County Executive and GOP candidate for governor David Craig fiercely defended his opposition to the state’s stormwater remediation fee Monday night, pointing out that government property would be exempt from what has become known as the rain tax, writes Bryna Zumer for the Aegis.

DISTRICT 32 INCUMBENTS FILE: ICYMI Democratic incumbent lawmakers in District 32 filed for re-election as Team 32 last week, with one conspicuous absence, reports Kate Yoon for the Capital-Gazette. State Sen. Ed DeGrange of Glen Burnie and Dels. Pam Beidle and Ted Sophocleus, both from Linthicum, announced their re-election bid in a joint statement. The announcement did not include Del. Mary Ann Love, a Democrat from Glen Burnie who ran in 2006 and 2010 as part of the slate.

SERVICE WEAPON DISPOSAL: As Baltimore County police replace nearly 2,000 service weapons, they won’t allow the old ones to be sold in gun shops — a decision that will prevent firearms from entering the open market but could triple the agency’s cost, reports Jessica Anderson in the Sun. Officials will instead try to sell the weapons to county police officers or to other law enforcement agencies, spokeswoman Elise Armacost said.

ARUNDEL SETTLES HAMNER SUIT: Karla Hamner, a former spokeswoman for former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, has resolved her wrongful termination case against the county for $110,000, reports Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette.

Hamner sued Leopold and the county in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in 2010, alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. The case was moved to federal court, where part of it was thrown out and the judge ruled that Leopold could not be held personally liable. Leopold denied the charges at the time, writes the Sun’s Pamela Wood.

LEOPOLD SEEKS CLEAN SLATE: Attorneys for former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold are arguing in court documents his convictions on vague charges should be overturned and that the judge had no authority to bar him from running for office, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.

NO BALLOONS, BANNERS, CUSSING: Leave your balloons at home if you plan to attend an Anne Arundel County Council meeting. Ditto any banners and signs. And please refrain from cussing at your elected officials. Among other tweaks to procedural rules, the County Council last week passed a resolution 5-2 cracking down on outbursts at public meetings, writes Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette.