October 7, 2013

State Roundup, October 7, 2013

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PARTISAN DIVIDE:This story by Dan Balz in the Washington Post about partisan polarization across the country doesn’t even mention Maryland, but it helps explain a lot about what’s going on here and elsewhere in the country that make any sort of middle ground difficult to achieve.

SHUTDOWN & SMALL BIZ: At least 100 federal workers usually crowd the Salsa Grill in Woodlawn for lunch. By Friday, the fourth day of the partial federal government shutdown, their numbers dwindled to three. The Peruvian eatery — across from the Social Security Administration and near the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services — counts on those agencies for about half its customers, reports Jamie Smith Hopkins for the Sun.

At the top of the story are links to videos from businesses telling their shutdown stories.

HEALTH EXCHANGE CON: Consumers weren’t able to sign up for insurance under new health care exchanges until last week, but con artists have been scheming for months to steal money or Social Security numbers under the guise of the Affordable Care Act, reports Eileen Ambrose for the Sun. And it’s bound to get worse, regulators and consumer advocates fear.

FIBER OPTIC BOON: Hundreds of miles of new fiber-optic cable about as thick as a garden hose are lighting 21st-century ambitions from one end of Maryland to the other, writes Arthur Hirsch for the Sun. Economic development officials imagine businesses opening or expanding thanks to more robust Internet connections. School administrators envision students using more electronic resources and foresee greater collaboration between schools.

ARTS IN SCHOOLS: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot recognized three young Cecil County Public Schools artists Friday afternoon as part of his Maryland Masters program, reports Jacob Owens for the Cecil Whig. Franchot said the arts are an important part of the state’s economy during the art unveiling and awards ceremony at the CCPS central office in Elkton.

RISING SEAS: Whether you believe in global warming or not, the state of Maryland does, reports Chris Polk for the Easton Star Democrat. That is the message the Maryland Secretary of Planning and the Maryland Secretary of the Environment brought to those attending the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s 14th annual Planning Conference on Thursday, Oct. 3.

SAVING THE BAY:Following the Capital-Gazette series on saving the Chesapeake Bay, the editorial board writes that, after 30 years and at least $15 billion spent in Maryland to clean the Chesapeake Bay, we have modest results. But hope remains. A September court ruling affirmed the EPA’s pollution diet, which is designed to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment in the bay. It finally gives teeth to laws long ignored or modified to mollify special interests. The time is right for ironclad rules that are nonnegotiable. It is too late in the game for anything else.

CRAIG ON BAY CLEANUP:Harford County Executive David Craig, who is a candidate for governor, explains in a letter his decision to repeal the state-required stormwater fee, saying the fact that stormwater and urban runoff from Maryland accounts for just 5% of the sediment and 2% of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay calls into question the need to undertake incredibly costly public works projects.

ATTY GEN CANDIDATES: Center Maryland will be sharing a series of in-depth conversations on Mondays with the leading Democratic candidates for Attorney General. Today is the first part of our interview with Del. Jon Cardin, in which he talks about his qualifications, his legislative successes and some of his agenda if elected. In the coming weeks, look for conversations with Del. Aisha Braveboy, Del. Bill Frick and Sen. Brian Frosh.

REPLACING DEL. FELDMAN: Maryland Juice received a letter to the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee from District 19 Del. Ben Kramer endorsing David Frasier-Hidalgo for the District 15 seat being vacated by Del. Brian Feldman, who was named a state senator.

The MCDCC on Tuesday will select a replacement for Del. Brian Feldman, and with multiple contenders vying for the appointment, the race is heating up quickly. Maryland Juice also has letters from Progressive Maryland and MCGEO (the union representing MoCo government employees) endorsing Saqib Ali for the vacancy:

GOV CANDIDATES AT RMI FORUM: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler cast himself Friday as the pro-business candidate in the Democratic primary for governor and knocked his chief 2014 rival for skipping a forum hosted by a manufacturing association, reports John Wagner for the Post.

Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com reports that despite political persuasions, all five of the candidates at the forum agreed on one thing: Complicated state regulations were a primary reason the state has fallen so far behind. “Bring the private sector to the table with the agency heads,” Del. Heather Mizeur said. “Generate a consensus on how [to] rewrite these rules.”

Several candidates for governor — a Democrat and three Republicans — said Friday that they would cut taxes to improve Maryland’s business image and revive its ailing manufacturing sector. Each promised tax relief in different forms as they appeared at the forum sponsored by the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

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FIREFIGHTERS ENDORSE BROWN: Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown picked up an endorsement of his gubernatorial campaign Friday from the Professional Fire Fighters of Maryland, the latest labor union to offer its support, reports John Wagner for the Post.

AA RETIREES: The $1.3 billion Anne Arundel County officials say retired workers will be owed over the next 30 years is a hole the government started digging decades ago, reports Allison Bourg for the Capital Gazette. And while county leaders have been aware of the problem for at least two decades, no one has been willing to do much about it, Anne Arundel Budget Officer John Hammond said last week.

WORKING FOR AA COUNTY:In an op-ed for the Capital-Gazette Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman talks about doing what is right for the county, not what is politically expedient. She is referring to her veto of the storm water legislation and attempting to fix the county retired employees health insurance.

RUNNING AGAINST LEGGETT: It’s a late afternoon in September on Homewood Parkway in Kensington, Md. Jeremiah Sullivan, 71, wearing green sweatpants and sporting a couple of days’ growth, opens his front door to find Montgomery County Council member Phil Andrews. “So you’re running for county executive? Is Ike still in there?” Sullivan asks, referring to County Executive Isiah Leggett.

GARRETT SCHOOL CLOSURES: Angie Brant of the Cumberland Times News writes that according to a letter from Sen. George Edwards, if Gov. Martin O’Malley doesn’t provide emergency action to help alleviate the dire financial situation of the Garrett County Public School System, it could mean that the process for school closures could begin in the fall.

OVER-POLICING IN B’MORE CITY: In an op-ed for the Sun, Leigh Maddox, a retired police officer, writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley has recently made the case for beefing up law enforcement to battle this year’s rise in crime in Baltimore City. “So long as levels of enforcement continue to decline,” he argued, “shootings and homicides will continue to go up.” In fact, over-enforcement has the opposite effect and renders crime more pernicious in the communities that are most affected. To solve our problems with violent crime, we need to first repeal our drug policies.

B’MORE COUNTY RETIREES INSURANCE FIGHT: For more than 400 retired Police Department employees from Baltimore County the fight continues as they try to get reimbursed for being overcharged for health insurance, and WYPR’s Fraser Smith and the Sun’s Alison Knezevich talk about the issue.