October 8, 2013

State Roundup, October 8, 2013

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IN FAVOR OF HBCUS: Carrie Wells of the Sun is reporting that a federal judge has ruled that Maryland hasn’t done enough to help the state’s four historically black colleges and universities overcome segregation-era policies. It has allowed state universities to unnecessarily duplicate the programs of the four historically black institutions, violating the constitutional rights of those students. Plaintiffs had argued that the historically black colleges were hurt because neighboring institutions offered similar programs, siphoning away students.

HEALTH EXCHANGES: Since it launched last week, the state’s new health insurance exchange has been used by 326 Marylanders to enroll in plans, while thousands of others created accounts to start shopping, despite persistent technical problems, Andrea Walker and Meredith Cohn report in the Sun.

The AP is reporting in the Daily Record that officials say more than 13,000 residents have created accounts on Maryland’s online marketplace for health insurance. But technical issues remain in using Maryland Health Connection, the state-based health insurance marketplace.

Today marks one week of Marylanders being able to sign up for health insurance on Maryland’s health exchange and so far, it has not gone as well as state leaders have hoped. From the day the Marylandhealthconnection.gov site went live, 174,023 people have visited, but just 13,532 were able to create an account, Christian Schaffer reports for WMAR-TV.

Barry Rascovar writes for MarylandReporter.com and PoliticalMaryland: “Let’s agree Obamacare’s sign-up period is off to a dreadful start. That Uncle Sam and most states botched the IT implementation phase is obvious. They get an “F” in computer science.” On a positive note, this isn’t a dash but a long-distance race. There’s plenty of time to overcome the IT glitches. That’s the bad and the good. He also writes about the ugly.

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CYBERBULLYING: The editorial board for the Capital-Gazette writes that a program launched recently will make it easier for educators to cut down on some cyberbullying in schools, and combined with legislation passed this year which took effect Oct. 1, the steps may help reduce the growing number of teen suicides attributed to cyberbullying.

CASINO TAKE: Maryland’s four casinos pulled in $65.3 million in revenue for September, a drop from $71 million the month before, reports Eileen Ambrose in the Sun. Two of Maryland casinos are in resort areas, which tend to be busier in the summer months, so a decline from August is not surprising, said James Karmel, a casino analyst and history professor at Harford Community College.

Zoe Read of the Capital-Gazette reports that Maryland Live! brought in $50.4 million in September as revenue from table games continues to grow. This represents an $18.4 million increase since September 2012.

The casino at Rocky Gap continues to make a strong showing, despite a slight decline in overall revenue from August and September. Poker tables only opened this month, so their impact won’t be seen until numbers for October are available, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times News.

AG SAMIENESS, DIFFERENCES: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes that whenever the four candidates for attorney general are together on stage, the old “Sesame Street” song “One of These Things Is Not Like the Other” comes instantly to mind. And you can split them up any number of ways:

One candidate is a woman, three are men; One candidate is African-American, three are white; One candidate is eligible for Social Security, the others are considerably younger. … And on it goes, beyond surface differences:

FURLOUGHED FED WORKERS: Furloughed federal workers have filed more than 16,000 unemployment insurance applications — more than four times the number typically received from that sector in a year, write Michael Dresser and John Fritze for the Sun.

On Sunday, about 400 people attended Whole Foods Market’s free “Shutdown Pick-Me-Up” spaghetti dinner at the store’s Annapolis location. It was among 22 Whole Foods stores in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., that supplied free spaghetti dinners to furloughed employees and other members of the public, Tim Pratt writes for the Capital-Gazette.

BUSCH TO BACK BROWN: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is scheduled to pick up his latest endorsement for governor this week from House Speaker Michael Busch, who rarely endorses in Democratic primaries, John Wagner of the Post is reporting that two people familiar with the arrangement are confirming.

CLUSTER NEW GOP EXEC: Joe Cluster, a onetime aide to former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, has taken over as the new executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, reports the Post’s John Wagner. Maryland GOP Chairwoman Diana Waterman on Monday announced the hiring of Cluster, 34, who fills an opening left by David Ferguson’s resignation in late August.

Cluster is the son of Del. John Cluster, R-Baltimore County. He also has worked in Washington, D.C., for the political action committee GOPAC and the Republican National Committee, writes Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette.

OPEN MEETINGS VIOLATION: The Baltimore Development Corp. board violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when members refused to disclose the topics discussed during a July 25 closed meeting, the state Open Meetings Compliance Board has decided, reports Kevin Litten for the Baltimore Business Journal.

The BBJ’s Christopher Mahoney writes that Baltimore City government has a shameful reputation for conducting way too much of its business behind closed doors. In the interest of doing city business efficiently, the BDC and other city officials squander way too much trust and goodwill when they skirt the letter of the state’s open-meeting law. The BBJ would like to see the recent ruling of the Open Meeting Compliance Board as a prime opportunity for the city to do some serious soul-searching.

AA RETIREE PLANS: Less than a week after proposing sweeping change to address what she called an “unsustainable” retiree health care system for county employees, Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman has withdrawn her plan, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. It was withdrawn at her request to make way for a proposal by County Councilman Jamie Benoit, who, like Neuman, is calling for longer terms of service before employees are eligible for health care in retirement and changes in county contributions for such plans.

COLLEGE PARK PROJECT OPPOSED: Miranda Spivack of the Post is reporting that a group of Prince George’s lawmakers is asking a developer to drop his plans to redevelop the university’s golf course, where they say he is proposing a shopping center with big-box stores and some housing. “Rather than investing in areas in need of revitalization and with existing infrastructure, this project requires new roads and new stormwater infrastructure … (and) pave over the most significant green space in the area,” said the letter from three state senators, nine delegates, three Prince George’s County Council members, and the mayor of College Park.

  • higgy01

    My first question is. Why are still “historically black colleges”? We are an integrated society and there is no need for and no justification for these schools. All they do is promote the segregation which I fought against in the 1960s