August 4, 2014

State Roundup, August 4, 2014

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SHORE WIND FARM DELAY: Jenna Johnson of the Post is reporting that the proposed wind farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore again faces the threat of a potentially project-killing delay because of worries that the whirling turbines could threaten a sensitive radar system at the nearby Patuxent Naval Air Station. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has added language to the defense appropriation bill that could prevent the Navy from finalizing an agreement with the wind farm developers until researchers finish a study of the effects of the turbines and what could be done to mitigate them.

BAY AP CHALLENGE: A few months ago, Gov. Martin O’Malley grew frustrated with state government’s lack of creativity on the environment. He challenged his staff to look for new ideas to help the Chesapeake Bay. In response, 80 bright minds from around the state — from precocious high-schoolers to CEOs of technology companies — hunkered down over the weekend at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater for a Chesapeake-oriented marathon programming competition, coordinated by the University of Maryland’s Future of Information Alliance, Luke Broadwater writes about the event for the Sun.

PHYSICIANS PAY HIKE: Maryland officials are spending tens of millions of dollars to extend a federal pay hike for physicians who serve Medicaid patients, but it’s unclear whether the incentive has been effective at increasing those patients’ access to care, writes Alissa Gulin for the Daily Record.

POT PARADOX: The editorial board for the Sun is writing that advocates are generally praising Maryland’s proposed new medical marijuana regulations as a step in the right direction after an initial effort failed to make the drug available to patients with chronic pain, nausea and other conditions thought to be alleviated by it. But they have raised concerns about some details, particularly in how doctors would be required to handle the drug, that essentially boil down to this paradox: They object that the regulations would treat marijuana like any other medicine and that they would not.

SECOND-GUESSING THE RED LINE: It’s a fact of life these days that government planners for any major transportation project must negotiate a gauntlet of public opinion and community feedback from advocates and detractors alike, opines Donald Fry for Center Maryland. Baltimore’s Red Line is no different. As state transit planners wrap up the engineering stage for Baltimore’s 14.1-mile Red Line project from Woodlawn to Bayview and are on the verge of gaining final approval of $900 million in federal funding toward the project, a small but vocal group of  detractors persists in engaging in that favorite Baltimore City pastime – second guessing.

RETIREMENT FUND: Columnist Barry Rascovar, writing in MarylandReporter.com, says good news from the Maryland state retirement agency: investment earnings over the past year ending June 30 rose a strong 14.37%. Don’t get too excited: The agency is still digging out of a deep financial hole caused by the Great Recession, poor decisions by former governors and legislators and poor advice from the agency’s consultant. The retirement fund’s health, though, is showing solid improvement.

AWAY FROM PEROUTKA: Del. Herb McMillan is the latest Republican official distancing himself from Michael Peroutka’s candidacy for County Council, reports Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital. McMillan, of Annapolis, joined Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan and GOP county executive nominee Steve Schuh in not supporting Peroutka’s candidacy because of his affiliation with the League of the South, a group that believes in southern secession.

BROWN VS HOGAN ON IMMIGRANT CHILDREN: Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that as Gov. Martin O’Malley has extended a welcoming hand to immigrant children fleeing Central America, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown and Republican rival Larry Hogan have staked out starkly different positions on whether he is doing the right thing.

TAXI TECHNOLOGY: Harried commuters will be gratified by the Maryland Public Service Commission’s decision last week to require taxicabs operating in Baltimore City to install credit card-reading devices in the back seat where passengers sit, opines the editorial board for the Sun. While it will be expensive to install the devices, that technology is the least of the worries that cab companies face.

AUTO PRIVACY: About one in five cars on American roadways connects to outside parties via cellular telephone networks, transmitting data on drivers’ speeding and braking habits, their location and their vehicle’s health and performance. By 2025, AAA predicts, all new cars will. But civil liberties and driver advocacy organizations — including those in Maryland — are becoming concerned about how secure such data is, who has access to it and whether it may drive up repair costs, writes Kevin Rector in the Sun. AAA Mid-Atlantic has identified the growth of so-called “connected cars” as the next big thing on its policy agenda in the state.

HARRIS ON EASTERN SHORE: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris is holding three town hall meetings, inviting residents to come talk about the issues and ask questions, on the Eastern Shore between Aug. 6 and Aug. 11, according to the Easton Star Democrat.

SARBANES, HOGAN & WATERGATE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about Paul Sarbanes and Larry Hogan Sr., who were both members of the House Judiciary Committee in 1974 and voted in committee to impeach President Richard Nixon.

PIONEERING JOURNALIST DIES: George W. Collins, a pioneering Baltimore journalist who chronicled the civil rights movement and other significant events in Maryland history, died last week at age 88, reports Carrie Wells in the Sun.

MARYLANDERREPORTER BOYCOTT: Adam Bednar of the Daily Record writes that Dan Bongino was not impressed with MarylandReporter.com’s thank you to him for suggesting a boycott of MarylandReporter.com after it ran a column by Barry Rascovar highly critical of Republicans.

ON RAY RICE CONTROVERSY: Five members of Maryland’s congressional delegation said for the first time Friday they believe the punishment handed down to Ravens running back Ray Rice by the NFL is insufficient, adding to a growing chorus of elected officials who are raising questions about league commissioner Roger Goodell’s decision, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

BAY FOUNDATION SUIT: A federal appeals court has revived the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s $3 million lawsuit against Weyerhaeuser Co. over water damage at CBF’s Annapolis headquarters, stemming from the company’s allegedly erroneous assurances that its treated wood would prevent rotting, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record.