December 9, 2014

State Roundup, December 9, 2014

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HOGAN TO FIGHT FARM POLLUTION REGS: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan promised Maryland farmers Monday that his “first fight” in office would be against costly new farm pollution regulations, even as environmental groups released new data showing many Eastern Shore chicken farms could be fouling the Chesapeake Bay, writes Timothy Wheeler in the Sun.

STATE CENTER: Republicans in the House of Delegates say they want a public hearing on the $1.5 billion plan to redevelop the State Center in Baltimore City. House minority leader Nicholaus Kipke  and minority whip Kathy Szeliga say they want the House Appropriations Committee to hold hearings on the project and address concerns raised in an analysis by the Department of Legislative Services, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

  • The editorial board for the Sun opines that it agrees with the view that a redevelopment of State Center is of vital interest to Baltimore City, and shares the frustration that this project — initially conceived nine years ago — has not moved forward. But, the editorial board continues, it has confidence that the Hogan administration will come to the same conclusion that the O’Malley administration has: There is simply no better option than to move forward with the current plan or something like it, a fact made evident in the DLS analysis itself.

COUNTIES TEAM FOR PURPLE LINE: In the latest effort to convince Gov.-elect Larry Hogan to move ahead with construction of the Purple Line, the heads of the planning boards in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have written to the incoming governor to warn, “A decision to cancel – or even to delay – the Purple Line would be a serious mistake…” reports Louis Peck in Bethesda Magazine.

MARYLAND CAN FAVOR BIDDERS: Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that a Maryland appeals court has held that in awarding public works contracts, Maryland can favor bidders who have a collective-bargaining agreement in place and who promise the state that labor disputes will not disrupt the project.

EXELON DELAYS APPLICATION:  Exelon Generation announced Friday its plans to withdraw its water quality certification application and resubmit it next year, reports Jane Bellmyer for the Cecil Whig. The move means the Maryland Department of the Environment now has until January 2016 to decide whether to approve the certification, which Exelon needs to obtain a 46-year operating license for the Conowingo Dam.

HOGAN-FRANCHOT SHOPPING SPREE: Bob Zimberoff of the Easton Star Democrat reports that the tax man came a-knockin’ Monday,  at businesses in downtown Easton, but it was a festive visit from Comptroller Peter Franchot. Urged by Santa, he joined Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, elected officials and guests in singing “Jingle Bells” at all of the stops on his Shop Maryland for the Holidays tour.

Franchot Hogan visit microbrewery in Cambridge

Realerevival Brewing in Cambridge was one of the stops on the local shopping tour by Comptroller Peter Franchot and Gov.-elect Larry Hogan where they sampled some of the holiday cheer. (Photo from Change Maryland Facebook page.)

CASINOS PUMP UP ECONOMY: Casinos pumped $1.38 billion into the Maryland economy last year and supported almost 8,000 jobs. Rick Hutzell of the Annapolis Capital reports on the American Gaming Association study released Monday. It examined the impact on the state economy in 2013, before the state added its fifth casino or collected an entire year’s worth of table game revenues.

GANSLER ARGUES AGAINST DEATH SENTENCE: Both Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and lawyers for death-row inmate Jody Lee Miles argued to an appeals court Monday that Miles should no longer be subject to capital punishment, reports John Wagner for the Post. Miles is seeking to have his sentence changed in the wake of the General Assembly’s repeal of the death penalty last year. The legislature’s action did not directly affect the sentences of the four remaining men on Maryland’s death row, but Gansler argued that the state is “no longer legally or factually able to carry out” executions.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Stephen Waldron of Capital News Service, writing in MarylandReporter.com, says that this school year, 14 of Maryland’s 24 school systems will not recognize any religious holidays — such as Christmas and Rosh Hashanah – by name. The 14 include every school system on the Eastern Shore, and five others around the state.These districts instead use secular terms, like “Winter Holiday” or “Spring Break,” to describe the school closings.

PUTT THE PRESIDENCY: Gimlet-eyed political prognosticator Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland fantasizes a future Ehrlich presidency and sees an Oval Office that doubles as a putting green and a leader who has other things on his mind.

OVERSTEPPING COMMON SENSE: The Frederick News Post’s editorial board comes out against Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s overturning the ban on sugary snacks and drinks sold on county property, including vending machines, parks and food stands. The board states that removing junk food from county vending machines is a good way to promote healthier eating and is an entirely appropriate action for government to take. If anything has been overstepped here, it’s common sense and good governance.

JOBLESS RATE DIPS IN WA CO: The unemployment rate in Washington County dipped to pre-recession levels in October, falling from 6.7% in September to 6.3%, according to preliminary figures recently released by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. Don Aines of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that the rate was the lowest of 2014, edging the 6.4% rate of April, according to the report. The rate is the lowest since 2008.

$15M BALTIMORE CITY DEFICIT: Kevin Litten of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Baltimore City’s rising property values and a sharp increase in new real estate transactions are creating better-than-expected revenue for the city. But the city charter says a surplus from property tax revenue cannot be used to close deficits. Now officials will have to find another way to make up the projected $14.8 million deficit that’s being created in part by police overtime spending and disappointing returns from the Horseshoe Casino.