State Roundup, December 18, 2009

It’s a big Friday for Maryland news. The state threw out the Baltimore slots bid and approved some of the nation’s highest tolls for the Intercounty Connector. Also, lawmakers are urging O’Malley to curb new spending in 2011.

The state’s Video Lottery Facility Location Commission has denied a developer’s plan to construct an 3,750-machine slots casino in South Baltimore, Brian Witte writes for The Associated Press, after the company delayed for months the release of information about its investment team and failed to come up with an application fee for its expanded proposal.

The unanimous decision casts further doubt on the state’s slots plan, as two of the state’s voter-approved sites have no bids before the commission. There’s coverage everywhere. Much of it is similar, but everybody’s got something worth checking out.

Sean Sedam in The Gazette writes that the Baltimore Project is likely to be rebid next year, when a better economy might foster more robust bidding. The bids that are now on the table came in February, in the depths of a national recession.

Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linskey at The Baltimore Sun have Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s take in their story.  “We did everything we were supposed to do,” Dixon said. “I’m not sure if these facilities are a true priority for the state.”

John Wagner in The Washington Post writes that the rejection is “the latest — and arguably largest — setback for the state’s fledgling slots program.”

Here’s some nice web video from Dave Collins at WBAL TV.

Before the vote, the developer for the Baltimore project argued that his proposal represents “the very best, the fastest way to market in Baltimore,” according to Nick Sohr at The Daily Record.

Penn National Gaming, the company that has been approved to build slots in Cecil County, is one of the six bidders to buy Maryland horse tracks including Laurel Park and Pimlico, Laura Smitherman reports in The Sun.

The Anne Arundel County Council has appointed a replacement for new Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen, and he supports slot machines at Arundel Mills mall, Nicole Fuller reports in The Sun. A vote on zoning for the project, which has held up the development process, could come next week.

Meanwhile, Councilman Ed Middlebrooks says he has been cleared to vote on the zoning by the county ethics panel, Erin Cox reports in The (Annapolis) Capital. He had previously said he would recuse himself because of a business conflict. It’s unclear how, or whether Middlebrooks will choose to vote.

John Wagner writes in The Post’s Maryland blog that Maryland Jockey Club officials are warning that Laurel Park will close if slots are approved at Arundel Mills, since that would mean they couldn’t be built at the track.

Columnist Barry Rascovar in The Gazette discusses the lingering fog over Maryland’s horse racing industry.

The Spending Affordability Committee said next year’s budget should have zero growth, but Republicans believe it should be cut even more than that, according to Sean Sedam in The Gazette.

Laura Smitherman writes in The Sun’s political blog that the recommendations send a strong signal to Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose budget secretary has already said she’ll follow the limits.

The state elections board approved early voting sites proposed by local officials in six counties, but rejected the one from Wicomico because it wasn’t close enough to half of the population of the county that includes Ocean City, Alan Brody reports in The Gazette.

Tolls for the Intercounty Connector in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties will be among the most expensive in the nation, Katherine Shaver writes in the Post. The rates, at between 10 and 35 cents per mile, were approved Thursday.

The Washington Examiner has a story and a good chart explaining the rates.

Tim Wheeler at The Sun says state officials brushed aside complaints that the rates were too steep, put points out that overnight rates are lower

The Montgomery County Council called the fares “highway robbery,” according to Daniel Valentine and Erin Cunningham in The Gazette.

Marcus Moore at The Gazette updates us on the status of “maintenance of effort” legislation for the school systems in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, which are set to be penalized for failing to provide as much money in this year’s budget as they did for last year’s.

Scott Dance at the Baltimore Business Journal writes that lawmakers will push for budget cuts to offset the cost of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s job creation tax credit.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission upheld the approval of a liquefied natural gas terminal at Sparrows Point, Mary Gail Hare writes in The Sun, but opponents say they’ll continue to fight the project as they have for more than three years.

Adam Pagnucco continues his analysis of the potential rematch between O’Malley and former Gov. Bob Ehrlich. This time, he’s looking at approval ratings.

The doctor in the House, Del. Dan Morhaim, wants to cure the flaws in Maryland’s law on medical use of marijuana, reports Alan Brody in the Gazette, but other legislators think the proposal may be one toke over the line.

Lawmakers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia got together to compare notes on the economy, Erin Julius reports in The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail.

A snack tax to fund programs that fight childhood obesity is one recommendation from a committee that wants to stop the increase in overweight children, reports Erin Cunningham in The Gazette. Fat chance says even a senator who has proposed the idea before.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

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