State Roundup, September 27, 2010

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ECONOMIC POLICIES: Candidate and former Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s diagnosis for the economic slump is similar to the reasons given by the national Democratic Party, blogs The Sun’s Jay Hancock, and fits with his plank to cut the state sales tax from 6 percent to 5 percent. Hancock himself advocates a personal income tax cut instead. Ehrlich’s sales tax cuts proposal would cost the state treasury $600 million a year, reports The Post’s John Wagner. The economy is becoming the central issue in the O’Malley-Ehrlich contest, writes Corridor Inc’s Karl Hille. 

EHRLICH ROADMAP: Gov. Martin O’Malley is asking Ehrlich for some of the details of his “Roadmap to the Future” in an online-only commercial, reports The Sun’s Annie Linskey.

AFSCME BACKS O’MALLEY: AFSCME, the largest union of state workers, has endorsed Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley for a second term, Julie Bykowicz blogs for the Sun, reminding readers that the FOP endorsed Republican opponent Bob Ehrlich. And Jay Hancock blogs for The Sun about the eyebrow-raising move of O’Malley publicizing many of his business endorsements — the type of people who generally don’t want their names connected with any candidates.

EHRLICH ATTACK AD: Ehrlich launches his first attack ad, calling out O’Malley for failing to deliver on a 2006 campaign pledge to prevent an expected 72 percent increase in electricity bills, Annie Linskey blogs for the Sun. Further in the blog, Linskey explains the history behind the BGE rate hike, which says O’Malley actually played hardball with BGE. The Post’s John Wagner also analyzes the TV ad, which you can view further in his blog.  Jeff Abell of WBFF-TV reports that the web videos can be longer than TV commercials and more outrageous.

BALLOT QUESTIONS: Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports on the three statewide ballot questions voters will have to decide, including a constitutional convention.

MISSING JOBS REPORT: The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz updates last week’s story with new information on how the GOP got a copy of the more pessimistic July jobs report that quickly went missing from the Labor Licensing and Regulation Department’s website. Mark Newgent at Red Maryland gives a detailed report on the history of the removed document.

DOCTORS FOR HARRIS: Republican Congressional hopeful Andy Harris, a obstetric anesthesiologist at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, has received more campaign donations from health care professionals than any other House of Representatives challenger nationwide. Doctors tell The Sun’s Paul West they want someone in Washington who understands how health care is delivered.

DEBATES OR JOINT APPEARANCES?: Harris has challenged incumbent U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil to a series of joint appearances around their district, reports The Sun’s Paul West. Kratovil countered by inviting Harris — and Libertarian candidate Richard Davis — to three debates.

PHILLIPS WINS: It’s official: Michael Lee Phillips won the Republican nomination to face U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen in the race to represent the 8th Congressional District, reports The Post’s Ben Pershing. Phillips defeated rival Bruce Stern by 51 votes. Julia Cosans of the Prince George’s Sentinel reports on the story.

CARDIN OUT AND ABOUT: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin visited the Beth Israel Synagogue in Salisbury to speak to the area’s Jewish community on issues ranging from health care reform to peace in the Middle East, Calum McKinney reports for the Salisbury Daily Times. Cardin also visited the Interchurch Medical Assistance world health’s headquarters in New Windsor earlier this month, reports The Carroll Eagle’s Kevin Dayhoff.

HOYER ON COLBERT: TV comic Stephen Colbert’s in-character testimony at a congressional hearing was “an embarrassment” to the comedian and wrong for the House, Maryland U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader, said on Sunday, Stephen Dinan of the Washington Times reports. Colbert testified to the House immigration subcommittee on illegal-immigrant agriculture workers. Editorial writers for the Washington Times say the testimony created a theater of the absurd.

STINK BUGS: U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett rallied 15 other members of Congress to sign letters to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking for approval of new pesticides to kill stink bugs, which are causing significant damage to the state’s crops, reports The Sun’s Frank Roylance.

MEMORIAL SERVICE: Andrea Fujii of WJZ-TV reports that during a memorial service, questions continue to revolve around the death of Green Party Senate candidate Natasha Pettigrew, who was killed while riding her bicycle.

NO RECOUNT: Despite losing the GOP nomination to represent District 3A in the House of Delegates by nine votes, Chris Huckenpoehler tells The Frederick News-Post’s Meg Tully that he will not ask for a recount of the votes in the contest between he and Scott Rolle.

MILITARY ABSENTEE BALLOTS: A member of the Maryland National Guard sued the state Board of Elections in federal court, charging that there is not be enough time for overseas voters to receive and return absentee ballots for the Nov. 2 general election, reports The Sun’s Andrea Siegel.

BERNSTEIN SHAKEUP: Gregg Bernstein campaigned for Baltimore City State’s Attorney on the promise that he would shake things up, reports Gary Haber of the Baltimore Business Journal. An influx of lawyers from private firms could be one of the most dramatic differences Bernstein makes to the office.

MoCo BUDGET: Brian Hughes of the Washington Examiner reports that Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, on the heels of closing the largest budget gap in the suburb’s history, is telling county departments to brace for 10-to-15 percent reductions in their respective budgets next fiscal year.

AMBULANCE FEE: Montgomery Circuit Judge Robert Greenberg rejected putting a referendum about a county ambulance fee on the ballot — a movement struck down because petitioners’ signatures didn’t all exactly match the way they had signed their names when they registered to vote, reports The Post’s Michael Laris.

BAKER’S PLANS: Democrat Rushern Baker — who will undoubtedly be Prince George’s County’s next executive — tells The Washington Post’s Miranda Spivack about his plans for office, including rooting out corruption and improving schools.

PG RAISES: Despite budget woes, outgoing Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson has proposed raises for county employees that would cost upwards of $12 million, reports The Post’s Miranda Spivack. The county council will begin discussing them on Oct. 6.

KAMENETZ BANNER: A banner urging people to vote Kevin Kamenetz for Baltimore County executive turned up on a building in Baltimore city — owned by Kamenetz’s brother, blogs The Sun’s Julie Bykowicz. 

BARTENFELDER’S BUMPER: After losing the Democratic primary for the nomination to be Baltimore County executive, Joe Bartenfelder has been silent on whether he will endorse victorious Dem Kevin Kamenetz — but his produce truck at a farmers market bore a bumper sticker for Republican nominee Ken Holt, reports Tyler Waldman from the Timonium Patch. A worker at the produce stand was also wearing a Holt T-shirt. 

NO ENDORSEMENT: In Baltimore City’s 2nd District, some are blaming the defeat of Sherrie Becker, a Jewish woman, to the lack of an endorsement from the Baltimore Jewish Times, reports Patuxent Publishing’s Bryan Sears.

SLOTS OPENING: WBAL-Radio’s Robert Lang reports that the state’s first slots parlor has been given the green light to open this morning, three days ahead of schedule. It’s a soft opening; the grand opening will occur on Thursday. Andrea Walker of the Sun reports that Lottery Director Stephen Martino signed the license Sunday evening allowing Penn National Gaming, the owner of Hollywood Casino of Perryville, to begin operations after a successful trial run of the facility on Saturday. Here’s WJZ-TV’s story. Melinda Roeder of WBFF-TV also reports on the casino opening. You can also take a WBAL-TV survey on the casino.

TRANSPORTATION PLAN: The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports on the state’s “big blue book” — the draft consolidated transportation plan that outlines transportation projects for the next six years.

LOBBYISTS: Many familiar faces — those of well-known lobbyists — will be in Annapolis next year, regardless of election results, writes The Capital’s Liam Farrell.

GOUGE ON THE HILL: Carroll County Commissioner Julia Gouge, also a board member of the National Association of Counties, testified before Congress in support of the Livable Communities Bill, reports The Carroll Eagle. 

FORT MEADE JOBS: About 7,000 jobs have been created at Fort Meade in the last year as a result of base realignment and closure — and many more are on the way, reports The Post’s Capitol Business’ Marjorie Censer.

CELL PHONE LAW: Maryland’s new law making it illegal to drive with a handheld cell phone goes into effect on Oct. 1, reports The Sun’s Gus Sentementes. The Post’s Ashley Halsey reports that this law will not be very enforceable, considering police need to have another reason to pull over offending drivers.

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