State Roundup, November 17, 2010

PENSION REFORM: Cash-strapped counties and unions representing beleaguered state employees are beginning to play defense against changes being proposed in Maryland’s underfunded pension system, Liam Farrell reports for the Annapolis Capital.

As the incoming president of the Maryland Association of Counties, Howard County’s newly re-elected executive Ken Ulman is girding for battle in Annapolis to fend off new attempts to shift the cost of teacher pensions to local governments, Larry Carson of the Sun reports.

Washington County education officials and state lawmakers met yesterday to talk about the coming legislative session early next year in Annapolis, including a looming concern: the underfunded pension system, reports Andrew Schotz of the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

SAVVY BLUE MD: Those who think that Maryland stayed blue because it is awash with comatose government workers and dependent minorities fail to acknowledge the general citizenry’s passionate closely-held values and discount the unique needs of Maryland’s sophisticated economy, writes Clayton Mitchell for Center Maryland.

CORRUPTION PROBE: Ruben Castaneda of the Washington Post reports that the owners of a Langley Park liquor store who were swept up as part of a broad corruption probe paid bribes to Prince George’s County officials and hid $400,000 in cash in their closet. Here’s Joy Lepola’s piece for WBFF-TV.

HEALTH CARE FOR HARRIS: The health insurance plan at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where incoming U.S. Rep. Andy Harris has worked since the 1980s, does cover employees from the first day of employment, making Hopkins more generous than most employers, reports Paul West of the Sun. Harris has seen a firestorm of criticism following his questioning of why he couldn’t get federal health coverage starting his first day in office. He is a strong critic of giving the rest of the nation a public option for health care. Greg Latshaw of the Salisbury Daily Times also picks up on the controversy.

HEALTH REFORM: Emily Mullin of the BBJ reports that Maryland’s Health Care Reform Coordinating Council proposed to the state’s top health officials yesterday that some issues regarding health care reform be brought up in the upcoming legislative session. One of them is making the Maryland Insurance Exchange, where uninsured individuals and small businesses can purchase insurance, its own government agency, reports Barbara Pash of

NATIONAL GOP: The Republican National Committee’s political director has quit with a blistering indictment of Michael Steele’s record as national chairman, Paul West blogs for the Sun.

STATE GOP: Setting up a possible re-match of the 2010 GOP primary, Brian Murphy’s camp began hinting that the conservative upstart wants to be the next Maryland Republican Party chair, blogs Annie Linskey for the Sun. Larry Hogan, a Cabinet secretary under former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich, has taken himself out of the running to lead the state party, John Wagner blogs for the Post.

JUDGE ON DEFENSE: Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Ronald Jarashow, who has asked three prosecutors to investigate the last-minute campaign tactics of the woman who defeated him at the polls, is denying that he is trying to undo the election, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record.

COMBINED REPORTING: An influential panel voted to delay discussion of altering the state’s corporate accounting rules, a move welcomed by the chieftains of large companies who worried that the change could hurt their bottom lines just as the economy appears to be brightening, Annie Linskey reports for the Sun.

Only four members of the 18-member commission voted to support combined reporting, writes Megan Poinski for Scott Dance of the Baltimore Business Journal says the panel could revisit the issue in 2011.

JOBLESS INSURANCE: Hayley Peterson reports for the Washington Examiner that Maryland paid $46 million in unemployment insurance benefits to people ineligible for the assistance in fiscal 2010, state officials said. Almost 90% are “people who are going back to work and continuing to file for unemployment insurance,” a state official said.

LEADERSHIP RETAINED: Rep. Steny Hoyer is on track to become the House of Representatives minority whip, and Rep. Christopher Van Hollen has received a key endorsement to become ranking member of the House Budget Committee, reports C. Benjamin Ford of The Gazette.

MOCO CUTS: Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett will recommend mid-year budget cuts to try to make up for the county’s projected $200 million shortfall in fiscal year 2012, reports The Gazette’s Erin Cunningham.

IN EARLY?: Del.-elect Aruna Miller, who will repesent District 15 in the House, may get to take her seat early, reports The Gazette’s Erin Cunningham. She is replacing Del. Craig Rice, who was elected to the Montgomery County Council and is slated to be sworn into his new position on Dec. 6.

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