NEW HEALTH SECRETARY: Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to announce the appointment of a new state secretary of health at a noon news conference. Sources familiar with the department tell Bryan Sears of Patch.com that Josh Sharfstein, the former Baltimore City health officer, will succeed Secretary John Colmers.
Scott Dance writes for the Baltimore Business Journal that the change is occurring at a key time for the department and the state, as they prepare to implement overhauls included in federal health care reform passed last year.
O’Malley said he was “ecstatic” and “delighted” by Sharfstein’s decision to leave his “very important national position,” Annie Linskey writes for the Sun.
Here’s John Wagner’s take on the appointment for the Post.
MEDICAID ERRORS: Maryland’s Medicaid program is both above and below the national average for payment errors, according to a new independent study, which also gave several suggestions to improve efficiency, Barbara Pash reports for MarylandReporter.com.
STATE BUDGET WOES: With money tight, this really could be ‘‘worst year” for state lawmakers, Alan Brody and Sarah Breitenbach of the Gazette report.
The Sun’s Larry Carson writes that reinstating the income tax surcharge on people who make $1 million or more has no enthusiatic support among Howard County’s 11 state legislators, though several said it might win support in the end, depending on other options for resolving the projected $1.6 billion revenue shortfall next fiscal year.
Though Harford County’s 11 delegates and senators have various personal priorities for the legislative session, all say they’re most focused on an anticipated budget deficit of $1.6 billion, Rachel Konopacki writes for the Aegis.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: Nick Sohr of the Daily Record reports on state Attorney General Doug Gansler’s announcement of a report that listed 25 changes in Maryland’s campaign finance regulations yesterday, including closing a loophole that allows businesses to bypass donation limits by routing funds through subsidiaries.
Gansler called the 53-page report “more than food for thought for legislators,” Julie Bykowicz reports for the Sun.
Jayne Miller of WBAL-TV reports that the last time the rules and regulations about campaign finance in Maryland were reviewed was 1987.
MERGE AGENCIES: Among the ideas floating out of the State House for closing Maryland’s $1.6 billion budget gap, consolidating some agencies sounds pretty appealing, writes the Sun’s opinion makers.
ROSECROFT SLOTS: Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos is bidding to buy the bankrupt Rosecroft horse-racing track in Prince George’s County and resurrecting a push to allow slot machines there, Hanah Cho reports for the Sun.
OCEAN DOWNS: Maryland’s second slot-machine gambling casino — Ocean Downs — opened its doors yesterday, drawing a swarm of visitors, John Wagner writes for the Post.
Voluptuous, computer-generated women on TV screens offered passers-by a round of video blackjack. Outside, cars filled the parking lot, Jennifer Shutt reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.
This slots parlor has more restrictions than others planned in the state because of residents’ concerns, David Collins of WBAL-TV reports.
Here’s John Rydell’s story for WBFF-TV.
The Sun’s Kim Hairston attended the grand opening and shot this photo gallery.
Here’s the Associated Press story, which ran in the Daily Record.
DIME A DRINK: Supporters of a major increase in alcohol taxes to support health care believe the election results, legislative committee assignments and a new poll have put them close to their goal of a “dime-a-drink” tax hike, Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com.
The Gazette Sarah Breitenbach reports that the survey found that 66 percent of those polled said they would support a tax increase if revenues were used for health priorities.
WBAL-TV’s Lowell Melser reports that the tax could decrease the number of alcohol-related deaths in the state.
LETHAL INJECTIONS: There hasn’t been an execution in Maryland in more than five years, and they may not resume any time soon. State Sen. Paul Pinsky of Prince George’s said his panel needs more time to review new regs for lethal injections, Robert Lang reports for WBAL-AM.
Listen to the interview with Pinsky here.
MIKULSKI’S CAREER: While we know that Barbara Mikulski is the longest-serving woman U.S. senator, the Post presents an interesting chart to track her career.
FREDERICK SHORTFALL: Stephanie Mlot of the Frederick News Post reports that Frederick County Commissioners President Blaine Young sent employees a letter last week detailing the county’s dire budget situation — a possible shortfall of $11.8 million for fiscal 2012.
Young also wrote that Frederick County’s projected shortfall could more than double to $26.8 million if the General Assembly forces counties to contribute to teacher pensions, Sherry Greenfield writes for the Gazette.
WHAT’S IN A NAME? Bryan Sears of Patch.com blogs that about a proposed name change to one Baltimore County government agency that seemed like it would be a pain in the …