State Roundup, February 1, 2011

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UTILITY FINES: As the area braces for another winter storm, the Post’s John Wagner reports that Gov. Martin O’Malley supports legislation that would impose fines on Pepco and other utilities that fall short of new state “reliability standards,” including ones laying out how quickly power should be restored after snowstorms.

Pepco is in legislators’ crosshairs, who also are considering fines for failing to meet “reliability standards,” reports Alan Brody for the Gazette. “There comes a point when we need to act and not just rely on Pepco to improve,” said Del. Kirill Reznik of Germantown.

Left over from last week’s storm: As of 6 a.m. yesterday, Pepco was reporting on its website that about 300 were without power in Montgomery County. Six customers in Washington, and six customers in Prince George’s County also were without electricity, according to an Associated Press story in the Annapolis Capital.

PENSION GAME: Opinionators the the Washington Examiner call Gov. O’Malley’s budget a cyncial shell game with his refusal to back away from Maryland’s traditional defined benefit public employee pension system, even though it is currently $19 billion in the red and just 64 percent funded.

OUT OF CONSTITUTION: State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, the new senate minority whip, said he will introduce legislation to remove the state’s gaming program from Maryland’s constitution, which could make it easier for additional counties to build casinos and allow for table games such as poker. Annie Linskey writes the story for the Sun.

REAGAN DAY: To mark Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday this Sunday, Republican delegates and senators have introduced bills to require the governor to annually proclaim a Ronald Reagan Day on Feb. 6, and “urge the citizens of the state of Maryland to observe Ronald Reagan Day in a proper manner,” blogs Len Lazarick of

WINE SHIPMENTS: Legislation that would allow state residents to order bottles of their favorite pinot noir and chardonnay directly to their homes this year has broad bipartisan support from a majority of lawmakers, including some powerful names, in the House and Senate, reports Ann Marimow of the Post.

POT BILL: State Sen. David Brinkley introduced his bill yesterday to make marijuana a Schedule II dangerous substance that could be prescribed by doctors with a continuous relationship with a patient, reports Carrie Ann Knauer of the Carroll County Times.

STUDENT VETERANS: The University of Maryland College Park was among colleges to sign the Maryland State Compact for Student Veterans with state government yesterday. The compact is aimed at ensuring the success of students who return to school after serving in the military. Drafted by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, it outlines provisions for making college campuses more accommodating to them, reports Leah Villanueva of the Diamondback.

GRAD RATES: Efforts by UM officials and state legislators to prioritize education were recognized yesterday at a College Board-sponsored discussion in Annapolis focused on increasing the number of college graduates, writes Alissa Gulin of the Diamondback.

TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM AT RISK: The Gazette’s Alan Brody reports that House Speaker Michael Busch has said that, with more money potentially being shifted out of the already-depleted Transportation Trust Fund, Maryland’s transportation system is “somewhat at risk.”

LEOPOLD AGENDA QUESTIONED: Members of Anne Arundel County’s House delegation are raising concerns about portions of County Executive John Leopold’s legislative agenda, questioning whether it involves them in communication problems between the government and its school system, writes Liam Farrell of the Annapolis Capital.

NURSING HOMES: Patients and health care providers discussed the importance of nursing home and rehabilitative care for some conditions, write Felicia Howard and Abby Rogers of

HEALTH REFORM: O’Malley says his administration will keep working to prepare the state to implement federal health care reform, despite a federal judge’s ruling that it’s unconstitutional, according to an AP story in the Daily Record.

LANDOW BID: Bethesda developer Nathan Landow, a former state Democratic Party chairman, was the third bidder in the auction of bankrupt Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George’s County, Hanah Cho reports for the Sun.

DEVELOPMENT PROBE: Melody Simmons and Joan Jacobson continue looking into an East Baltimore development for the Daily Record: As the nation headed into its worst recession since the Great Depression, staffing and salaries at East Baltimore Development Inc. skyrocketed between 2005 and 2009, they report.

What is a TIF? The acronym stands for Tax Increment Financing, a little-understood form of public investment in urban redevelopment now favored by the city of Baltimore, Simmons and Jacobson explain.