State Roundup, February 7, 2011

GAY UNIONS STANDS: While 24 senators are needed for passage, 20 are firmly in the yes column on gay marriage. Like many issues, this one will be decided by the undecideds, writes Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz of the Sun.

The Post’s John Wagner offers a breakdown.

SLOTS FIGHT: A new proposal in the General Assembly would prohibit someone with a slot machine license from interfering with the creation of another slots facility, marking a response to the Arundel Mills mall casino conflict, Liam Farrell of the Annapolis Capital reports.

IMPROPER ACTS ON SLOTS: Anne Arundel County police officers and firefighters who used what appeared to be official vehicles and insignias in pro-slots campaign advertisements acted improperly, though they broke no laws, according to the county Ethics Commission. Nicole Fuller writes the story for the Sun.

PENN IN MARYLAND: Penn National has planted a large flag in Maryland’s slots and horseracing industry, and intends to be ready for any changes that the General Assembly plans to implement, writes Hanah Cho of the Sun.

SPEED CURB COMPROMISE: The state highway chief is offering a compromise to Jim Brochin’s Senate bill on speed cameras. Brochin had criticized speed limit curbs in work zones when no work was occurring, writes Steve Schuster of the Towson Times. Just for fun, see how many typos you can find in the Times’ headline.

GAS SALES TAX: Sen. Roger Manno has introduced a bill that would apply a 4-cent sales tax to gasoline, essentially, he said, treating the state’s gas pumps like vending machines, Nick Sohr blogs for the Daily Record.

LIMITING SEPTICS: O’Malley’s call last week to limit the creation of large subdivisions with traditional septic systems was the highlight of his State of the State address. It is a bold, if necessary step, in preserving Maryland’s water quality, the Sun’s Peter Jensen writes in his Second Opinion column.

GUN PROPOSALS: Some believe that limiting the number of concealed handgun carry permits reduces crime and gun violence while others believe it makes it worse, writes Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times. The debate is heating up in Annapolis.

Megan Eckstein of the Frederick News Post interviews gun dealers about proposed permitting laws.

SAVING FAMILY FARMS: Several Frederick County lawmakers are working to make it easier for family farms to be passed down to the next generation, reports the News Post’s Meg Tully.

RENAMING MOUNTAINS: State senators, not from the affected counties, have introduced legislation to create a commission to rename Garrett’s Negro Mountain and Allegheny’s Polish Mountain. Negro Mountain, writes Michael Sawyer of the Cumberland Times News, was named for a heroic black frontiersman.

NICKEL BAGS: Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Al Carr have pledged support within the General Assembly for a law that would charge consumers a nickel every time a disposable bag is provided at a food or liquor store, the Cumberland Times News’ Michael Sawyers reports.

RECOVERY OVERSIGHT: State Sen. Catherine Pugh said she is submitting legislation to create new state oversight of transitional housing for recovering drug and alcohol abusers, reports the Sun’s Scott Calvert.

EARLY RETIREMENT: With 677 state workers taking early retirement, Maryland’s health and transportation departments will be among those hit hardest by the losses, reports Aaron Davis of the Post. The voluntary buyout program will fall nearly 30% short of a goal of saving the state $40 million next year.

The Sun’s Annie Linskey blogs that workers who leave early receive a base $15,000 lump sum plus $200 for every year of service.

DEMS SEEK SUCCESSION RULES: Sixteen of the Maryland Senate’s 35 Democrats are seeking clear rules on how caucus leaders are chosen, when meetings are held and who would become one of the state’s most powerful lawmakers when Senate President Mike Miller retires, Robert Lang and the AP report for WBAL-AM.

SKIRTING WINE LAW: Lawyers, government consultants, high-tech workers and even members of the General Assembly have developed an indirect route for smuggling their favorite vino. They have wine delivered to offices in the District or to the homes of friends in Virginia, two of the 38 jurisdictions nationwide that allow vineyards to ship wine directly to consumers, reports Ann Marimow of the Post.

CHAT WITH GARAGIOLA: editor and publisher Len Lazarick sits down with Senate Minority Leader Robert Garagiola to talk about two important issues — transportation funding and same-sex marriage.

ON STATE OF STATE: WYPR’s Joel McCord and MPT’s Charles Robinson talks with Len Lazarick of about Gov. O’Malley’s State of the State address, including curbing septic system construction and in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants, as well as the recent Pepco’s power outages.

10 TONS OF FISH: Editorial writers for the Annapolis Capital say that the recent massive rockfish poaching cases – a total of 10 tons of fish – raises serious concerns about DNR enforcement.

PRISON COUNT: A Maryland law that counts prison inmates as residents of where they last lived is going to delay when lawmakers will see updated census numbers for the purpose of redrawing legislative districts, according to an AP story in the Daily Record.

DIVERSION SUSPENDED: The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services has suspended its diversion programs for troubled youths. Don Markus of the Post writes that officials say this isn’t related to an episode of an A&E series that showed an inmate at Jessup throw a teenager into a bathroom to show what happens behind bars.

NEW DJS HEAD: A 35-year-old former prosecutor and juvenile justice official from Virginia has been tapped by O’Malley to take over Maryland’s troubled Department of Juvenile Services, which is reeling from the slaying of a teacher last year and revelations of more than $170 million in unsanctioned contracts, writes Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.

SO MD DETENTION: Southern Maryland juveniles who have found themselves behind bars at detention centers around the state could end up serving time closer to home. The state presented to the Charles County commissioners a plan to build a juvenile detention facility in Nanjemoy, writes Meredith Somers of

CHESS MATCH: Scarcely had they arrived for the 2011 session last month when state lawmakers launched this year’s edition of a young legislative tradition: the bipartisan, inter-cameral chess tournament. Matches over the next six weeks will determine champions from each chamber, who will face off in the final, the Sun’s Annie Linskey writes.

CHRISTIE REDUX: If you didn’t get a chance to read the various posts from Friday’s State Roundup on the match between New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Gov. O’Malley, who spared public workers from cuts to their pensions, the Washington Examiner’s Hayley Petersen offers a concise wrapup.

END OF CIVILITY: As we gear up for the next round of elections, writes Don Kornreich for the Frederick News Post Opinion page, expect our politicians’ recent attempt at civility to fall away.

OUTAGE COSTS: C. Benjamin Ford of the Gazette writes that a Montgomery County advisory panel is surveying businesses, trying to estimate how much Pepco’s outages have cost them.

GENERATOR SALES: Home generator sales are booming in the Pepco service area, reports Steve Hendrix of the Post.

CURRIE LAWYERS ASK: Lawyers for state Sen. Ulysses Currie last week asked a federal judge to order the government to establish a “taint team” to allow them to search the contents of nine Shoppers Food & Pharmacy computers the government obtained during its political corruption investigation, reports Ben Mook for the Daily Record.

MO CO ED FUNDING: Hayley Petersen of the Washington Examiner writes that for every $1 in education funding that Maryland gives to Montgomery County, 76 cents goes to classroom expenses, while 24 cents pays for a generous package of teacher pension benefits. On the other hand, Prince George’s County pays out 87 cents of every state education dollar to teaching students and 13 cents to teacher pension benefits.

ILLEGALS DETERRED: If the purpose of the federal 287(g) program is to drive illegal immigrants into more welcoming jurisdictions, it appears to be working. Just look at Frederick County, writes the Frederick News Post editorial board.

BLAKE FOES ON VISION: Challengers says Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lacks vision to move the city forward, writes Julie Scharper for the Sun.

One person who won’t be joining the growing group of people to run against Rawlings-Blake is Kweisi Mfume, writes Investigative Voice.

GRASSROOTS OR ASTROTURF: A public relations firm with close ties to the O’Malley administration has also been helping a speed camera company get a larger chunk of business in Baltimore County, where close ties began when one of its principals worked for former County Exec Jim Smith, writes Bryan Sears of The company gets 81 cents on the dollar of every fine collected.

County officials say they will exercise a one-year renewal of a contract with the speed camera vendor rather than rebid the contract, Sears reports in a separate article.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online newspaper, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at:

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