State Roundup, April 29, 2011

CONSTELLATION-EXELON MERGER: Officials announced the $7.9 million merger between Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group and Chicago-based Exelon Corp. with many incentives for ratepayers, including a $100 credit for each Baltimore Gas and Electric Household, reports Hanah Cho of the Sun. Scott Dance of the Baltimore Business Journal reported that Exelon proposed the merger. WBAL has video.

The Daily Record’s Ben Mook writes that if the merger is approved, Baltimore could be the hub of energy trading and gain several jobs.

The Sun’s staff editorial says that Baltimore is losing a Fortune 500 corporate headquarters, and the Public Services Commission should take a long hard look at the proposed merger.

If the merger is approved, Constellation will move to a new downtown Baltimore office and maintain its approximately $10 million annual charity giving in the city, reports The Baltimore Business Journal’s Dance.

O’Malley released a statement appearing in the Baltimore Business Journal saying that the merger will be examined to ensure it represents the best interest of Maryland ratepayers.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the deal represents a “net gain” for Baltimore, blogs The Sun’s Julie Scharper.

PENSION FUNDING: The board of the state pension system voted this week to maintain an assumed rate of return on investments that some members believe is too optimistic, Alan Brody reports in the Gazette. The rate in place since 2003 is 7.75%, and lowering it to 7.5%, as some have proposed, would require the state to kick in an additional $20 million in contributions in fiscal 2013. Supporters of the lower rate argued that it would more accurately reflect market realities and put the fund on a quicker path to solvency.

PENSION LOSSES: Maryland ranked 19th among the states in pension losses over the last two years, losing $7.23 billion, according to new data released by the Census Bureau, reports The Examiner’s David Sherfinski.

HIGH STAKES: The Daily Record’s opinionators look at the State Video Lottery Facility Location Commission’s decision to open up the process of finding bidders for Baltimore’s video slots casino in conjunction with the still-pending court case with Baltimore City Entertainment Group.

HARRIS TALKS MEDICARE: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris told a group of seniors in Elkton that the nation is on an unsustainable spending path, and part of the solution needs to come from Medicare, reports The Sun’s John Fritze.

SUMMERS NEW ENVIRONMENTAL SECRETARY: Gov. Martin O’Malley announced that 27-year state employee Robert Summers would be the state’s new Secretary of the Environment at Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, reports The Post’s John Wagner.

CUMMINGS ENDORSES RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Rep. Elijah Cummings endorsed Rawlings-Blake for another term in office, describing her as a steady and honest leader who should not be taken for granted, reports The Sun’s Julie Scharper.

COLE FOR COUNCIL: Baltimore City Councilman William Cole, rumored to be eyeing the council president’s race, announced he will seek another term representing the 11th district, reports The Sun’s Julie Scharper.

HOCO TALKS BUDGET: Members of the Howard County General Assembly delegation tangled over state spending plans at a Chamber of Commerce breakfast to discuss the special session planned for the fall to discuss redistricting, reports the Sun’s Larry Carson.

BUDGET STRETCHES ARCHIVES: A tight budget to conserve the state’s art collection makes the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property have to be creative and resourceful, reports Capital News Services’ Steve Kilar on

WINE BILL: An e-mail from an interest group to supporters of a bill allowing direct shipment of wine said that Gov. Martin O’Malley will sign it into law on May 10, according to an Associated Press story in the Daily Record.

BACO MINORITY DISTRICTS: Tony Campbell, head of the Baltimore County Republican Party, asked the council redistricting commission to draw at least one more minority district because African-Americans are underrepresented, reports Bryan Sears of Recommendations will be made to the council on July 1, reports The Sun’s Raven Hill.

CONGRESSIONAL REAPPORTIONMENT: Some Democrats are targeting the GOP-held 6th Congressional District as they redraw lines to match the new Census numbers, report Alan Brody and C. Benjamin Ford in the Gazette. But other Democrats say it may be impossible to do.

GAS TAX HIKE: Sarah Breitenbach in the Gazette previews Gov. Martin O’Malley’s roundtable today on transportation funding issues which will likely includes discussion of revenue increases that he may propose in the fall special session.

IMMIGRANT TUITION: The drive to bring the bill granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants to referendum faces the challenges of time and lack of funding, writes Sarah Breitenbach in the Gazette. Its emphasis on an Internet campaign might not be enough.

NOTEBOOK: This week’s Reporter Notebook in the Gazette includes the protest at Ike Leggett’s house; Doug Gansler’s Schaefer story; Rona Kramer on the slots commission; the Charlie Sheen question for Martin O’Malley; TV reporter Suzanne Collins; and Neil Young.

MoCo SCHOOLS: The Montgomery County Council has withdrawn its request for a waiver from the maintenance of effort requirement for school funding, though County Executive Ike Leggett disagrees, Erin Cunningham reports in the Gazette.

NEGLIGENCE: A judicial committee has not recommended any rule changes to the state’s long-held common law doctrine on contributory negligence in lawsuits, Alan Brody writes in the Gazette. The report has relieved business advocates who feared modifications would lead to more lawsuits, higher insurance costs and keep companies from moving to Maryland.

SCHAEFER: A few more final thoughts on William Donald Schaefer by columnists Barry Rascovar and Laslo Boyd in the Gazette.

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

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