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JOB LOSS: Maryland employers slashed 6,200 jobs in April, cutting short a string of gains, the U.S. Department of Labor said Friday, as the state began feeling the pinch of federal budget sequestration and cutbacks in consumer spending. Jamie Smith Hopkins and Lorraine Mirabella report that the government’s separate survey of households, however, showed that Maryland’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.5 % in April from 6.6% a month earlier. The surveys of jobs and residents don’t always move together, in part because Marylanders commuting across state lines or starting businesses don’t affect the count of jobs.
VOTER FRAUD: Luke Rosiak and Jeffrey Anderson of the Washington Times report that Washington, D.C., has failed to remove from its voting rolls as many as 13,000 former residents who years ago moved to Prince George’s County and cast ballots there, making fraud by voting in two jurisdictions as easy as going to the polls in their old neighborhoods.
WINERY SALES: By June 1, Maryland wineries will be allowed to sell wine and offer samples at farmers markets, writes Ike Wilson in the Frederick News Post. A new off-site permit, which replaces the current winery special event permit, removes previous county-by-county restrictions and limits on the number of markets, or market days, a winery may attend.
SMOKE ALARM LAW: A new law in Maryland aims to increase the likelihood that people’s lives will be saved by smoke alarms during a fire, writes Naomi Jagoda for the Washington Examiner. Legislation signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley on Thursday requires that battery-operated smoke alarms in homes have sealed-in batteries designed to last 10 years as well as a “hush” button that allows people to silence the alarms without removing the batteries.
FALSE LIENS: A new Maryland law punishes those who file false financial claims against state residents, a tactic used by anti-government extremists to ruin the finances of public officials, writes Andy Brownfield for the Washington Examiner.
WIDER WEDDING MARKET: For many offering wedding-related services from flowers to accommodations, the market in Maryland is expanding as gay couples now can stay in Maryland or travel to the state to tie the knot, reports Lorraine Mirabella in the Sun.
MASS GAY WEDDING: On June 16, as part of Baltimore City’s Pride Festival, city Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, a longtime supporter of marriage equality, will conduct a mass wedding ceremony for gay couples, Fern Shen reports for Baltimore Brew.
ROCKY GAP CASINO: The flashy jangle of slot machines is a far cry from the stillness of Rocky Gap State Park in Western Maryland, but state and local leaders are betting that this week’s planned casino opening will transform a struggling lakeside lodge into the economic engine its planners envisioned 15 years ago, writes the AP’s David Dishneau in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
OYSTER PLANTING TIME: For state and federal agencies, it’s planting time in the Chesapeake Bay, just as it is on land for farmers and gardeners across Maryland, writes Tim Wheeler in the Sun. Instead of seeds, hundreds of millions of speck-sized baby oysters — known as spat — are being planted in Harris Creek, where it’s hoped they’ll grow and multiply. It’s an effort to see if the bay’s depleted oyster population can be restored, one creek and river at a time.
STORMWATER PROJECT: The $1 million Cabin Branch stream restoration project dedicated last week, officials said, is an example of the stormwater restoration work Anne Arundel County will tackle with funds from the new stormwater fee. It’s a citizens project, meant to be a prototype for restoration efforts across the Chesapeake Bay watershed, writes E.B. Furgurson for the Capital-Gazette.
SEPTIC FEE COST: New state laws on septic systems will require increased on-site work for Allegany County Health Department staff and could lead to an eventual increase in septic system inspection fees, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News.
LAWMAKERS’ EXPENSES: Anne Arundel County lawmakers spent nearly $42,000 of state money on dining and driving during the 2013 General Assembly session, reports Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette. The county’s 10 Republican state senators and delegates claimed nearly $25,000 in reimbursements from Maryland for meals and mileage in 2013. Anne Arundel’s 10 Democrats claimed nearly $17,000.
MINIMUM WAGE: With minimum wage hike proposals languishing in Congress, some advocates may have given up hope of an increase anytime soon. But Acting Labor Secretary Seth Harris is not discouraged, writes Bruce Vail for In These Times. Harris has taken the agency on the road in favor of a wage raise. He traveled to Baltimore last week to meet with low-wage workers and promote President Barack Obama’s State of the Union proposal to lift the federal minimum from $7.25 to $9 an hour.
ECONOMIC FUTURE: If Mid-Shore residents hope to see their finances, job stability and economic prospects improve, they will need to call on legislators to spend less and save more, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot told the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce last week, reports Jennifer Allard for the Easton Star-Democrat.
TAX APPEAL DELAYS: An audit released Friday said that out of 720 appeals of property tax assessments “filed and heard” between July 2010 and February 2013, about 41% “were heard and determined” within 120 to 461 days after their filing dates. That means that the decisions were rendered one month to one year after the 90-day period required by law, writes Christopher Goins for MarylandReporter.com.
CELL PHONE BLOCKING: Maryland corrections officials are taking advantage of new technology designed to block the use of contraband cellphones by inmates — a problem at the heart of recent indictments at the Baltimore City Detention Center, reports Ian Duncan of the Sun.
GANG LEADER MOVED: Ian Duncan of the Sun writes that the alleged leader of the Black Guerrilla Family who is at the center of the detention center scandal will await trial in federal custody out of state. A federal judge ordered him moved from state custody Friday after a hearing on the conditions of his detention.
DEM FUNDRAISER: The Montgomery County Democratic Party’s spring fundraiser brought in more money than expected despite a union boycott that organizers credit for low attendance, Andy Brownfield of the Washington Examiner reports. A spokeswoman for the county Democratic Central Committee said the May 11 Spring Ball had already raised more than $50,000 and the party is still seeing pledges rolling in.
O’MALLEY VS. CUOMO: John Fritze of the Sun writes that, by the time Gov. Martin O’Malley left the Democratic convention last fall, he had schmoozed with party leaders from Iowa, spoken to potential donors and hosted swanky parties that kept delegates entertained into the next morning — efforts that heightened speculation about his ambitions beyond Maryland. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo took an entirely different approach: He arrived in Charlotte two days late, spoke for 20 minutes to his state delegation and went home. The two Eastern state governors are often mentioned together as potential candidates for president these days.
KATIE, OH! MarylandReporter.com blogs that Maryland’s first lady Katie O’Malley, who is also a district court judge, is usually associated with serious issues like eliminating bullying. But now she graces the cover of the June issue of Baltimore Style magazine in high fashion. “Katie, oh!” says the headline. “Maryland’s first lady goes glam.”
WILL DUTCH RUN? U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger gives his take on Maryland’s upcoming race for governor, including speculation that he might run, in this Center Maryland podcast with Lisa Harris Jones and Damian O’Doherty.
HARRIS BLASTS IRS: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland used a rare opportunity to speak on behalf of the Republican Party on Saturday to tie the unfolding IRS scandal to President Barack Obama’s 2010 overhaul of the nation’s health care system, reports John Fritze of the Sun. Noting that the IRS will be responsible with taxing individuals who fail to obtain health insurance, Harris argued that, “if we’ve learned anything this week, it’s that the IRS needs less power, not more.”
WORK DISCLOSURE: Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports that Baltimore County Councilman John Olszewski did not disclose his outside employment over the past several years, including his work with a painting and drywall company that has a $3.1 million contract at a new high school being built in his district.
REGIONAL AGENCY: The Capital-Gazette’s editor’s notebook urges Anne Arundel County to join Howard and Prince George’s counties in creating a Regional Transportation Agency of Central Maryland to fix the fragmented bus system.
ANTI-BIAS POLICIES: Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman on Friday said she has launched a review of county anti-discrimination policies and its Human Relations Commission, writes Rick Hutzell for the Capital-Gazette.