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First Click -- Maryland

Your Daily Download of Maryland's Top Political News and Analysis

Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2009:

Day 2 of Swine Flu (News Conferences, That Is)
   Part practice and part public awareness, part two of pandemic flu week continues today for Maryland politicians.
   Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and state emergency preparedness officials will hold a closed-door tabletop exercise to practice a mass-vaccination plan for H1N1.
   The drill will wrap with a news conference and another chance for O'Malley to make a televised plea for the public to take common-sense precautions to avoid getting sick.
   It's a drill replicated in the last 24 hours by no less than President Barack Obama at the White House, Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in California.
   Los Angeles Times writer Andrew Malcolm diagnoses the contagion:
   "If an elected official is prepared for a certain kind of public emergency -- say a possible flu pandemic -- but no one in the public knows about all the preparations, is he/she really prepared?
   In government and politics, the answer is no," Malcolm writes, in a comical comparison of the near verbatim press releases yesterday by Obama and Schwarzenegger following their flu events. Politicians must "arrange for public briefings on stuff they already know, so that they can be seen knowing it by the people who elected (might re-elect) them."
   All joking aside, with school back in session, this week may be the last for politicians to be out in front of the public awareness campaign.
   The gravity of a possible severe flu outbreak in the Washington region was on display yesterday in the District with O'Malley, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), and D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) emerging from a closed-door planning meeting with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. The four took advantage of a structure set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, meeting to coordinate the national capital region's response to a potential outbreak, wrote The Post's Michael Laris.

More State Tax Revenue Than Expected
   Hang on, here's a bunch of numbers: Maryland tax revenue for last year came was $12.9 billion -- 2.6 percent (or $347.9 million) lower than expected -- according to state officials who certified the figures yesterday.
   That's only the third time in 40 years that state tax revenue declined year-over-year -- and it's a good thing.
   It's upside down, but here's why: Budget officials have known since April that the tally would be light. So, in estimating needed budget cuts that were approved last week, Gov. O'Malley's administration assumed the tally would be about $400 million less than projected in the spring, according to the state's Department of Legislative Services.
   Essentially, that means Maryland has about $50 million more than it thought it would have. It's little consolation, union officials say, to some 70,000 state workers who were furloughed. But it does inch the state closer to solving an expected $1 billion-plus shortfall expected next year.

State Reimbursed For Obama Inauguration
   A bit more good budget news: U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D) and and Gov. O'Malley yesterday said the U.S Department of Justice reimbursed Maryland $3.2 million the state had requested to cover security costs related to the presidential inauguration.
   The funding was included in an omnibus appropriations bill that began last year in the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee, which Mikulski chairs. Yesterday, Justice also released $3.4 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and $2 million to Amtrak for inauguration expenses.
   The reimbursements cover the cost of Obama's train trip through Maryland from Philadelphia and ramped up security and coordination with the Secret Service in January, O'Malley said in a statement.

O'Malley Names First Woman Transportation Secretary
   If First Click failed to mention it yesterday, in addition to new secretary of veterans affairs Edward Chow Jr. becoming the first Asian American to serve in O'Malley's cabinet, Beverley K. Swaim-Staley becomes the first woman to serve as Maryland's transportation secretary, writes the Baltimore Sun.

Also:
   The state's Board of Pharmacy meets today in Baltimore.
   Maryland Politics Watch blog continues its critical series on State Board of Elections (SBE) Administrator Linda Lamone.
   The anti-O'Malley blog O'Malley Watch criticizes fund transfers in the governor's budget cuts.

We're striving to make First Click your essential daily guide to Maryland politics. Each weekday morning First Click provides a roadmap for the day's upcoming political events, and a roundup of the state's top political news, analysis and provocative thoughts. Have a comment or question? Write it down. Have we missed something? Write a comment and let us know that, too. We'll be reading ...

By Aaron C. Davis  |  September 2, 2009; 8:25 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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