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First Click -- Maryland

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

Thursday, Sept. 3, 2009:

Nuclear Deal Coming To a Head
   Supporters and opponents last night packed a hearing on a proposed deal between Constellation Energy and Electricite de France that could lead to construction of the first nuclear reactor in the state in decades.
   Among other concerns, opponents questioned if the deal to sell half of Constellation to a foreign firm would lead to higher energy costs. The state's Public Service Commission plans two more meetings this month on whether the sale would be in the public's best interest.
   The Daily Record's Danielle Ulman looks at the interplay between business and politics. Gov. Martin O'Malley campaigned for the state's top job promising to get a handle on rising residential energy rates. Some Republicans, including Del. Anthony O'Donnell of Calvert, have questioned if it is appropriate for O'Malley to seek concessions for rate payers for political gains during a regulatory process.
   "Constellation and Gov. Martin O'Malley have engaged in a very public tug of war over the elements of the nuclear deal, with the governor trying to win concessions for BGE ratepayers," Ulman writes.
   "O'Malley rejected Constellation's latest attempts at a settlement to avoid the PSC proceedings, saying it did not go far enough.
   "Del. Anthony O'Donnell, R-Calvert and St. Mary's, who supports approval, said he has great concerns about the 'appearance of impropriety' of using a state regulatory agency as a way to hold up a deal for political reasons. He said the suggestion that a settlement could be reached raised the question of the PSC's independence from the O'Malley administration."

By Presidential Visits, Obama Favors Virginia, Not Maryland
   The Baltimore Sun's Paul West writes that, President Barack Obama has shown a distinct preference for traveling south of the Potomac since taking office (a trend previously noted in this Washington Post article in July):
   "Recent presidents have divided their time more or less evenly between Maryland and Virginia. But Obama, by a lopsided margin, is favoring the commonwealth on the other side of the Potomac. Today, for example, the White House announced that Obama plans to deliver a national back-to-school address next Tuesday from a high school in northern Virginia. That event will be at least his eighth in Virginia as president. By comparison, he's participated in a single Maryland event, when he addressed the Naval Academy commencement in Annapolis last spring. (His trips to Andrews Air Force base, to catch flights on Air Force One or play golf, like similar jaunts to military golf courses in northern Virginia or to eat a meal at a local restaurant or visit a private home, aren't included in the tally.)"

O'Malley's Chief of Staff Steps Down
   Michael R. Enight, Gov. Martin O'Malley's boyhood friend and longtime aide, announced late yesterday that he's stepping down as the governor's chief of staff but will retain the title of senior adviser, focusing on energy policy and tracking Maryland's federal stimulus spending.
   Matthew D. Gallagher, a deputy chief of staff known to know the nuts and bolts of state government, will take over day-to-day operation of the governor's office.
   In a statement, O'Malley praised Enright, saying he had done a great job "especially during these tough times."
   The move raises questions about whether O'Malley is shifting resources to shore up his administration's efforts on a major campaign promise to hold down residential energy rates -- a promise critics say he so far has failed to deliver on.

Laurel Vote Overshadowed by Racially Charged Rhetoric
   A referendum next week in Laurel has become as much about where votes are cast as what's on the ballot, writes The Post's Jonathan Mummolo. Laurel resident Adrian Rousseau, who is African American and plans to run for city council next year, has filed a civil lawsuit accusing Laurel officials of racial discrimination.
   Rousseau says he shouldn't have to travel to what he considers the city's predominantly white polling place to cast his ballot. It's the only one open in the whole city, however, after 402 people -- or just 3 percent of the city's voters -- turned out last September for city council elections. Rousseau is seeking a court order for additional polling places, which is unlikely since the court already denied an injunction to halt the election.
   Oh, and what's on the ballot? Ironically, early voting, redistricting, changing elected leaders' salaries and four other measures designed to increase voter turnout.

O'Malley: Getting Flu Shots "Patriotic"
   Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Wednesday said it was residents' "patriotic duty" to get seasonal flu shots in coming weeks to make it easier for health officials to determine if outbreaks are related to H1N1, or swine flu. If residents do not get vaccinated against seasonal strains and later get sickened by them as a result, there will be little way to determine if those falling ill this fall and winter have been infected by less worrisome strains, or by the more contagious H1N1 virus, O'Malley said.
   John M. Colmers, secretary of Health & Mental Hygiene, said the state is waiting for precise directions from the Centers for Disease Control as to whether pregnant women, school-age children, toddlers or others will be first in line for the first swine flu vaccinations. Greg Reed, head of the Maryland Center for Immunization, said that once that decision is made, Maryland will have direct authority to instruct McKesson, the nation's sole distributor for the vaccine, to send shipments to the appropriate doctors' offices or other immunization centers.
   "If it's pregnant women, we'll send those initial doses directly to OB/GYN and others who specialize in their care. If it's children less than 4 years old, we'll send them straight to pediatricians' offices," Reed said.

U of M Students Vow to Shake Up College Park City Council Race
   The politically astute UMD for Clean Energy says it plans to form a dedicated voting bloc of hundreds of students -- a reasonable goal for a campus of 30,000 and a powerful number in a city where 1,000 votes elected council members in the last election.
   "We've decided to get involved in the College Park City Council elections," write students Matt Dernoga and Kenny Frankel in a letter to Maryland Politics Watch.
   "Why now? At the state level, policies and programs such as the Maryland global warming bill, Empower Maryland, the Renewable Electricity Standard and renewable energy tax credits are underway or will be soon. At the same time, the federal government is spending record amounts of money on clean energy. ... We think we're way behind, especially compared to Montgomery County. We want College Park to step up and be the gold standard in the county. ... We want to push low-carbon investment in College Park, and create green jobs in Prince George's County."
   For the record, the group says it's not out for a "students versus the residents" race. "If there are student candidates, we'll make them earn our vote..."

• O'Malley's schedule today is a day at the fair -- he'll tour the state fairgrounds today north of Baltimore, visiting agricultural displays, livestock, 4-H home arts and farm competition entries.
• A $4,051 hotel bill in Delhi, a $780 tab for limousine service in Boston and a growing tally of missed meetings and unexplained absences at home. Critics of Brian Keith Johnson -- and they are many -- say the Montgomery College president has spent the past two years running up outsize expenses while neglecting important job responsibilities at one of the mid-Atlantic's most esteemed two-year colleges, writes The Post's Daniel de Vise. The Board meets tonight to decide his fate.
• Marc Korman and Adam Pagnucco at Maryland Politics Watch look at what they acknowledges may or may not be contentious general-election races, but that might provide interesting primaries in Montgomery County. They begin ranking the county's top 10 "in rough order of what interests us at the moment."

By Aaron C. Davis  |  September 3, 2009; 8:09 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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