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First Click -- Maryland

First Click

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

Friday, Sept. 4, 2009:

   It's Maryland's first statewide furlough day for some 70,000 state workers. You'll be able to hear a pin drop in the State House, which wouldn't be entirely unusual for the Friday before a Labor Day weekend.
   In that silence, however, Gov. Martin O'Malley's nascent re-election machine has left would-be challengers something to ponder through the holiday weekend: "In an attempt at an extraordinarily early show of strength Thursday, O'Malley (D) released the names of more than 300 elected officials who are endorsing his re-election bid next year," writes The Post's John Wagner.
   "The list reads like a who's who of the Democratic establishment in the state, with just a few exceptions: both U.S. senators; all seven Democratic members of Congress; Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler; Comptroller Peter Franchot (who has sparred with O'Malley on several issues, including slots); 28 members of the state Senate, including President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert); and 89 members of the House of Delegates, including House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
   "The most notable omission: Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), who has talked coyly about the possibility of a statewide run for office, without specifying the office."
   Read The Baltimore Sun's take here, and that of Maryland Politics Watch here.

Not A Furlough Day For Everyone
   Even as state police and other first-responders on around-the-clock shifts have to take furlough days in Maryland to help close a budget gap, one unexpected group has been exempted from the first scheduled unpaid day off: state park workers, notes The Post's David Fahrenthold.
   Parks employees were exempted because of the crowds expected Labor Day weekend, state officials said. Those employees won't see a full paycheck either, however -- they will still have to take another furlough day before their current pay period ends.
   The Baltimore Sun's Julie Bykowicz also finds that the first furlough day is expected to create headaches throughout the state's court system. The furloughs cover state agencies, such as the Office of the Public Defender and the Maryland attorney general's office, but the legislature and judiciary branches are exempt from furloughs. Judges, secretaries, clerks and other courthouse support staff have been told they have to report to work where they are "expecting a flood of postponement requests but little actual work," Bykowicz writes.
   "Chief Judge Robert M. Bell decided to keep the courts open Friday 'due to the late notice' of O'Malley's announcement about furloughs ... 'We're just not like every other branch,' said Angelita Plemmer, a spokeswoman for the judiciary. 'We are responsible for the administration of justice, and we take that very seriously.'
   "Closing courts suddenly, Plemmer said, could result in trial delays that are considered unconstitutional and cause problems for people who had been planning to file lawsuits at the last possible moment before the statute of limitations expires."
   WBAL-TV also is tracking the furloughs.

Montgomery College Chief Ousted
   Trustees of Montgomery College removed President Brian K. Johnson from office late Thursday night, voting to place him on immediate administrative leave, with pay, and not to renew his contract, writes The Post's Daniel De Vise.
   "The trustees' action followed a no-confidence vote on Johnson by faculty members last week and allegations of mismanagement and overspending ... including thousands of dollars for airfare and fine dining at a time when the school had austere budgets and travel restrictions. Public records obtained by faculty members showed that Johnson charged $58,165 to his corporate credit card over 21 months."

State Inching Forward on Cell Phone Jamming And Detection At Prisons
   Maryland prison officials and others observed tests on cell phone detection technology at a closed Maryland prison on Thursday, writes the Associated Press's Brian Witte.
   "The technology tested Thursday is designed to enable corrections officials to locate and root out contraband cell phones. It differs from cell phone jamming devices that would block signals and render cell phones useless in prison. Federal law now prohibits states from using the jamming devices, and legislation in Congress would change the law to allow states to use them," Witte wrote.
   "Maryland officials confiscated 947 cell phones in 2008 by using specially trained dogs and other security measures. That's a 71 percent increase in confiscations compared to 2006, according to the O'Malley administration."

In Brief:
• "Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold has asked O'Malley to delay the construction of a proposed fly-ash landfill site in Southeast Baltimore, citing the landfill's proximity to the county and its ban on fly ash," Writes Nicole Fuller in The Sun. "Leopold ... asked O'Malley to await the Maryland Department of the Environment's compliance with new emission standards governing the transportation of coal combustion byproducts."
• Attorney General Gansler has announced that under Pfizer's deal to settle civil and criminal allegations that the company and its subsidiaries paid kickbacks and engaged in off-labeling marketing campaigns, Maryland will receive in $4,975,451 in restitution and other recovery.

By Aaron C. Davis  |  September 4, 2009; 7:58 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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