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First Click -- Maryland

First Click

Your Daily Download of the State's Top Political News and Analysis

Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009:

Energy Re-Regulation Back on Front Burner
   Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) failed attempt to reverse energy deregulation returns to Annapolis today. The House's Economic Matters Committee, which overwhelmingly rejected a proposal backed by O'Malley in the spring, is scheduled to convene today to hear testimony on the potential impacts of the plan. The bill would have given state regulators more control over construction of new power plants, but also taken some power away from consumers.
   Del. Dereck E. Davis, (D-Prince George's) the committee's chair, blasted O'Malley in April, saying the governor had not given his committee enough time to study the complex arrangement. O'Malley announced his support for re-regulation in March, six weeks into the legislature's four-month session.
   The hearing comes as rhetoric has increased in recent weeks surrounding Constellation Energy's proposal to join forces with a French energy firm to expand nuclear power generation in the state.
   The committee's support will be critical for re-regulation, which O'Malley has said will be one of his legislative priorities when the General Assembly reconvenes next year. O'Malley's success or failure in controlling energy costs could be a key issue with voters in next year's gubernatorial election.

New Phase Begins Tonight in Anne Arundel County Slots Debate
   Neighbors surrounding the proposed site of a 4,750-slot casino at Arundel Mills mall are expected to pack a state hearing tonight to warn the project could bring congestion, crime and other problems to the family-oriented shopping center.
   The hearing will be the first time state commissioners hear directly about concerns from neighbors of Arundel Mills. Though the state has received only one successful bid to operate a slots venue in the county, the commission has no obligation to accept any application if it does not believe it is in the best interests of the state. Developer Cordish Cos.. is scheduled to make its case for the casino before the commission hears from the public.
   The Post's John Wagner, who has chronicled the state's slots debate, provides a good primer to tonight's meeting here, exploring why the reception to the proposed developments have been drastically different in Baltimore and Anne Arundel, the sites for the state's two largest casinos under consideration.
   In other slots news, the operators of Laurel Park racetrack in Anne Arundel County have not given up the fight for slot machine gambling at the track, despite the decision by Maryland's highest court to shelve the company's legal appeal.

Attorney General's Office Drops Charges Against Guards in Prison Beating
   The Office of Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) on Tuesday dropped charges against the last of six fired correctional officers accused of beating inmates at the maximum-security North Branch Correctional Institution near Cumberland. The AP's David Dishneau writes that prosecutors Jason Abbott and Franklyn G. Musgrave Jr. didn't explain their decision, but Gansler spokeswoman Raquel Guillorysaid the office was satisfied with the convictions for assault or assault conspiracy the prosecutors won against four of the six defendants.

State Board: GOP Funds So Low, Party Can Repay Debt Under Installment Plan
   The State Board of Elections on Tuesday agreed to let Maryland's Republican Party pay $75,000 it owes to National Party Chairman Michael S. Steele in installments because its fundraising is so weak, the board said.
   The money in question stems from legal work done for the state GOP in 2002 on a redistricting fight. Steele, who was chairman of the Maryland party at the time, authorized the work and later covered the cost with money from his campaign account.
   The terms of the installment plan released Tuesday leave it entirely unclear when Steele ultimately may be repaid. The GOP's first $15,000 in earnings each month is exempt so that the party can cover office rent and other costs. After that, just 15 percent will be garnished.

Briefly...

  • Gov. O'Malley will speak today at the University of Baltimore's School of Law with former state Attorney General Joe Curran.

  • Harold M. Bartlett will succeed Beverley Swaim-Staley as deputy executive secretary of the Maryland Transportation Authority. O'Malley last week promoted Swaim-Staley to secretary of the Department of Transportation.

  • A draft report on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup ordered by President Barack Obama is due out today. On the eve of the report, U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), chairman of the Senate's Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, said a spending bill he's sponsoring would gives state and local governments new enforcement tools to prod cleanup efforts, as well as $1.5 billion in new grant authority.

  • Town leaders in the rural enclave of Walkersville will vote today on whether to approve a $4.8 million settlement to end a religious discrimination lawsuit. The town would pay for land owned by developer David Moxley and his family. Moxley alleged in a federal lawsuit that religious bias was behind the town's denial of a zoning exemption that quashed Moxley's plan to sell the farmland to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Silver Spring.
  • 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 9, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
    Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
    Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: State GOP Granted Installment Plan to Repay Steele
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