First Click -- Maryland
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Monday, Sept. 14, 2009:
A political and bureaucratic smorgasbord will begin the week: Maryland Republican Party leaders remain mum about the future of embattled Chairman James Pelura as they plan to meet today. Maryland prosecutors will seek tougher gang sentencing guidelines before the House of Delegates' Judiciary Committee. The state's Public Service Commission will continue scrutinizing Constellation Energy's deal with a French firm to build a new nuclear reactor. Republican lawmakers say they want answers following last week's ACORN scandal. And locally, Montgomery County Council returns to work and fallout continues in Prince George's over little-known meetings to discuss layoffs of county employees.
GOP Meets Following More Bad News
State GOP Chairman James Pelura, who received no-confidence votes in July from 20 of the 30 members of the party's executive committee, did not return calls over the weekend, writes The Post's John Wagner.
GOP insiders note the timing of today's meeting: Pelura's resignation would require a state GOP convention within 60 days to pick a new chairman. The party is already planning to convene in mid-November.
The meeting follows embarrassing news last week that a judge determined the party was raising so little money it would be allowed to repay $75,000 owed to National Party Chairman Michael S. Steele in monthly installments.
Republicans Call for Investigation Into ACORN
Republican state lawmakers say they're waiting for answers from the offices of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D), Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy (D), and U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein as to whether any will launch investigations into ACORN.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has been under scrutiny from conservatives following allegations of falsified voter registrations, fired employees from its Baltimore and District offices last week after hidden videos shot by a conservative activist showed them advising a young couple about how to buy a house to use as a brothel.
"It is imperative that an investigation be launched immediately by the Attorney General, Baltimore State's Attorney, and the U.S. Attorney's Office for Maryland into the activities possibly undertaken by ACORN and its employees," said Delegate Anthony J. O'Donnell, House Minority Leader.
"These persons appear to have asked for, and received, advice from ACORN on how to engage in racketeering, fraud and the systematic sexual abuse of children."
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, a Western Maryland Republican, also said Congress should investigate and the Census Bureau is severing ties with the organization, writes Justin Fenton in The Baltimore Sun.
"A spokeswoman for [Gansler] said his office had received many e-mails and phone calls from people concerned about the apparent promotion of tax fraud and child abuse shown in the Baltimore video, but she said that any potential violations appeared to fall out of its jurisdiction. Representatives of the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and state Comptroller Peter Franchot said they knew about the videos but would not comment on whether they would investigate," Fenton writes.
Prosecutors: State Gang Laws Too Weak
The state's commission on criminal sentencing meets today and the House of Delegates' Judiciary Committee will hear testimony tomorrow about the state's gang problem as it considers changes to the Maryland Gang Prosecution Act.
The Sun's Tricia Bishop writes that "prosecutors say the law's broad language makes it too difficult to legally define a gang or its members, that its penalties are too weak and that the most basic gang crimes, including handgun and malicious destruction misdemeanors, are not counted as chargeable offenses."
The gang-related killing this summer of a 14-year-old boy in Crofton and other crimes may give impetus to change the law.
Lawmakers Call for Conditional Approval of Nuclear Project
State Senators E.J. Pipkin (R-Upper Shore) and Jim Rosapepe (D-Prince George's) have scheduled a news conference for this morning in Baltimore to urge the state's Public Service Commission to approval of a nuclear venture by Constellation and a French firm on condition of re-regulation and a 15 percent permanent reduction in residential energy rates.
State Releases Freight Plan
Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley will release a first statewide plan for today dealing with freight shipping in Maryland. The Post's Katherine Shaver profiles the new transportation secretary.
"I'm very familiar with, and absolutely know, the pain of the Washington region," Swaim-Staley said with a laugh about her four-year commute between her home in Anne Arundel County and her former job in Rockville as Montgomery County's budget director, which she held until 2007. "I think I had 50 ways to get to work."
Montgomery Council Returns to Unfinished Business
The Montgomery County council's back at it this week, jumping off summer break into a thicket of issues. It starts this morning, when a council committee is briefed on the county's employee tuition assistance program. A law enforcement training program prompted the opening of a series of investigations earlier this summer.
Council President Phil Andrews will take on I-270 widening, transit and other issues in a briefing later in the day.
Layoff Plans at Issue in Prince George's
The head of the Fraternal Order of Police in Prince George's says the union will look into whether County Executive Jack B. Johnson's (D) meeting last week with members of the County Council to discuss state budget cuts and likely layoffs of county workers violated state open meeting laws. The meeting was held on short notice, and no members of the general public attended.
Johnson this week is expected to announce how the county will reconcile more than $22 million in state funding cuts.
Aaron C. Davis
September 14, 2009; 9:30 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click
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