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First Click -- Maryland

First Click

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

Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009:

State Board Returns to Familiar Job: Spending Money
   Maryland's all-Democrat Board of Public Works (Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp) reconvenes today and for the first time since July, will spend more money in a week than it cuts. Following successive rounds of belt-tightening to close an estimated $700 million budget gap, the board will return to its usual bi-weekly work of stamping tens of millions of dollars in state contracts, wetland purchases, and grants. For a nitty gritty look at the board's work, click here.
   Whether the board will have to make more cuts in coming months could be learned tomorrow when the Maryland Board of Revenue releases its latest projections for next year's state tax revenue.

O'Malley Opens Biotech Center Before Stem Cell Summit
   Gov. O'Malley and state business leaders on Tuesday touted the opening of the Maryland Biotechnology Center in Baltimore -- one of two offices the governor's administration says will help aid the state's growing biotech sector.
   The timing wasn't a coincidence: It comes on the eve of the World Stem Cell Summit in Baltimore next week when The Genetics Policy Institute plans to honor O'Malley for being "instrumental in securing funding for bio initiatives, including $59 million over three years for Maryland's Stem Cell Research Fund."

Curry and Duncan Coy About Challenging O'Malley
   "The future of Maryland Republicans has dominated the state's political drama so far this week, with James Pelura resigning as GOP chairman and former cabinet secretary Larry Hogan launching an exploratory bid for governor," writes The Post's John Wagner.
   "But some Democrats lurking off stage who are unhappy with Gov. O'Malley could help shake up next year's Democratic primary.
   "Wayne Curry, the former Prince George's County executive, said in an interview Tuesday that he remains dismayed by O'Malley's handling of the state budget.
   Curry largely deflected speculation that he might challenge O'Malley in the party's primary -- or possibly run as an independent in the general election -- other than to say he "continues to observe what's going on in the political landscape."
   Douglas M. Duncan (D), Montgomery County's longtime executive and a former O'Malley opponent in the 2006 Democratic primary, took shots at the governor in an interview with The Post earlier this month. In an story published Tuesday in the
the University of Maryland's Diamondback, he remained elusive about a rematch: "I'm not saying I'm running, and I'm not saying I'm not running."

House Judiciary Committee Appears Split on Gang Law Reforms
   Prosecutors and police on Tuesday pressed Maryland lawmakers to make it easier to put gang members convicted of crimes behind bars for longer sentences, saying a 2-year-old state statute aimed at doing so had proven all but useless.
   Lawmakers, including House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) who sat in on the hearing and asked an usually large number of questions, probed law enforcement officers for specifics on how the Maryland Gang Prosecution Act had failed.
   They seemed split on whether changes were needed. Del. Victor R. Ramirez (D-Prince George's) and others questioning if more draconian sentencing could inadvertently snare less violent teenagers charged as gang co-conspirators. And House Judiciary Committee Chairman Del. Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. (D-Prince George's), said the legislature did not want to get so specific in setting sentencing guidelines that it risk undercutting judges' prerogative to order prison terms best fitting crimes and circumstances.
Related News: Gang Killings Up in Montgomery:
   Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy released some interesting statistics about gang activity during yesterday's hearing:
   Last year, Montgomery prosecuted 524 cases against gang members. In the county, there are now roughly 40 active gangs, and some 1,600 identified gang members, he said.
   So far this year, suspects arrested in a whopping five of the county's 10 homicides have been gang members.

Briefly:

  • Court papers show developer Ronald Lipscomb paid $8,750 for a political survey for a state delegate running against Sheila Dixon for mayor in 2007, the Baltimore Sun's Annie Linskey finds. Del. Jill Carter denied any knowledge of the poll, saying she doesn't believe in them. The spending was disclosed in documents filed by attorneys for City Councilwoman Helen Holton, who is charged with accepting a poll from Lipscomb. Dixon, who won the race, is also under indictment.

  • Prince George's union officials say they were told Tuesday that the county is seeking to save about $4 million through layoffs. Vince Canales, president of the county's Fraternal Order of Police said county officials declined to say how many -- or which -- jobs may go, but that employees would be notified next month and gone by Nov. 1.

  • The Maryland Energy Administration appears to be soliciting interest in building wind energy farms off of the state's coast.

  • The state restored its $750,000 share of funding for a joint study with West Virginia of improvements along U.S. Route 220.

  • The Maryland Department of the Environment says it has issued a permit for a new underground coal mine that would tunnel beneath the Casselman River.

  • In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun, Ed Stoltz , vice president of Constellation Energy, promotes the company's proposed deal with French energy giant EDF, as a way for the state to collect $130 million in needed tax revenue and a source of thousands of future jobs for the state
  • .

    And ... You Asked For It:
    First Click readers this week have posted comments asking what Montgomery County may do about Sligo Creek Golf Course and whether there were developments following county leaders' request that state transportation officials study alternatives to widening I-270. First Click looked into both:

    On the golf course, Montgomery's county council discussed it Tuesday at a coffee meeting with County Executive Ike Leggett, according to The Post's Michael Laris. Leggett has called for the council to approve a new batch of funding to keep the course afloat, something council members said they would consider later this month. Members also said they are seeking a long-term solution for keeping it going, though details on what exactly that would look like remain unclear.

    On I-270, a planned work session on Tuesday was postponed. Council President Phil Andrews said county officials are still waiting for answers to a bunch of questions they posed to state transportation officials.

    Have a question? A comment? We're striving to make First Click your essential daily guide to Maryland politics. Each weekday, First Click provides a roadmap for the day's upcoming political events, and a roundup of Maryland's top political news and analysis. 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 16, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
    Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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