First Click -- Maryland
Your Daily Download of the State's Top Political News and Analysis
Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009:
Maryland Democrats have run the gamut of emotions from giddy to stressed-out this week, working to make sure one of the nation's bluest states rolls out an appropriately oversized red carpet for President Barack Obama's latest speech on health-care reform, which he'll deliver at 11 a.m. today at the Comcast Center.
State lawmakers have handed out "tickets upon tickets," says one, to make sure anyone who's anyone will be there and that the crowd will be filled with supporters cheering loudly when the cameras roll.
Gov. Martin O'Malley on Wednesday predicted the speech (the president's third since last week's national address) will be "historic." Whether or not that pans out, and whether Obama will weigh in on specifics included in the bill introduced Wednesday by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus remain to be seen.
But it will be the third time since 2006 that Obama's visited the university and the second time he's used the Terps' 18,000-seat Comcast Center as the backdrop for a major speech, notes Adele Hampton in the University of Maryland's student newspaper, the Diamondback. Unlike the last two visits, "the atmosphere has never been as contentious as it is now," Hampton writes. At least small groups of protesters are expected outside the speech.
GOP Taps Ehrlich For Republican Reaction
Former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (R) who is contemplating a rematch next year with O'Malley is scheduled to give a "pre-buttal" to Obama's College Park speech in a 9:30 a.m. conference call with national reporters.
It's unclear (but likely) that the GOP's current National Party Chairman Michael S. Steele (for our readers outside Maryland, that's Ehrlich's former lieutenant governor) had something to do with getting Ehrlich the spotlight.
The Post's John Wagner will be listening in. Check back here later this morning for his full report.
More Bad News Expected on Revenue Estimates
Gov. O'Malley on Wednesday said he'd received initial indications that today's numbers showing the latest gap between falling tax revenue and state expenses will be larger than what he suggested last week -- as much as $300 million, or more than 2 percent of the state's $13.4 billion budget.
The governor said Maryland's 7.2 percent unemployment rate is predicted to cascade through Maryland tax rolls in coming months and necessitate more painful cuts.
Today's Question: What's next on the chopping block? Post your suggestions in the comments.
Another round of state funding cuts would be the ninth since the recession began in 2007. This summer alone, the state has moved to furlough 70,000 state workers and close a minimum-security prison and a psychiatric hospital.
Lawmakers Blast Outdated Data Cited in Hospital Closing
"The Board of Public Works received the wrong number of Eastern Shore residents treated at a mental health clinic in Chestertown before voting to close it, angering Upper Shore lawmakers," writes the AP's Brian Witte, looking at the angst about what lawmakers say were mistakes made in the haste to close the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center's inpatient psychiatric.
"Comptroller Peter Franchot, who is a member of the board along with Gov. O'Malley and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, said he voted to approve the closure after he was told that about half of the 198 people treated there are from the shore. The number is important, because the loss of the facility presents logistic difficulties to find treatment in a rural part of the state across the Chesapeake Bay," Witte writes. Franchot said he later learned the number was much higher, about 190.
Sen. E.J. Pipkin, an Upper Shore Republican, told the board the way the closure was handled was "clearly a mistake."
House Speaker: State's Medevac System Still Needs More Analysis
House Speaker Michael E. Busch on Wednesday announced he reappointed a work group on emergency medical services, saying the system needs continued legislative oversight because of its complex network relying on volunteer fire and rescue personnel.
The announcement comes before the one-year anniversary of the Trooper 2 Medevac crash in Prince George's County.
The group will begin meeting this fall and, among other duties, will monitor procurement of three new Medevac helicopters.
ACORN Scandal Continues
ACORN, the group under fire after employees were caught on camera in Baltimore and in the District appearing to advise a couple posing as a prostitute and pimp to lie about the woman's profession to aid in tax preparations, said Wednesday it is ordering an independent investigation.
The Baltimore Sun's Paul West breaks down the fight brewing in Congress over cutting the group's federal funding:
"ACORN's ability to maintain access to federal housing funds will rest with a conference committee that is expected to craft a final version of [a] $122 billion Transportation and Housing and Urban Development spending measure," West writes.
"House Democratic Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland told reporters he was concerned about the "despicable" actions of two ACORN employees in Baltimore but stopped short of supporting" measures to strip funding."
For his part, Steele called ACORN an "undeniably corrupt organization" and took pains to highlight what he said were Obama's "close past ties to ACORN."
Conservative bloggers have picked up on another problem for ACORN, like many companies they've let their business license lapse.
First Click checked the record, and it appears true.
Aaron C. Davis
September 17, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click
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