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First Click

Your daily download of Maryland's top political news and analysis

Wednesday, October 28, 2009:


Federal ruling on Medevac crash could spur more state action
The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday concluded pilot error was the primary factor last September in the crash of a Maryland State Police medevac helicopter that killed four. But Board member Robert L. Sumwalt issued a broad indictment of Maryland's medevac program. Sumwalt said investigators found the state's system -- long considered the country's "gold standard" -- was riddled with problems when investigators "peeled back the layers," wrote The Post's Jenna Johnson and Mary Pat Flaherty.

"The taxpayers of Maryland should be disappointed," Sumwalt concluded, ensuring the contentious issue of replacing the state's aging medevac fleet - and restoring confidence in the program - will remain a major issue heading into next year's legislative session in January.

After extensive legislative debate the state's General Assembly voted in the spring to overhaul the fleet, giving Maryland State Police $52.5 million to begin purchasing new helicopters and $635,000 for safety upgrades to the current fleet.

Emergency workers fought off a proposal that would have privatized the program. They also killed another effort to replace an independent agency that oversees emergency services with a department led by a political appointee.

Last month, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, (D-Anne Arundel), moved to continue a working group charged with oversight of the procurement process so that it could help implement any federal recommendations or rule changes stemming from the NTSB investigation.

Still, Tuesday's harsh words by the federal investigator are apt to rekindle a larger debate among lawmakers about whether more extensive restructuring of the medevac program is needed.

Montgomery Del. William A. Bronrott has weighed in this morning on Maryland Politics Facebook page.

Md. losing lottery director
Buddy W. Roogow, who oversaw the growth of the Maryland Lottery for the past 13 years, will be moving to the District in December, officials say.
Roogow's departure leaves a vacancy in the agency that has been heavily involved in the implementation of Maryland's fledgling slots program, coordinating background investigations of potential operators and procuring the machines that will fill the state's casinos.

O'Malley draws attention to 2010 census effort
Gov. Martin O'Malley this morning will officially kick off the state's effort to count every person in Maryland during the 2010 census -- an effort one of his staff members has dubbed the largest stimulus of all since the state gets about $1,000 in aid annually for every person counted. The census will also form the basis for new Congressional representation maps, federal funding formulas, and community planning decisions.

Governor defends tough stance on Constellation deal
At an unrelated news conference yesterday, O'Malley said: "I don't work for the country club set that pats each other on the back and tells them what a great job they do when they stick it to consumers with 70 percent rate increases. ... I work for the consumers and the people of Maryland. I work for the people. Thanks a lot."
O'Malley senior adviser and former chief of staff, Michael R. Enright, also fired back at The Baltimore Sun in an op-ed fter its editorial page suggested the governor "strong-arming Constellation into handing out a $200 rebate in an election year looks suspiciously political. ... It contributes to an aura about the administration's efforts that has all the subtlety of an organized crime protection racket."

Analyst says Constellation deal closer than it appears
Amid the fireworks, at least one Wall Street analyst predicted that if the Constellation deal now hinges primarily on one-time rebates for ratepayers, O'Malley and Constellation will be able to agree on some amount of money that will allow the deal to proceed, writes Danielle Ulman in The Daily Record.

Stimulus funding for BG&E
In a related development, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin announced Constellation subsidiary, Baltimore Gas & Electric, would be one of dozens of energy firms awarded $200 million in stimulus funds to develop a "more reliable smart grid."
The Baltimore Business Journal's Scott Dance notes that's $300 million less than the utility needs to install millions of high-tech meters to reduce usage during peak demand. "Customers would pay the remaining $300 million through a surcharge of a few dollars per month for businesses and an average $1.24 per month for residential customers," Dance writes.

Scott poised to lead state GOP
Chris Cavey, one of two leading contenders for chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, abruptly announced Tuesday that he was withdrawing from the race, citing a need for party unity heading into a challenging election year, reports The Post's John Wagner.
The exit of Cavey, the party's current vice chairman, appeared to clear the way for Audrey E. Scott, a member of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s Cabinet and a former member of the Prince George's County Council.

In other party news, Baltimore County Republican Andy Harris has moved another step closer to gaining the full embrace of his national party's congressional campaign arm to square off with U.S. Rep. Frank Kratovil, writes The Baltimore Sun's political blog.

MoCo delegate begins rare fundraising
Montgomery County Del. Ben Kramer has scheduled a fundraiser for next week and Maryland Politics Watch highlights how unusual it is for the property owner to take money from others: "In his runs for Delegate in 2006 (which succeeded) and the County Council District 4 seat in 2009 (which did not), Ben Kramer received $220,450 from himself and just $14,326 from outside contributors."

"It's kind of hard to snow me"
And, finally, an unusual mention for Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings, in a Los Angeles Times story about the redemption of Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.
Cummings was at a Baltimore school last month when Rodriguez talked about his mistake in taking steroids. "It's kind of hard to snow me," Cummings said. "I grew up in the inner city." The 8-term congressman said Rodriguez was sincere and said he was impressed Rodriguez "had the nerve to do it. He made a mistake, and he had the nerve to admit it."

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  October 28, 2009; 8:02 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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Next: More details of Pr. George's County layoffs emerge

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