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First Click -- Maryland

First Click

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

Wednesday, December 09, 2009:

Maryland to buy clean energy; a battle brewing over Montgomery schools; budget cuts force service cutbacks at state rest stops; audit finds safeguards curtailed on Medicaid payments; a delay seen in opening of first slots casino, and swine flu vaccine opened to all.

Maryland to buy wind, solar energy
Maryland officials announced plans Tuesday aimed at filling nearly a quarter of the government's annual electricity needs with power supplied by clean energy projects within 10 years, reports The AP's David Dishneau. "Maryland Energy Administration Director Malcolm Woolf said the contracts will cover 23 percent of the electricity used annually by state agencies and institutions, including the University System of Maryland. Woolf wouldn't discuss the dollar value of the contracts, since they haven't been signed."
Some of the power could be available as early as next year, reports The Sun's Timothy Wheeler. "In a statement, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) declared Maryland 'a leader in clean energy' and said the deals would 'bring more green jobs to our communities, use public resources more efficiently, and lead by example for other states.'"

Budget battle brewing over Montgomery schools
"The Montgomery County school system might be forced to increase class sizes and eliminate hundreds of teaching and staff positions if schools don't receive the minimum funding set by Maryland law next year, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast warned at the beginning of what is likely to be a bitter budget battle," reports The Post's Nelson Hernandez. "Under the economic circumstances, the proposal is austere but not terribly painful. However, its foundation rests on whether cash-strapped state and county authorities waive the state's "maintenance of effort" law that sets a minimum level of education spending."

Hold it, Md budget cut could leave drivers squirming
A little-noticed state budget cut approved last month has shades of tough cuts seen this year in Virginia. State officials say they are permanently closing the bathrooms at one western Maryland rest area and eliminating counter workers at three "welcome centers" -- including the heavily visited Chesapeake House on Interstate 95. "The most painful effects may be felt this winter by travelers on Interstate 68," according to The AP. "Bathrooms are closed for good at the Cove Overlook rest area near Keyser's Ridge, and will be unavailable from January through April at Sideling Hill."
This comes as Virginia Gov.-elect Robert F. McDonnell (R) is pledging to re-open shuttered rest stops in his state, reports our colleague Roz Helderman.

Audit: Md Medicaid payments made without safeguards
"More than $98 million in Maryland Medicaid claims were paid without the use of safeguards built into a computerized system designed to stop inappropriate payments to medical providers, state auditors reported Tuesday." The AP's Brian Witte reports that parts of the state's Medicaid Management Information System were disabled during a nine-month period that ended March 31, 2008.

Swine flu vaccine supplies up, demand down

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Tuesday threw open swine flu shots to all who want them to the shrugs of some who see the virus on decline, writes The Post's Michael Laris. "Maryland health officials said that attendance at clinics had slowed in parts of the state; that pediatricians, obstetricians and other specialty doctors had been supplied with the bulk of the vaccine they requested; and that the state is receiving more supplies from the CDC. On Monday, the state was allocated 168,000 doses, the state's highest tally yet

Delay in first planned Maryland slots opening

"So much for Maryland's first slots parlor opening by Memorial Day," writes The Post's John Wagner. "In a letter to a state panel, the owner of Ocean Downs racetrack wrote this week that several issues related to renovation of his facility -- including asbestos problems -- would push back the advertised arrival of slots machines."

Andy Harris campaign manager out
Mike Spellings, campaign manager for Republican congressional candidate Andy Harris, is out, reports The Sun's Paul West. "Spellings, who has helped run Republican campaigns in Minnesota, Virginia and Texas, says he wanted to pursue 'other opportunities,' which have yet to fully materialize." The departure is likely to put renewed focus on Harris's ability to run a first-class operation to challenge incumbent Rep. Frank Kratovil (D), West writes.

Around the state:

Maryland Politics Watch updates its list of primaries to watch: District 14 drops off the list.

Maryland's two U.S. senators pushed the need Tuesday morning for more job creation in the state, touting the Pentagon's military reshuffling plan as a key driver for employment gains, writes the Baltimore Business Journal's Daniel Sernovitz.

Four months after controversy led to the ouster of its chief, the Maryland government agency that provides legal defense to poor people has a new leader: Paul DeWolfe, who has held a similar position in Montgomery County for nine years.

Most of the candidates vying for a vacant seat on the Anne Arundel County Council appear inclined to vote on rezoning Arundel Mills mall to allow the state's most lucrative slots parlor to be built there, The Sun reports.

Signs to help motorists reach the new Intercounty Connector from nearby roads will be about a third smaller than initially planned, and far fewer will be overhead, a Maryland highway official said Tuesday.

Mt. Airy mayor resigns amid complaints he bullied people, writes The AP.

The Post's editorial page lauds the governor's oyster plan.

By Aaron C. Davis  |  December 9, 2009; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
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Next: O'Malley campaign hosting "virtual" town hall

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