First Click -- Maryland
Your daily download of Maryland's top political news and analysis
Monday, February 8, 2010:
Snowstorm politics: Hunker down or plow ahead?
There is no textbook on how to respond politically to major snowstorms in Maryland. We can all be thankful that there haven't been enough of them to demand that.
But this past weekend certainly offered some divergent approaches.
Some 2010 candidates, including Rushern L. Baker III (D), a leading Prince George's county executive hopeful, managed to incorporate the storm into their campaigns without looking too terribly opportunistic, at least not yet. Baker announced that he would be using his campaign apparatus to organize "Big Dig teams" of volunteers to fan out across the county and provide assistance in ways government has not. As the campaign put it in a statement: "We are just tapping into the spirit of communities; neighbors helping each other out."
On a smaller scale, Luke Clippinger, a candidate for a House of Delegates seat from Baltimore, announced plans over the weekend for a Sunday "shovelraiser." Appearing in a grainy YouTube video, Clippinger pledged to go door-to-door in the district he is seeking to represent and shovel a cubic foot of snow for each dollar donated to his campaign Web site.
Others, meanwhile, plowed ahead as though it were just another weekend in Maryland.
Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who from all appearances is running again, took repeated shots at Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) during his regular Saturday morning radio show on WBAL, which he co-hosts with his wife, Kendel. Among other things, the past governor questioned the wisdom of a tax credit proposed by the present governor that is intended as an inducement for companies to hire unemployed people. Ehrlich argued it won't do much. "It's a misunderstanding of how real people in the real world start and expand businesses," he told his listeners.
We'll leave it to our readers to debate whether this was the right chord to strike during the middle of a snowstorm (a robust discussion began over the weekend on our blog and Facebook page). But it's notable that WBAL broke away from Ehrlich's program at one point to carry a live briefing on the storm by O'Malley, who was hunkered down at the State Highway Administration's operations center.
The storm offered O'Malley an opportunity to show hands-on leadership, as well as plenty of television exposure -- a throwback to his days as mayor of a Baltimore, a job where some argue he was more in his element.
It's unlikely that the November elections will turn on first impressions from a February blizzard. Leadership shown in coming days and weeks, as the region digs out and copes with the costs of the storm, will be a bigger factor. But our reads on candidates are cumulative, and the past few days have mattered more than most.
News You Should Know
General Assembly cancels session for first time in seven years
"The Maryland General Assembly, which is loathe to cancel anything during its 90-day session, has announced Monday night's floor proceedings will not take place "due to potential icy conditions." All other scheduled committee, task force and work group meetings have also been canceled on Monday," writes The Post's John Wagner. "It will be the first time since 2003 that a session has been shut down due to inclement weather, according to the Speaker's staff."
Storm highlights shrinking state funding for transportation
"The state transportation budget for roads, transit, the Port of Baltimore and the airports is actually smaller this year than in fiscal 2007, though O'Malley has proposed a 4% increase for 2011," writes Len Lazarick at MarylandReporter.com. "The State Highway Administration -- the agency with the plows, salt trucks and front-end loaders -- has fared even worse. Its $1.8 billion budget in fiscal 2007 has gone down every year and is now almost 30 percent lower at $1.3 billion, though the governor has proposed a 10 percent increase for next year."
Charter school advocates hope for big year
"Advocates for Maryland's charter schools are gearing up for what they hope will be a watershed year for reform of the state's charter school law, as state officials plan to seek millions in federal funding contingent upon changes in education policies," writes The Baltimore Sun's Nicole Fuller.
Wine shipment bill won't move, Senate leader says
"Most Maryland lawmakers, a swath of Democrats and Republican from across the state, want adults to be able to have bottles of wine shipped to their homes, something that's legal in 37 other states," writes The Sun's Julie Bykowicz. "But the proposal, as in years past, 'is not going anywhere,' according to the leader of the Senate committee that determines its fate."
Monday: General Assembly sessions canceled
Tuesday and thereafter: Deadlines loom this week for senators and delegates to file bills, though one has already been pushed back because of weather. With another storm scheduled to hit the state on Tuesday, it's unclear if others will hold. Budget committees continue to study O'Malley's spending proposals, including how cuts may affect hospitals across the state. Several law enforcement bills, including ones tightening penalties on drunk drivers, are also scheduled to be heard this week. Look for a firmer timeline by Tuesday, when lawmakers may -- or may not -- return to Annapolis.
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Aaron C. Davis
February 8, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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