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Friday, March 5, 2010:

The Agenda

Comparing the past four years to the previous four years

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Another Ehrlich mug.jpg"The history of juvenile services in Maryland, up to and including the present, is one of devastating dysfunction that has ruined children's lives."
-- future governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), during his 2002 campaign against then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (D), who had made juvenile justice a priority during the previous administration

O'Malley mug.jpg"The system has gotten worse in the last four years. We're writing off too many young lives."
-- future governor Martin O'Malley (D), during his 2006 campaign against Ehrlich, in an interview about the Department of Juvenile Services

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for O'Donnell mug.jpg"I continue to be very, very concerned ... about the safety of our children. ... I think our Department of Juvenile Services is in deep, deep trouble right now."
-- House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Calvert) on Thursday, calling for O'Malley to request the resignation of Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore, roughly three weeks before Ehrlich is widely expected to enter the 2010 governor's race against O'Malley

It would be easy to second-guess the motives behind O'Donnell's call Thursday for O'Malley to push aside DeVore, whose department runs the state's facilities for youthful offenders. That's not what we're trying to do in this space.

Me in dots.jpgO'Donnell's interest in this issue is not new, and it's clear that there continues to be steep challenges facing DeVore's department, as evidenced by last month's beating death of an educator at the state-run Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County.

For the record, in a statement Thursday afternoon, a few hours after O'Donnell summoned the media in the State House basement, O'Malley expressed "full confidence" in DeVore, noting a 46 percent reduction in juvenile homicides during the past three years.

What was striking about Thursday's back-and-forth is what it portends for the 2010 governor's race. Maryland is about to witness a most unusual contest between two incumbents.

Both O'Malley and Ehrlich arrive at the startling line with four-year records on juvenile justice and a host of other complicated issues -- cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, trying to mitigate energy costs and managing the state's prisons, to name just a few.

In a traditional contest, the challenger would try to tear down the incumbent's accomplishments and highlight his failures. Ehrlich will undoubtedly go after O'Malley aggressively. But O'Malley proved pretty adept at doing that against Ehrlich in 2006, and Ehrlich's record remains what it was then.

By way of reminder, there were many unflattering media accounts about juvenile justice during Ehrlich's tenure, including one toward the end in The Baltimore Sun that began this way: "Maryland Juvenile Services Secretary Kenneth C. Montague Jr. traveled out of state at least 29 times during his four years in office to attend conferences or retreats and tour juvenile facilities -- even as criticism mounted here that his agency and its programs were a shambles."

Voters will have a tough task of separating records from rhetoric, and it's likely to get ugly.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know

Same-sex marriage bills draw emotional debate
DSC_0050.JPGMaryland's House Judiciary Committee on Thursday evening squared off over competing bills to legalize same-sex marriage and ones to send the issue before voters. The three hours of impassioned debate followed similar testimony on Wednesday in the Senate and new warnings from Del. Don H. Dwyer, Jr. (R-Anne Arundel) that, despite warnings he'll be called out of order, that he'll do whatever it takes to read articles of impeachment on the House floor against Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler for instructing state agencies to begin recognizing same-sex marriages from elsewhere. An interfaith coalition of dozens of pastors on Thursday also said they are organizing to support a Senate bill that would prohibit Maryland from recognizing out-of-state same-sex marriages. A similar bill failed last month in the House. -- Aaron C. Davis

O'Malley's fraud plan under fire from business
"Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan to recoup millions of dollars lost each year in Medicaid fraud -- one of his top legislative priorities in an election year -- faces stiff opposition from health care professionals and business lobbyists who hold clout in Annapolis and sway with large chunks of voters," writes Scott Graham in the Baltimore Business Journal. "While all agree the state should have the authority to catch and penalize physicians who submit false health care claims to Maryland's $6 billion Medicaid program, the two sides differ on a key provision in the legislation that would protect and even reward whistleblowers who help the state capture money lost to fraud."

Gang bill born of Crofton killing gaining support
DSC_1110.JPGA day after House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) testified on a bill he has sponsored to let school officials, police and courts more easily share information about troubled students, the controversial measure seemed to be gaining support among members of a House committee needed to send the measure to the full House for a vote.
The bill designed to respond to the gang-related beating death of a Crofton teen last summer has drawn some criticism for mandatory requirements that courts report some information to schools, but large-scale opposition to the bill that some had predicted has failed to materialize. Should the bill pass the House, its prospects in the Senate remain unclear. -- Aaron C. Davis

Baltimore Mayor released from hospital
Rawlings-Blake.jpg"[Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake ] was hospitalized for eleven hours after she awoke before dawn with chest pains, numbness and dizziness. Doctors performed a battery of tests and determined that the 39-year-old was suffering from gastro-intestinal difficulties," reports The Baltimore Sun's Julie Scharper and Kelly Brewington.

Governor considering some GOP budget ideas
"Gov. Martin O'Malley announced on Thursday that he plans to incorporate some budget-cutting ideas that Republicans proposed last month, and Republican leaders said they're surprised but grateful that the governor actually listened to what they had to say," reports WBAL TV. "In a rare display of bipartisanship, O'Malley met with Republican leaders last week to discuss their budget-cutting and balancing ideas that don't include tax hikes, and the meeting was apparently useful. ... [O'Malley] said he likes the idea of merging the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies with the University of Maryland Marine Biology Center, saving $7.4 million."


Unspun

Frick mug.jpg'Trying to influence outcomes quietly'
An offbeat interview with a Maryland politician
Interview by John Wagner
Name Bill Frick
Party Democrat
Age 35
Home Bethesda
Position Delegate representing District 16 in Montgomery County

Growing up, who was the sitcom character with whom you most identified?
Alex P. Keaton from "Family Ties." I still identify with him, but somewhere along the line I adopted the politics of Ben 'n' Jerry.

On which television reality show would you be the most likely to excel?
I loved "The Mole" on ABC. ... A freshman delegate can be effective like the Mole -- by staying under the radar and trying to influence outcomes quietly.

Check the Maryland Politics blog at 10 a.m. for the complete interview, in which Frick also reveals what kind of tree he most resembles and makes a prediction about how many of his House colleagues will wind up in the Senate after the November elections.

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Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each weekday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of the day's top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And Look Ahead, Unspun, News Makers, and Week in Review keep you up to speed with power brokers in Annapolis and beyond. Want First Click on the go? Sign up for our free e-mail edition, and get the news delivered to your inbox or mobile device.

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By Aaron C. Davis  |  March 5, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
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