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First Click, Maryland -- Enviro lobby finds its groove

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Friday, April 9, 2010:

The Agenda

A week ago, Maryland environmentalists had a lot to complain about -- so they did.

Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed funding for the Chesapeake Bay fund was about to be cut in half; the University of Maryland's Environmental Law Clinic was poised to see its appropriation withheld for suing an Eastern Shore chicken farmer; and tax credits and funding for energy efficiency, green building and open space programs all seemed in disarray.

In the last 36 hours, however, the tide has seemed to turn. Budget negotiators on Thursday took the rare step of not only agreeing to the higher of two funding proposals in the House and Senate for the Chesapeake Bay fund, but they went so far as to put 33 percent more in the budget than either chamber had agreed to previously. It was among the most expensive changes made Thursday to restore a portion of the budget to 100 percent of the funding first proposed in January by O'Malley (D).

Scenic bay.jpgLawmakers late Wednesday also abandoned a Senate proposal to withhold funding for UMD's environmental law clinic, and on Thursday, the House voted to support the governor's Sustainable Communities Tax Credit, a so-called "smart, green and growing" initiative.

It hasn't all been roses for environmentalist, for a third straight year budget negotiators on Thursday voted to continue diverting carbon footprint fees from power plants to help low-income residents with energy costs and to provide other Marylanders with electricity rate relief.

Maryland's green community also fractured over an arcane area of environmental law with some supporting and others opposing a compromise on how soon developers would be required to begin conforming to new stormwater runoff guidelines. And as of Thursday, funding for the state's long-running Program Open Space, remained a question mark.

Overall, however, the environmental lobby's success in the last seven days appeared to follow one of the most focused lobbying efforts in the latter part of the legislative session.

Late last month, following the deadline for bills to crossover from one chamber to another, environmental groups began making noise that they were unhappy about the condition of many of their top priorities. Environment Maryland issued a press release titled "Environmentalists Are Cross at Crossover." Soon, a consortium of green interests showed up passing out bright green flyers in the State House linking job growth with environmental clean up efforts. And the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and others intensified their lobbying efforts on key lawmakers who would make the final call on bay funding.

Kim Coble, the foundation's executive director on Thursday was all smiles saying the record, $20 million for the bay fund amounted to "quite a statement."

"The role and function of the budget committees this year was to cut funding and here they are increasing it -- it's a statement about this legislature's commitment to the bay."

Still others weren't giving an inch. Tommy Landers, a spokesman for Environment Maryland remained in full-court press mode Thursday, telling Maryland Reporter's Andy Rosen environmentalists "got shafted" on the energy efficiency guidelines.

What remains unclear is how much credit O'Malley can take this year for environmentalists' recovered agenda. He's bound to tout the bay funding as success on the campaign trail, but did little publicly to push the funding after first calling for it in January. Budget negotiators also seemed more swayed by the tenacity of the state's environmental lobby than any coaxing in recent days by the governor's office.

--Aaron C. Davis

News You Should Know

Budget compromise cuts local road funds, spares pensions
Thumbnail image for budgetconf10.jpg"Maryland lawmakers reached a compromise Thursday on a $32 billion budget that would cut a major source of funding for local road projects for the foreseeable future but would spare counties from beginning to share in the ballooning costs of teacher pension benefits," writes The Post's Aaron C. Davis. "The trade-off was rich with election year symbolism, with House Democrats unwilling to support a Senate proposal that would have required them to go against Maryland's powerful teachers unions. Teachers fear that shifting pension costs to counties could limit future pay increases and complicate negotiations over health and retirement benefits, which the state now pays with few questions asked."

Ehrlich visits friendly territory; O'Malley launches jobs tour
Ehrlich clasped hands.jpg"Former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) ventured back onto the campaign trail Thursday, making stops in three of the counties where he ran the strongest in his 2006 loss," writes The Post's John Wagner. Ehrlich's post-announcement tour continues Friday with stops in Salisbury, Ocean City and Easton. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), meanwhile, launches a "Jobs Across Maryland" tour on Friday, with stops in Randallstown and Baltimore. The government-sponsored tour will "bring Governor O'Malley to every region of our State visiting with large and small Maryland business, public schools and career-training programs throughout the State," according to O'Malley's office.

Annapolis fire cuts freshmen celebration short
O'Brien's.jpg"A celebration for freshmen members of the Maryland state legislature was evacuated about 11:15 p.m. Thursday when the Annapolis bar in which it was held caught fire," writes The Baltimore Sun's Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz. "Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch were among at least 50 lawmakers who rushed out of the smoky building. Four firetrucks arrived at the bar, O'Brien's, on Main Street in Annapolis. It did not appear that anyone was injured."

House set to decide fate of cellphone ban
"The Maryland House plans to vote Friday on a bill to ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving," writes The Post's Ashley Halsey III. "The legislation -- a version of which has passed the state Senate -- is seen as an indication that the focus on distracted driving has switched from text-messaging to the far more pervasive practice of phoning behind the wheel." The Sun's Michael Dresser notes: "The ban has been proposed -- and defeated -- for years. But supporters believe that it will finally win approval in the 2010 General Assembly session, which ends Monday."

Baltimore shelves O'Malley-era policing initiative
Baltimore police.png"The Baltimore Police Department has suspended a statistics-based management tool that has been a hallmark of the department for more than a decade, saying weekly information-sharing meetings had grown 'stale' and 'laborious,'" writes The Sun's Justin Fenton. "Using numbers and maps to spot problem areas, connect incidents and discuss tactics, police commanders and investigators had gathered in a room each Thursday for years as part of a process called Comstat. The concept has become a national law enforcement standard, and it was the inspiration for Gov. Martin O'Malley's acclaimed numbers-driven management programs."


"An initiation? That could be a sorority, a fraternity, a school organization. I'm really concerned about your definition. ... We don't want to be so overly broad that we ensnare innocent people. There is a very serious question here about fairness."

-- Sen. Delores G. Kelley (D-Baltimore County) questioning Sen. Norman R. Stone, Jr. (D-Baltimore County) about a bill designed to make it easier for states attorneys to prosecute gang crimes

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Another Ehrlich mug.jpg"I'm not a rookie, and it's eyes wide open going back to Annapolis this time."
-- former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) at a campaign stop Thursday in Frederick

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Kittleman.jpg"I think the people are going to say this is the perfect example of why the current administration doesn't deserve another term."
-- Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard), quoted in a Gazette story about slot-machine gambling becoming an issue in the governor's race


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  |  April 9, 2010; 6:55 AM ET
Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
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Next: Ehrlich's talk of tax increase is 'scare-monger politics,' O'Malley says


Who was the idiot who gave Kendel Ehrlich and Cyndy Busch matches to play with?

Posted by: SoCali | April 9, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Members of the clandestine organization "Greeks Against Anti-Gang Legislation" -- a widely feared Star Chamber comprising parts of the membership of a wide variety of college fraternal organizations -- has claimed responsibility for the Annapolis bar fire which so terrorized the governor and assorted legislators and lobbyists.

"This is to send a warning signal about pasasage of SB 517, as consituted. Can you believe, they actually intended to specifically allow prosecution of fraternity members as gang members for certain crimes in conspiracy or group action.

"Since some of the crimes prohibited include distribution of Controlled Dangerous Substances, and since this would add an additional mandatory consecutive sentence of 20 years for conspiracy or group criminal activity, we cannot allow this law to be passed and will stop at nothing to prvent its passage. This bill, if passed, would drop a chilling damper on our long-established immunity to prosecution for distribution of Rohypnol. What will happen to our grand tradition of providing 'roofies' to our pledges? We won't be able to get away with date-raping the freshmen at frat parties if this bill passes, we'll be doing 20 years of hard time! No, we are against this bill."

No comment from legislators has yet been heard in response to this stunning declaration from the group widely known as the mouthpiece of college gangs across the State. However, the bill is on its way back into committee for fine-tuning.

One Senator-- with an unheard of request for anonynmity -- said as they were entering the closed-door session, "I never did like those buzzards much, and my daughter doesn't much like them either, not since they roofied her." They pulled out their pen, contemplated it briefly but deeply, flipped it in the air and held it like a dagger, and showed a lot of really nice teeth as they stepped inside the conference room and gently, but very firmly and quietly, shut that door with a finality that sounded like forever.

Posted by: thardman | April 9, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

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