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First Click, Maryland -- Watching the Ehrlich rollout

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Monday, June 7, 2010:

The Agenda

WagnerTwo months into his comeback campaign, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) plans today to roll out the first in a promised series of policy proposals. What Ehrlich has to say about improving the small business climate in Maryland is worth watching. But so, too, is how it plays.

Ehrlich has spent the past several weeks dropping into small businesses and convening panels of company owners. With some nudging, they have complained of the impact of a sales tax increase backed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), of business regulators who became overzealous once O'Malley took office and of the seeming unfairness of having even short-term, unscrupulous employees affect how much they pay into Maryland's unemployment system.

Ehrlich hand.jpgEhrlich's plan is expected to package those concerns and present policy prescriptions in response. Two events are planned: one at a pizzeria in Gaithersburg, another at a crab house in Reisterstown. Aides have signaled that the plan won't be too surprising for those have been closely monitoring his small-business visits.

The reality is, not too many members of the media have been watching that closely. A roundtable discussion held at a Gordon Biersch in Rockville last month attracted a side table full of reporters, as well as a couple of television cameras. But other Ehrlich visits, including one to a Cold Stone Creamery in Cockeysville and a land developer in Upper Marlboro, have been witnessed by a single print reporter.

This says as much about the state of the Maryland media in 2010 as it does about Ehrlich's effort to win his old job back. But in any case, the media attention paid to Monday's rollout could tell us a lot about the direction of the governor's race going forward: whether it will be a battle of ideas or simply a grudge match between two of the state's biggest political personalities.

Ehrlich has gamely told his hosts that his visits have as much to do with how he will govern next year as they do with the campaign itself. "I have a big folder in my office marked 'transition,' " the former governor told the land developer in Upper Marlboro, for instance, before hearing concerns about his struggling business.

For his part, O'Malley didn't bother to wait for Ehrlich's rollout to respond. On Friday, the current governor's deputy campaign manager, Rick Abbruzzese, issued a statement in anticipation of what will be included in Ehrlich's plan.

"Bob Ehrlich just doesn't get it," Abbruzzese said. "In yet another example of how far backwards Bob Ehrlich wants to take Maryland, he's pushing the same failed policies that caused Maryland voters to fire him four years ago."

We'll report on those policies -- and look forward to your thoughts on their merits -- later today.

-- John Wagner

News you should know

Maryland moves ahead with social media regulations
"With the affirmation of leading social media companies, the state Board of Elections approved a series of new regulations Thursday establishing how candidates for political office can use online tools like Facebook and Twitter," writes the Gazette's Douglas Tallman. "The rules say online communications should include 'by authority of' lines, which are required now for printed material. If a tweet or an online advertisement doesn't have room for the line, it can be included in the home page or landing page of a site. And if it can't be included there, it must be registered with the elections board. The meeting, in Annapolis, was attended by representatives of America Online, Google, Yahoo and Facebook."

O'Malley to promote tuition freeze during campaign
o'malley-kickoff.jpg"Gov. Martin O'Malley, who pumped millions of extra dollars into the state's university system to fulfill a campaign promise to keep tuition flat, is hoping the investment pays dividends at the ballot box later this year," writes the Sun's Childs Walker. "But with voters concerned about their jobs and the economy as the nation tries to wrest itself from the worst recession in two generations, analysts aren't sure how much one of O'Malley's signature initiatives, the tuition freeze that will end this fall, has resonated with voters."

Obama comes calling on a former shelf stocker in Maryland
Obama-Neal.jpg"When Stephen W. Neal was stocking shelves and cleaning up spills for Giant supermarkets more than 30 years ago, he never could have imagined what happened to him this week: President Obama and Vice President Biden dropped by to give him a pat on the back," writes The Post's Hamil Harris.

Democrats eye legislative pickups, despite national mood
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for MD-OpeningDay-House.JPG"Maryland Democrats, who enjoy an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly, are not settling for playing defense this fall," writes the Gazette's Alan Brody. "They are eyeing several possible seat pickups from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, even as Republicans take aim at flipping seats in moderate or conservative districts. ... Several of the seats up for grabs are being vacated by Republicans seeking higher office or retiring."

Eastern Shore poultry processor slapped with record fine
"State labor officials imposed a record $1 million fine Friday on an Eastern Shore poultry processor that inspectors say has ignored warnings to improve a dangerous workplace for more than a decade," writes the Baltimore Sun's Lorraine Mirabella. "The penalty against Allen Family Foods Inc. is the largest ever levied in a single inspection by the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health division of the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, officials said. Inspectors say they found 51 violations at Allen's large processing plant in Hurlock while investigating a December incident in which a worker was seriously injured."

Helen Thomas bows out as commencement speaker
Helen Thomas.jpg"Veteran journalist Helen Thomas, who recently made controversial comments about Israel and Palestine, agreed Sunday not to appear as commencement speaker at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda," writes The Post's Martin Weil. "Alan Goodwin, principal of Whitman, where objections to the appearance had been raised, said he reached a niece of Thomas's earlier in the day. 'We had a mutual understanding about her not coming,' he said."


"The approval process for starting up these alternative public schools is a little like letting McDonald's decide if Burger King can move in next door."
-- a Washington Post editorial, arguing that Maryland's charter school law is in serious need of an overhaul based on evidence from Montgomery County

"Something amazing happened last month -- a politician told the truth."
-- Gazette columnist Blair Lee, praising former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s candor about the state's ability to pay for the Purple Line


Trust First Click for critical news and analysis you need to navigate Maryland politics. Each Monday and Thursday, First Click brings you The Agenda, a concise, forward-looking analysis of a top development in politics or policy. "News You Should Know" breaks down top stories from across the state. And other features 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 John Wagner  |  June 7, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories:  First Click , John Wagner  
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Next: Ehrlich pledges new attitude for small businesses


If you believe Ehrlich has some kind of miracle plan that will increase the demands for goods and services and Maryland that could encourage small businesses to create more jobs, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell ya.
Stop the tuition freeze, let the market set the rates. At a time when state employees are seeing their pay cut via furloughs, the state can't afford tujition freezes anymore.

Posted by: VikingRider | June 7, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

The GOP always talk about small business during a campaign. Then when they get in office, they drop small business for big business.

Posted by: jckdoors | June 7, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

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