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November 30, 2011

Md. delegation fires at proposed fed worker pay freeze

Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation and two public employee unions lashed out at a Republican Senate proposal Wednesday that would pay for an extension of President Barack Obama’s payroll tax cut by continuing a pay freeze on federal employees.

The idea, originally included in a report last year by a bipartisan deficit-reduction panel appointed by Obama, calls for a three-year pay freeze for federal workers as well as cutting the government workforce by 10 percent, or about 200,000. Federal workers are already operating under a two-year pay freeze that began this year.

“The Republicans are saying, let’s take it out on our federal workforce,” Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin said on MSNBC Wednesday.

Bipartisan legislation approved last year cut the payroll tax for employees to 4.2 percent from 6.2 percent. Obama proposed cutting the rate again to 3.1 percent in a jobs package unveiled earlier this year. The original cut will expire next month if Congress does not act.

The Senate is headed toward a vote as early as Thursday on the Democratic plan to extend the tax cut and pay for it with a 3.25 percent surtax on income over $1 million a year. But that idea has failed to gather traction with Republicans in either chamber.

“The President and Democrats in Congress are saying we ought to recoup the revenue we won’t get from one group of taxpayers by socking it to another group, a significant number of whom happen to be employers,” Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, said on the floor. ”Think about that: The Democrats’ response to the jobs crisis we’re in right now is to raise taxes on those who create jobs.”

Republicans say their own proposal would generate $111 billion to pay for the payroll tax cut, but it met with sharp resistance from Maryland Democrats on Wednesday. The state is home to 286,810 federal workers. Social Security, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Security Agency are among the many agencies based in the state.

“The Republican payroll tax proposal represents another cynical ploy to single out federal employees for unfair treatment,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Montgomery County lawmaker who is the top-ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “The financial collapse and weak economy were not caused by the men and women who serve the federal government, and they should not be forced to shoulder the entire burden of the cost of recovery.”

Several public employee unions who have members in Maryland agreed.

“We made our sacrifice,” Jacqueline Simon, policy director for the American Federation of Government Employees, said in an interview, referring to the current pay freeze.

Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, argued that federal agencies are already struggling to provide services to the public.

“The Democrats propose paying for the payroll tax cut with a small tax increase on millionaires, while the Republicans propose paying for it by extending a pay freeze already in its second year for middle class federal workers,” she said.

The proposal is not likely to advance in the Democratic-led Senate, but it is the latest example in a series of measures floated to cut the nation's spiraling deficit by freezing salaries or benefits for federal workers. Republicans on Wednesday were quick to note that the idea was not their own, but rather came from the so-called Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction commission created by Obama last year.

Though both Democrats and Republicans have argued that the Simpson-Bowles recommendations are a good start, neither party has fully embraced its ideas.

Posted by John Fritze at 6:43 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Washington
        

Democratic senator backs redistricting suit

A Democratic state senator from Prince George's County has thrown his support behind a lawsuit challenging the congressional redistricting map the General Assembly adopted during its recent special session, calling it "unfair to the voiceless citizens of this state."

Sen. C. Anthony Muse, who was the only African-American senator to oppose the new map, said he backs the legal challenge mounted by the Fannie Lou Hamer Politiical Action Committee against the redistricting in federal District Court. A three-judge panel of that court has been named to hear the suit, which is also being cheered on by the Maryland Republican Party.

The map devised by Gov. Martin O'Malley an endorsed by General Assembly leaders seeks to increase the current 6-2 Democratic majority in the state's House delegation to 7-1. But in doing so it leaves the number of African-American majority districts at two, where a third minority district could have been drawn.

The lawsuit claims that approach is unconstitutional, and Muse released a statement Wednesday expressing that view.

“This is not about the Democratic party. This about a select few in power, who are hand- selecting individuals to hold seat in government,” Muse said. “I believe this type of gerrymandering is what our citizens fought against during the civil rights era, and it is now beginning to present itself again."

Muse, regarded as a maverick within his caucus, said he would not be personally affected by the map because he does not plan to run for the House. He has left open the possibility of running for a U.S. Senate seat -- most likely the one now held by Democratic U.S. Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 6:03 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Foes of same-sex marriage launch coalition

Religious opponents of a planned push to bring same-sex marriage to Maryland have launched a new coalition, bringing their organizing efforts into two Democratic strongholds that are expected to be a battleground for the votes of African-American legislators.

The Maryland Marriage Alliance, described as a multi-racial and bipartisan coalition of supporters of the traditional definition of marriage, held a news conference Wednesday morning in Prince George's County and planned a second kickoff event in the afternoon in Baltimore.

Supporters of same-sex marriage, who came up just short of success in the House of Delegates this year after winning a close vote in the Senate, plan a renewed effort during the 2012 General Assembly session. Unlike last year, when they had only the tacit support of Gov. Martin O'Malley, they are expecting the governor to make their cause a part of his legislative program.

Maryland Marriage Alliance organizers said proponents of same-sex marriage believe that victory in inevitable.

"We have something to say about that inevitability, and with all humility let me say: Bring it on," said the Rev. Victor Kirk, senior pastor of Sharon Bible Fellowship in Temple Hills in Prince George's County.

An estimated 70-80 clergy and other Catholic and Protestant leaders gathered at St. Stephen's Baptist Church in Temple Hills for the morning news conference. While those attending were almost entirely Protestants and Catholics, alliance spokeswoman Julia Vidmar said the organization will actively seek the participation of Mormon, Jewish, Islamic and other faith groups.

The alliance will be led by Pastor Derek McCoy, executive director of the Maryland Family Alliance. McCoy said no elected officials were expected for the Temple Hills event, but he said he expects church groups to have a significant influence on lawmakers in Prince George's and Baltimore.

"We're going to continue to expand and reach more and more people, but we understand all politics is local," McCoy said.

Republicans, with the exception of Sen. Allan H. Kittleman of Howard County, are expected to provide a solid bloc of votes against any effort to recognize same-sex marriage. The battle, as it did last year, could largely come down to a handful of African-American delegates who normally vote with their party but are influenced by conservative churches on matters of family and marriage.

Deacon Al Turner, representing the Office of Black Catholics for the Archdiocese of Washington, said the group has not come together to oppose other legal accommodations for gay people -- just to assert that marriage between a man and a woman is unique.

"No one here would tolerate a hint of discrimination," he said.

But some alliance members accused same-sex marriage proponents of being less respectful. "Those who oppose it must be treated as bigots," said St. Stephens Pastor Lanier Tyman, who charged that adoption of marriage rights for same-sex couples would lead to violations of the clergy's right to free speech and an eventual government mandate to perform such weddings.

But Lisa Polyak, a spokeswoman for Equality Maryland, said proponents have no such intentions.

“We are 100 percent in support of religious liberty of even people who don’t agree with us,” she said. "Allowing same-sex couples to obtain a civil marriage license in no way impairs or diminishes religious liberty,”

Polyak said proponents also have a coalition --- Marylanders for Marriage Equality – that also includes .African-American leaders and clergy. She mentioned former NAACP Chairman Julian Bond; civil rights hero Rep. Johns Lewis and the Rev. Al Sharpton as African-Americans who have publicly supported same-sex marriage.

African-American gays and lesbians, she said, are doubly discriminated against on the basis of race and sexual orientation, Polyak said.

“There are African-American citizens in the city and in Prince George’s County who doubly need these protections,” she said.


Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:50 AM | | Comments (21)
        

November 29, 2011

GOP gets possible redistricting edge

Republicans who would like to see the Democratic-drawn plan for congressional redistricting overturned got a potential advantage as two appointees of GOP presidents were selected for the three-judge panel that will hear a federal lawsuit challenging the map adopted by the General Assembly.

William B. Traxler Jr., chief judge of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, appointed Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer and District of Maryland Judges Alexander Williams Jr. and Roger W. Titus to hear the case. Niemeyer and Titus were appointed to the federal bench by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Williams was named by Democrat Bill Clinton.

The suit was not brought by the Maryland Republican Party but was spearheaded by the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee. State Republicans have been openly supportive of the challenge, which drew the map in a way that would give Democrats a good shot at seizing seven of the state's eight House seats.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:39 PM | | Comments (1)
        

O'Malley claims successes on India trip

Gov. Martin O'Malley, wrapping up the second full day of his trade mission to India, said Tuesday that his visit to the world's second-largest nation has already paid off by helping to wrap up business deals that are expected to bring jobs to Maryland.

Speaking via Skype from Mumbai, where it was after 10 p.m., to reporters gathered in the State House Tuesday morning, O'Malley predicted that India would rank among Maryland's five largest trade partners within five years. He said the Asian nation now ranks 11th among the nations to which Maryland exports, up from 18th in 2005.

"It would be economically irresponsible of us not to become more engaged with India," O'Malley said.

O'Malley is leading a delegation including his wife, state officials, educators and business leaders -- more than 100 in all --- on a six-day trip to India via the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. The delegation's first Indian stop was in Hyderabad. The group had a schedule of events Tuesday in Mumbai and is expected to go to New Delhi Wednesday.

The governor's trip has been criticized by some state residents for its cost and because of doubts of its value, but O'Malley countered that such missions are vital to competing in the modern business world. He said the criticism of his foreign travel reflect a strain of "xenophobia" in American politics.

"Our state is a great place because of our trade with people all around the world," he said. "That's our legacy, that's our tradition, that's our history."

The governor also noted that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, had led a delegation to India just two weeks ago. But O'Malley boasted that Maryland sent a much larger group -- the largest state delegation ever to visit that country.

In recent decades, Maryland governors of both parties have embarked on trade missions -- often amid questions about whether the results justify the expense. But economic development proponents regularly contend that the personal involvement of top elected officials is critical in promoting their states.

Matt Proud, political director for the Maryland Republican Party, declined to criticize O'Malley's travels. He did, however, comment that it was good to finally see the governor do something to drum up business for the state.

Among the deals finalized on the trip was a contract under which Rockville-based Sheladia Associates -- an engineering and architecture firm -- will provide design services for construction of a highway in India. Manish Kothari, president of the firm who is traveling with O'Malley, said the $3.7 million deal will lead to increased hiring at its Rockville headquarters.

Meanwhile, Greenbelt-based ANGARAI, a management consulting firm, signed an agreement with CI, a technology development company based in Chennai, India, to work together on various projects -- a deal that could lead to CI opening a Maryland office.

In addition, Maryland sealed an agreement with the U.S. India Importers Council under which the state and the business group will work together to promote exports from Maryland to India.

Karen Glenn Hood, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Economic Development, said it would be several weeks before the state has a precise estimate of the cost of the trip. But she said it would likely be in the neighborhood of the $144,086 cost of the governor's 10-day trip to China, Korea and Vietnam in May and June. She said the delegation on that trip was smaller but that the longer duration would likely make the two trips close in price. The figures do not include the cost of the governor's security detail, which is paid for out of the Maryland State Police budget.

The private business people and three Indian-American delegates on the trip are paying their own expenses, according to the governor's office. University officials' travel is being covered out of the budgets of their institutions, while the state is paying the costs for 11 state officials making the trip -- as well as First Lady Katie O'Malley.

--Michael Dresser


Posted by Michael Dresser at 12:34 PM | | Comments (6)
        

November 28, 2011

Jack Johnson sentencing report tells quite a tale

Former Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson deserves no leniency when he comes up for sentencing next week on federal corruption and evidence-tampering charges, prosecutors are telling the judge in that case.

In a 76-page document, the U.S. Attorney's Office recounts Johnson's many abuses of the power of his office in the eight years he led the county after his election in 2002. The sentencing memorandum filed last week describes Johnson's actions as "one of the most egregious and notorious instances of corruption and obstruction of justice in Maryland history" -- an audacious claim in a state with a long record of felonious behavior in high office.

The prosecutors scoff at the defense argument that Johnson deserves any credit for his years of public service, arguing that the "pay-to-play" culture he contributed to did the county severe harm.

"Jack Johnson's venality adversely affected everyone who lived, worked and tried to do business in Prince George's County," prosecutors wrote. "During his eight-year tenure as the county's leader, Jack Johnson criminally and shamelessly flouted the public trust and abused his lawful authority."

Johnson, who pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement in May, could receive up to 14 years in prison when he faces the judge Dec. 6. The prosecution document outlines in explicit detail the reasons the government believes the sentence should be at or near the maximum. His wife,former County Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, faces sentencing Dec. 9 for her role in trying to cover up her husband's crimes by destroying a bribe check and concealing illicitly obtained cash in her bra. She faces up to 18 months.

The memo is not exactly light reading, but people with an interest in Maryland's tradition of political corruption may find it fascinating in its depiction of how one official's corruption can touch virtually every aspect of government -- from the regulation of liquor stores to the quality of physicians hired at the county hospital.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 5:52 PM | | Comments (3)
        

Report: Harris to back Gingrich

Rep. Andy Harris, the conservative Baltimore County Republican elected to Congress last year, will endorse former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to a report Monday in Politico.

Gingrich, a Tea Party favorite, led the pack of GOP presidential contenders in a national Quinnipiac poll this month. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they would back him, compared with 22 percent for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

With just 36 days remaining before the Iowa caucuses, the battle for the GOP nomination is getting more intense. Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have both set up campaigns in Maryland and touted their endorsements. Gingrich’s campaign has been more hands off, though he did visit Baltimore in June for a fundraiser.

A spokesman for Harris could not be reached for comment.

Maryland's primary is April 3.

Posted by John Fritze at 3:22 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Washington
        

Brown joins Democrats' Romney-bashing campaign

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown pitched in Monday to do his part in a national Democratic campaign to portray former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, one of the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, as an unprincipled flip-flopper.

Brown participated in a regional telephone conference with Brian Moran, Virginia's Democratic party chairman, to bash Romney for his frequent changes of position on national issues. The new conference was part of an effort to call attention to a television ad and a web video portraying Romney as a politician who will change his position on anything to get elected.

The campaign is the Democratic counter-strike after Romney released an ad recently that has been criticized for taking for editing a statement in which Obama was quoting 2008 GOP nominee John McCain to make it appear as if the words were Obama's own. Democrats are running the 30-second ad in six media markets, including Washington, and holding news conferences around the country to call attention to what they -- and many Republicans -- perceive as Romney's key weakness.

Brown jumped into the fray with gusto,charing that Romney has "changed his position on almost every important issue" -- including Obama's job bill, support for the auto industry, Iraq and Libya. The lieutenant governor added a little extra scorn for Romney's current position opposing Obama's health care program, which was modeled in part on legislation Romney proposed as governor.

"Now he wants to repeal the very provisions he championed as governor of Massachusetts," Brown said. "It's clear to me and clear to the American people that Mitt Romney has a difficulty taking a stand."

Brown said that he signed up to support Obama in 2008 -- not just for the election but for his presidency and re-election effort. He said he had let the president's campaign know months ago that the was available to help in any way he could.

"You let me know and I'll be there," he said.

The 30-second TV ad is entitled "MittvMitt" and includes some selectively edited quotes of Romney apparently contradicting himself on abortion and health care. The web video expands on the list of topics and includes a clip of Ronald Reagan's famous "there you go again" line after showing Romney first disavowing and then embracing Reagan's legacy.

The Romney campaign released a reply to the Democratic blitz from Jeb Bradley, majority leader of the New Hampshire Senate:

“After three years in office, President Obama has failed to create jobs and turn around the economy. Instead, his policies continue to cripple the middle class and pile on staggering amounts of debt. As millions of Americans look for work, the Obama campaign and Democrats are attempting to distract attention away from this administration’s dismal record. The attack they have launched against Mitt Romney shows just how worried they are about facing him in the general election.”


Posted by Michael Dresser at 2:19 PM | | Comments (5)
        

November 25, 2011

O'Malley on his way to Qatar, India

Gov. Martin O'Malley is scheduled to take off this evening on a trade mission to India -- the first by a Maryland governor to the world's second most populous nation -- with a stop along the way in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.

The governor is heading a delegation of more than 100 state officials, business leaders and others on a trip that will include stops in Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi. On the way to India, the governor will stop in Qatar, where is scheduled to discuss investment opportunities.

O'Malley is being accompanied by his wife, District Court Judge Katie O'Malley, who plans to meet with Indian jurists to forge ties with the judiciary in that country.

Other notable members of the delegation include Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland College Park; House Majority Leader Kumar Barve; Montgomery County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett; former Prince George's County Executive Wayne Curry; David Wilson,. president of Morgan State University; Christian Johansson, Secretary of Business and Economic Development, and Dels. Sam Arora and Aruna Miller.

Among other events, O'Malley will speak at the Confederation of Indian Industries, meet with the U.S. ambassador to India, participate in a pharmaceutical conference and visit the Taj Mahal.

Posted by Michael Dresser at 10:50 AM | | Comments (2)
        

November 22, 2011

Rawlings-Blake inaugural gala planned

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will be sworn into office Dec. 6, before a ball celebrating Baltimore as "a great place to grow," according to a statement from her campaign.

Rawlings-Blake, who easily won a full term in office, will be sworn-in at noon in front of City Hall, amid "elected officials and dignitaries from around our City and our State, as well as citizens and groups representing the communities that make Baltimore the unique and incredible city that it is," according to the statement.

The inaugural ball will follow at the Hilton Hotel on Pratt Street. Tickets cost $75 and are available here.

Posted by Julie Scharper at 2:32 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns
        

November 21, 2011

Rawlings-Blake to give away $4,000 pay raise

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will give away her annual pay raise of about $4,000, her office announced Monday.

The mayor, who makes $155,493 annually, will give the 2.5 percent salary increase to the city's YouthWorks program, which helps find summer jobs for city teenagers and young adults, according to a statement from the mayor's spokesman, Ryan O'Doherty.

Rawlings-Blake receives an automatic annual raise due to a 2007 law passed by the City Council, her office said.

YouthWorks is run out of the Mayor's Office of Employment Development. The program places young people between the ages of 14 and 21 in six-week summer work experiences with private-sector businesses, nonprofits, and city and state government agencies.

Rawlings-Blake also said she plans to participate in the city's employee furlough plan. The statements says the mayor has reduced spending in her office by nearly 20 percent in the last two years.

--Luke Broadwater

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 12:02 PM | | Comments (5)
        

November 17, 2011

Poll: Edwards has early lead

Rep. Donna F. Edwards, the Democratic incumbent facing a primary in Maryland’s newly redrawn 4th Distrcit, enjoys a 68 percent favorability rating among likely primary voters and would beat all of her challengers if the election were held today, according to an internal poll obtained by The Sun.

Edwards, first elected in a special election in 2008, beats former Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey 52 percent to 16 percent, according to the poll, which was funded by her campaign and conducted by Democratic pollster Lake Research Partners.

Anne Arundel County Council member Jamie Benoit, who has said he is considering a run, draws 3 percent of the vote.

In Prince George’s County, the likely focal point of the April 4 Democratic primary, Edwards performs even better: Eight in 10 voters have a favorable opinion of the congresswoman there and she leads Ivey 60 percent to 21 percent.

In response to the poll, campaign spokesman Ben Gerdes said that Edwards “works and fights every single day for the residents of Maryland's 4th Congressional District, and these numbers reflect that."

Internal polls can often skew toward the candidate funding them and many voters are likely not yet paying attention to the race. Nearly five in 10 voters had a favorable view of Ivey and 41 percent had no opinion or had not heard of him.

Ivey won countywide elections in Prince George’s in 2002 and 2006 and is expected to be a forbidable challenger. He has not formally kicked off his campaign but has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission required of any federal candidate who raises or spends more than $5,000.

Updated: Ramon Korionoff, an Ivey spokesman, said their campaign is in the field with its own poll and expects to have results soon. "Our campaign is going to continue to build on our momentum," Korionoff said. "Polls come in many forms and sizes and types and depending on the language...there can be variances." 

The Edwards poll was conducted from Nov. 10-13 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. 

 


Posted by John Fritze at 4:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Washington
        

November 16, 2011

Rawlings-Blake says city will remove Occupy Baltimore 'at a time of our choosing'

As police in other cities, most notably New York, crack down on protesters involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement, officials in Baltimore still say they have no immediate plans to oust the Occupy Baltimore activists from McKeldin Square, near the Inner Habor, where they've been gathered since last month.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has said that the overnight camping at the square -- which is a city-designated protest area -- is illegal. But the mayor today, once again, refused to say when or if Baltimore police would act to remove the campers.

“We are going to deal with it at a time of our choosing,” Rawlings-Blake said at a morning press conference.

The mayor also said she was concerned with the homeless population, some of whom suffer from drug addictions or mental illness, who have joined the protesters' camp.

Here's video of the mayor's comments from our media partner WJZ:

Meanwhile, the protesters have been debating internally about the best use of their time and energy. With winter coming, some Occupy participants think they should abandon the camping at McKeldin Square to focus on other types of activism, while others stress the importance of having a symbol of the movement visible in the heart of downtown.

--Luke Broadwater

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 2:04 PM | | Comments (6)
        

November 15, 2011

Perry fires back at Hoyer over Tea Party remark

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry took a shot at Rep. Steny Hoyer on Tuesday, arguing that the Maryland Democrat is part of a culture in Washington that is “making a great living up there…at our expense.”

In a speech in Iowa, the Texas governor outlined a plan to slash government spending in part by reducing salaries for lawmakers. Asked about the proposal earlier in the day, Hoyer suggested that Perry was pandering to the Tea Party.

“When people like Steny Hoyer come out there and go, 'Is this guy being serious?' Yeah, you better believe it Steny. Americans are serious. They're serious about the spending that's going on,” Perry said on a conservative radio show. “It's not a surprise to me when I laid out this fundamental reform … that career politicians like Steny Hoyer don't like my plan to overhaul Washington. They're making a great living up there.”

Earlier in the day, when asked about Perry’s plan to halve lawmakers’ salaries, Hoyer gibed the candidate for a recent debate performance in which he could not remember the third federal agency he wants to eliminate.

“Rick Perry? I have heard that name, yes. Oh, he is the one that has three -- yes, I can't remember what they are.”

Hoyer then dismissed Perry’s government-reduction idea.

“This is a serious proposal he is making for a country that has very high unemployment, whose budget deficit is larger than it's ever been in history, would have two wars that we're confronting and trying to bring to conclusion,” Hoyer said.

“If this is what he thinks is pandering to the Tea Party, it is not, in my opinion, speaking to the issues that the American public feels are very, very critical to them, jobs being the number one issue. So I don't think it's a very serious effort on his part.”

Posted by John Fritze at 6:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Washington
        

Balto. Co. GOP: Oliver should return part of salary

The Baltimore County Republican Central Committee wants County Councilman Kenneth Oliver to return the council salary he earned while he was working for the state in an apparent violation of the county charter.

In a resolution approved Monday night, the committee called on the Randallstown Democrat to give the money back to the county treasury. Oliver worked at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development from February until a few weeks ago. The charter prohibits council members from working for state and county agencies.

“We have an obligation as a minority party to hold the majority party accountable for its actions,” committee Chairman Steve Kolbe said Tuesday.

Kolbe pointed to a 2008 referendum question that asked residents whether they wanted to change the county charter to let council members work for the state. Voters rejected the referendum.

“We’re talking about an individual who not only breached the county charter, but knew what they were doing was against the will of the people,” Kolbe said.

Council members make $54,000 a year.

Oliver has said he didn’t think he was breaking any rules because he was a contract employee. On Tuesday, he called the GOP’s resolution “part and parcel to politics.”

He pointed to former Councilman Wayne Skinner, who worked for the state tax department during his time on the council. That was before county officials reviewed the charter and discovered the rule, which apparently had been forgotten.

“I’ll return mine when Wayne Skinner returns his for the four years he was on the council,” Oliver said.

The Republican resolution also calls on the council to review all actions it took while Oliver was working for the agency.

Posted by Alison Knezevich at 4:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

O’Malley signs letter on DOMA

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has pledged to sponsor a same-sex marriage bill in Annapolis next year, is also pushing Congress to repeal a federal law that denies benefits to same-sex partners.

O’Malley, a Democrat, was one of 15 state and local leaders across the nation to sign a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

“Tens of thousands of loving and committed gay and lesbian couples have been strengthened because our states recognize their equal right to marry,” the letter read. “These couples work hard, pay taxes and share the same values as other married couples but they are constantly hamstrung in their ability to protect themselves and their families because of the discriminatory” law.

The judiciary committee voted along party lines to approve the repeal, though the legislation faces a difficult path in the Senate where 60 votes are required to overcome filibuster threats. Of the 15 officials who signed the letter, 12 are Democrats, two are independents and one is Republican.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, prevents same-sex partners from receiving many of the benefits enjoyed by other married couples, including: Social Security survivor benefits, federal employee health benefits and the guarantee of family medical leave.

The Democratic-controlled Maryland General Assembly failed to pass a same-sex marriage bill this year but O’Malley has vowed to support the measure next year. Six states -- Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont -- and the District of Columbia permit same-sex marriage.

Posted by John Fritze at 4:05 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Washington
        

Duncan will not seek 6th District seat

Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan said Tuesday he will not run for the House of Representatives from Maryland’s newly crafted 6th Congressional District, noting his belief that his strength is as an executive, not a legislator.

“You want to run for an office that you fit,” Duncan, who acknowledged that he had looked into running for the 6th District, told The Sun in an interview.

Duncan, who served as county executive from 1994 to 2006 and who sought the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006, would have drawn considerable attention to a race that is already likely to be among the most competitive in the country.

The seat is currently held by 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, who has said he will seek reelection. Democrats in Annapolis redrew Bartlett’s seat as part of the once-in-a-decade redistricting process to include more Democratic voters in Montgomery County.

State Sen. Robert Garagiola has been the most aggressive campaigner so far. But Duncan said he is considering throwing his political muscle behind businessman John Delaney, a Montgomery County commercial banker who said this week he is exploring a possible run.

Duncan speculated that Bartlett will make an issue out of the redistricting – casting himself as a target of Democrats in Annapolis. He said he also expected Bartlett would try to define Garagiola as anointed by those same Democrats for the seat. Delaney, Duncan added, would come at the race without that same political baggage.

A former member of the Montgomery County Council, Duchy Trachtenberg, is also seeking the Democratic nomination. 

Updated: Garagiola's campaign is responding to Duncan's remarks by taking a swipe at Delaney.

"Rob's experience creating jobs is already gaining him support in Western Maryland," Sean Rankin, Garagiola's campaign manager said in a statement. "Now voters throughout the district will have a clear choice between a veteran with a proven track record of fighting for middle class families, or an unvetted big banker."

Updated: Katie Burnham, a spokeswoman for Delaney’s exploratory committee, said that the businessman will spend the next few weeks touring the district, listening to voters as he decides whether to jump into the race. “He is right now being encouraged to do so because of his track record of creating jobs, which would be his focus” as a candidate, Burnham said.

Posted by John Fritze at 12:36 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Washington
        

November 14, 2011

Greens to hold national convention in Baltimore

Though it won’t be on the same scale as the huge political affairs expected in Tampa or Charlotte, Baltimore will nevertheless have a slice of the presidential convention scene next year. The city is the only candidate remaining to host the Green Party’s 2012 convention, a state party leader said Monday.

The party’s national committee is voting this week to select a city to host its presidential nominating convention, but Baltimore is the only option still in the running after Sacramento dropped its bid Friday. The event, which the party expects to draw hundreds of delegates, will take place at the University of Baltimore from July 12-15.

“We think that 2012 is going to be a big year when the Green Party can really break through,” said Brian Bittner, co-chair of the state party. “In Baltimore, we want to be the place where everyone can come from around the country.”

News of the convention comes as third party candidates, including Greens, have struggled to get on the ballot in Maryland. The state Green and Libertarian parties sued the Maryland State Board of Elections this year after officials ruled the parties failed to win enough votes in 2010 to qualify for ballot positions. The lawsuit is pending on appeal.

Asked about holding a national convention in a state where the party has had difficulty getting on the ballot, Bittner noted that third parties have faced similar problems in many states. “That’s an issue we hope to bring attention to," he said. "What we've been going through in Maryland [is] sort of emblematic” of what the party has faced elsewhere.

Republicans will host their party’s convention in Tampa Aug. 27-30 and the Democrats will head to Charlotte the following week.

The 2008 Green Party convention was held in Chicago.

Posted by John Fritze at 4:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Washington
        

Caesars' group tours Baltimore slots site

Annie Linskey sent this report from a meeting of Maryland's slots commission:

A development group led by Caesars Entertainment plans a two story casino ringed with restaurants in Baltimore, members of the only bidder for the city's slots site said Monday.

The team toured an empty lot on Russell Street near the M&T Bank Stadium Monday afternoon and filled in some details about their bid. It was all part of a meeting of the state's slots commission.

"This is a very exciting project," said Gary Loveman, the chairman and CEO of Caesars. "We have thought Baltimore has a tremendous future," he said.

Loveman touted Caesars rewards program which he said has 43 million members. He said the group would market the new casino to that group.


Posted by Eileen Canzian at 4:02 PM | | Comments (2)
        

O'Malley: Election a reaction to GOP 'overreach'

Speaking with reporters in Washington on Monday, Gov. Martin O'Malley framed last week's election as a reaction to Republican economic policies as well as what he called the GOP's "overreach" in targeting public employee unions.

"The voters are paying closer attention than perhaps many pundits gave them credit for," O'Malley said at a news conference at the National Press Club. "And they do not like overreach, they do not like ideology and they do not like mean-spiritedness."

As the chair of the Democratic National Governors association, O'Malley had some reason to crow about Tuesday's election. In addition to holding on to Democratic gubernatorial seats in Kentucky and West Virginia, the party scored a victory in Ohio, where voters turned back union restrictions that had been championed by the state's new GOP governor, John Kasich.

"The voters I believe in effect were saying, 'Look, enough already with the anti-union ideology,'" O'Malley said. "What does banning the unions have to do with creating jobs?"

O'Malley's address, which focused heavily on the economy, comes as his administration is preparing to push a jobs bill in the General Assembly next year. He has argued for additional spending on infrastructure projects as part of that effort and has suggested that an increase in the state's gas tax may be one way to pay for it.

Asked whether Congress should also consider raising the federal gas tax, O'Malley said there is "nothing tougher" during a down economy that asking people to pay more. But he argued that the country is investing far less in infrastrucutre now than it has in past decades.

"Of all the various taxes out there, you'd be sore pressed to find one that's more unpopular than a tax on gasoline," O'Malley said, adding that the state may try to fund its infrastructure spending with a "hybrid" of taxes and fees. "There's no way to build a $90 million bridge for $10 million. So you get what you pay for."

O'Malley also said he met Monday with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Montgomery County Democrat and member of the "supercommittee" on deficit reduction. That panel faces a Nov. 23 deadline to find a way to trim federal budget deficits by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

Posted by John Fritze at 11:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Washington
        

Delaney explores running in 6th District

A Democratic businessman who is leading a campaign to diversify Maryland's economy said Monday he is forming an exploratory committee to consider a run for the recently redrawn 6th Congressional District.

John K. Delaney, who co-founded a Chevy Chase commercial bank named CapitalSource, emphasized his business bona fides in his announcement, arguing that "if we stay focused on creating jobs, embrace ideas that put the middle class first, and involve the public and private sector to get things done, we can make a positive difference in people's lives."

If Delaney enters the race it could set up a compelling primary in a district that is already expected to be one of the most competitive in the country in next year's general election. State Sen. Robert Garagiola, a Democrat, has moved quickly to snatch up political and financial support in his bid for the seat. A former member of the Montgomery County Council, Duchy Trachtenberg, is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

On the Republican side, incumbent Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett has said he will seek reelection to the seat.

Rumors have long swirled about Delaney's political aspirations after he formed a group called Blueprint Maryland earlier this year. Its mission is to help Maryland chart a path to economic growth that doesn't rely so heavily on federal spending. Delaney has also been a behind-the-scenes political actor on state and national campaigns.

Posted by John Fritze at 9:52 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Washington
        

November 12, 2011

O'Donnell eyeing a run for the 5th CD

Maryland House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell told GOP delegates Saturday that he’s “considering” a challenge to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 House Democrat. The news was met with cheers by state Republicans gathered in at an Annapolis hotel for the party’s annual convention.

O’Donnell said that he’ll make his final decision within “weeks” and plans to continue his in his role of House Minority Leader if he decides to run. He said he started eyeing the race last week after Charles Lollar, who challenged Hoyer last year, announced he would not run again. Lollar lost in 2010 by 30 points.

Hoyer represents Maryland’s fifth congressional district, which includes southern Maryland. The district was largely unchanged in October when maps were redrawn and remains heavily Democratic. But O’Donnell thinks the poor economy mixed with voter anger will allow him an opening.

“This is a very volatile environment,” said O’Donnell.

Also, he noted that the 2012 ballot will likely include issues that would energize the state’s conservatives. Voters are set to weigh in on a controversial state law allowing tuition breaks for illegal immigrants at Maryland universities and colleges. And if the General Assembly legalizes same-sex marriage next year, that issue will also likely be on the ballot.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:42 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Bongino workers' cars vandalized

Two cars belonging to campaign workers for GOP Senate candidate Dan Bongino were vandalized Friday evening as the former Secret Service agent and his volunteers attended the Maryland Republican Convention in Annapolis, the campaign said Saturday.

Tires were slashed on two vehicles belonging to the workers, a campaign spokeswoman said. The cars were not parked near each and no other vehicles at the convention had damage, she said. The campaign filed a report with Anne Arundel County Police.

In a statement, Bongino spokeswoman Hillary Pennington blamed the campaign's "opponents" for "resorting to thug tactics in an effort to suppress our message of real change." The statement did not say who, precisely, the campaign believes is behind the incident.

Bongino is seeking the Republican nomination to run against Democratic incumbent Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin in 2012.

Posted by John Fritze at 2:39 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Washington
        

November 11, 2011

Balto. Co. Council wants more scrutiny for revenue panel

Some Baltimore County Council members are looking to increase oversight of the county Revenue Authority, a state-created agency that manages the county’s parking lots, golf courses and recreational facilities.

County Councilman David Marks said Friday that he and some other members considered adding the Revenue Authority to the ethics bill that County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has proposed, but discovered that they couldn’t put the agency under county law.

Marks described the authority as having “very little transparency.”

“It seems to be an agency that operates outside the normal rules,” the Perry Hall Republican said.

But any changes would have to be made by state lawmakers, Marks said, so the council might endorse state legislation that would toughen the rules.That could include proposals by Republican Delegate John Cluster, who also says the agency lacks transparency.

“Not a whole lot of people know a whole lot about the Revenue Authority,” Cluster said.

He plans to introduce several pieces of legislation when the session starts in January, he said. One measure, for instance, would make the authority follow the county’s normal bidding process – something it doesn’t have to do now.

Les Pittler, who is the longest-serving member on the revenue authority’s board, said he supports stronger ethics laws for the authority.

“If there’s a bill that applies to employees of the county government, I think that it should apply to the Baltimore County Revenue Authority as well,” he said.

Posted by Alison Knezevich at 6:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Kratovil passes on 1st District rematch

Frank Kratovil, the former Democratic congressman who represented the Eastern Shore, says Maryland’s newly drawn 1st District was “one of the factors” driving his decision not to seek a rematch against Republican Rep. Andy Harris in 2012.

Kratovil, a former Queen Anne’s County State’s Attorney who won election to the House in 2008 and then lost in 2010, had for months flirted with a rematch against Harris. But his decision, first reported by The Gazette, is not a surprise given that state Democrats in Annapolis targeted GOP Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett rather than Harris.

Kratovil said the new map was a factor, but “not a controlling one.”

“It was a very difficult decision,” he said. “I think what’s happening in Washington is very disillusioning.”

Kratovil, who took a job this year with the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney, could not name any other Democrats in the district he thought might run.

Posted by John Fritze at 10:27 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Washington
        

November 10, 2011

Harriet Tubman national park gets key Congressional approval

An effort to create a national park system in honor of Maryland’s own Harriet Tubman on the Eastern Shore received approval Thursday from a key Congressional committee.

U.S. Sens. Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, both Democrats, sponsored the bill that would create a national park in Caroline, Dorchester and Talbot counties – and a separate park in Auburn, N.Y., where Tubman also spent time – to honor the Eastern shore native who was born into slavery but ultimately lead dozens of slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

“This is a great day for those who want to honor the legacy of Harriet Tubman, a true American heroine and patriot, for whom liberty and freedom were not just ideas, but represented a real struggle for human rights,” Cardin said in a statement announcing the vote.

The National Park Service in 2009 endorsed a plan to designate sites associated with Tubman in Maryland and New York as part of its system, but the plan was unable to get Congressional approval since it was introduced earlier this year.

The park in Maryland will include the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center in Dorchester County, which state officials announced earlier this year is scheduled to be completed in 2013, the 100-year-anniversary of Tubman’s death.

Tubman was born in Dorchester County and escaped slavery in 1849. She returned to the Eastern Shore several times over the next decade to lead dozens of African Americans to freedom in the north.

Posted by Nicole Fuller at 5:01 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Civil rights group backs lawsuit challenging Congressional map

Nine Marylanders backed by a civil rights organization out of Prince George's County filed a federal lawsuit Thursday aimed at undoing the new Congressional map passed by the General Assembly last month.

The suit alleges that the growth of black, Asian and Hispanic groups in Maryland merits a third "majority-minority" district. "Under this plan, African-Americans and other minority communities are fractured among multiple districts for the benefit of white candidates," according to the lawsuit.

Maryland's Attorney General has analyzed the map and determined that it would pass legal muster.

The suit also challenges Maryland's first-in-the-nation law that counts prisoners at their last known address rather than the state or federal facility at which they are imprisoned. In defending that law, Maryland's AG noted that other states are allowed to count college students and military families at addresses other than where they sleep each night.

The plaintiffs were assembled by the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee, a group founded last year to promote additional minority controlled Congressional and legislative districts. It will be funded, at least in part, by a group out of Iowa called the Legacy Foundation, said Radamase Cabrera, a spokesman for Fannie Lou.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:30 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Invitation names Ulman as gubernatorial hopeful

An email invitation to a Columbia fundraiser tonight for Ken Ulman says the Howard County Executive wants to be governor.

The email, sent out by Evergreen Advisors LLC, says, “Ken has been committed to Howard County for two terms and now desires to attain the Governor's seat for Maryland, so that all citizens will benefit from his administration's initiatives.”

But while many have speculated Ulman will run, he said Wednesday night not to read too much into it. He's not planning to make any formal announcement.

“We haven’t made any final decisions," he said. "Three years is a long time.”

In response to the email, Ulman said, “My part is the event. They forwarded the event with their own message.”

“A lot of folks know there is going to be a lot of change in the state in three years,” he said. “We’ll take it one step at a time. We’re still evaluating where we go.”

As the president of the Maryland Association of Counties, Ulman said he’s often asked if he will run for governor, adding, “It’s really flattering.”

When people ask, he said he tells them, “My wife says I need to find a job in three years. I’m term limited. And I love the state of Maryland.”

Though Ulman has managed to raise a sizable amount of cash — nearly $440,000, according to his most recent campaign finance report in January — some fellow potential Democratic contenders had raised more by that date. State Comptroller Peter Franchot reported more than $515,000 and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler reported about $2.9 million. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown had just under $130,000.

Republican Harford County Executive David R. Craig had close to $65,000 on hand in January. Upper Shore Republican Sen E.J. Pipkin had nearly $24,000, Harford County Sen. Nancy Jacobs had about $4,600, and Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold had close to $424,000.

-Jessica Anderson

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:29 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Howard County
        

November 9, 2011

BDC plans more meetings with Occupy protesters

The president of the Baltimore Development Corporation has agreed to have continued meetings with the protesters affiliated with the Occupy Baltimore movement. The protesters are objecting to what they perceive as BDC's lack of transparency, among other issues.

BDC President Jay Brodie on Wednesday said he plans to talk with BDC board members about the protesters' proposals. "I’m willing to meet and discuss and give thought to all of the things they’ve suggested," he said.

Read below for a summary of a meeting Brodie had with the protesters on Monday evening. This account is provided by Clayton Conn and Casey McKeel, a member of the Occupy Baltimore legal team. Photos are by Noah Bers. --Luke Broadwater

...

1BDC4%20-%20Noah%20Bers.jpg

After a call to a public meeting on the steps of their main office, President MJ "Jay" Brodie of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), a quasi-public non-profit development firm that uses public funding for private development projects, came down to speak with a group of Baltimore residents regarding their concerns about its operations. Inspired by the Occupy Movements, this group called "Another BDC is Possible" greeted Brodie with an open-air public meeting in a mock board room setting, complete with plants and an agenda board.

The group cited the BDC's three core problems in regards to its operations as a publicly funded development firm, including a lack of transparency, lack of commitment to economic human rights and a lack of vision and popular participation. This critique was followed with testimonies from representatives of community groups working actively to create a better, fair and sustainable Baltimore.

Brodie was allotted time to respond, followed by Q&A from people in the crowd. The meeting was closed with the reading of measures and alternatives that the BDC should take towards fixing some of systemic problems of the city's development process. These suggestions include: posting meeting notes online for the public, as a simple gesture of adhering to the Maryland Open Meetings Act; having "clawbacks" to take back subsidies from private projects that are supposed to provide public benefit, when those benefits don't materialize; that the BDC commit to providing living wages for all employees of jobs created by BDC projects; creating an Office of Community Participation and Advocacy, and a model of participatory budgeting; and committing to having community representation on the BDC board.

The action proved successful not only in drawing more than 100 people, but also in that it was an unprecedented event that emphasized the importance of community involvement in city development. Facing the public pressure, President Brodie committed to continuing open dialogue as long as he's around, and that he would meet with a diverse, representative group to further negotiate solutions to the issues that arose. Furthermore, the action serves to demonstrate how yet another regional Occupy group is turning its attention to pressing issues on a local level.

1BDC5%20-%20Noah%20Bers.jpg

Posted by baltimoresun.com at 9:03 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Rocky Gap a charming (and cheap) place to stay

Developers, architects and would-be casino hopefuls traveled from afar on Tuesday to make their case to members of Maryland's slots commission for building a gambling resort at Rocky Gap.

You can read about the vying proposals in a Sun story -- but anybody who has sat through a MEDCO oversight budget committee hearing can be forgiven for being very curious about the state of affairs in today's Rocky Gap Resort and Golf Club.

The hearings make the place seem awful. Really awful. Millions are needed for a "face lift," according to testimony. Occupancy rates are so low that the hotel isn't making ends meet on a day-to-day basis, nevermind paying back the millions in debt incurred just to build the place.
"Take it off our hands," pleaded Sen. George Edwards, whose panhandle district includes Rocky Gap at one hearing.

Here's some good news: The place is charming, and it is dirt cheap to stay here.

Yesterday the signature Jack Nicklaus golf course was buzzing with activity. A stand with mountain bikes for rent looked enticing and trail map outlined nearby hikes. The lobby offers a stunning view of Lake Habeeb, and though many of the trees have turned brown there are still splashes of autumn color on the mountains. Plus there's a stuffed black bear to admire!  

The digs feel a little tight and dated, but they're fine. You'd want to spend most of your day out exploring Allegany County. But the charm only increases when you see the bill: It costs $138 with taxes for a room with a view of the lake. A golf course view is about $15 cheaper. And there's free wifi.

Compare that to the other state-backed hotel on the Eastern Shore. A room with a view of the parking lot at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay will run $225, and that doesn't include the resort fees, the Internet fees, and the parking fees.

If the past is any predictor of the future, it'll still be awhile until Rocky Gap is transformed into a casino. And in the meantime, this place offers a fun getaway. And you can plan last minute, because it's not going to be sold out.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 7:17 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Crofton man finalist for White House award

A Crofton man who works for NASA is one of four finalists for a White House award that recognizes federal employees who offer ideas to make government run more efficiently, the Obama administration said Wednesday.

Matthew Ritsko’s idea of creating a tool “library” to avoid duplicative purchases of pricey tools was selected by the Office Of Management and Budget from nearly 20,000 ideas. The winner will present their idea to the president.

The administration announced the finalists Wednesday as part of a broader roll out intended to promote efficiency. President Barack Obama will sign an executive order Wednesday that directs federal agencies to reduce spending on travel, communication devices and promotional materials.

Posted by John Fritze at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Washington
        

November 8, 2011

Rawlings-Blake easily wins Baltimore mayoral vote

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to victory in Tuesday’s general election, securing a full four-year term and defeating Republican Alfred V. Griffin III, according to unofficial election results.

The Associated Press has called the race. With 88.6 percent of precincts reporting, Rawlings-Blake led Griffin 85 percent to 13 percent. View updated election results here.

Rawlings-Blake, 41, who ascended to the mayor’s office in Feb. 2010 following the resignation of Sheila Dixon, has focused on maintaining core services while grappling with persistent budget shortfalls.

A native of Baltimore, Rawlings-Blake is a former public defender who became the City Council’s youngest member when she was elected to the body at age 25 in 1995. She became the council president when Dixon was appointed mayor in 2006.

Rawlings-Blake cruised to victory in the September Democratic primary, campaigning on a theme of responsible and reliable leadership.

Elections officials report record low turn-out in the general election, with about 40,000 of the city’s 370,000 registered voters casting ballots.

-Julie Scharper

Posted by Andy Rosen at 8:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 City Campaigns
        

State Dept. nominee says she'll prioritize Gross case

President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead U.S. foreign policy in Latin America told lawmakers Tuesday that she would prioritize the release of a Maryland man serving a 15-year sentence in Cuba for crimes against the state.

Alan Gross, who was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development when he was arrested in December 2009, has maintained his innocence. The Baltimore native, a veteran international development worker, was helping Cuba’s small Jewish community develop an intranet and improve access to the Internet.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised Gross’s case during the confirmation hearing Tuesday for Roberta Jacobson to serve as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs.

“For nearly two years, the Cuban government has held Alan Gross under horrible terms and conditions, violating his human rights and twisting the rule of law to suit their own needs,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Mr. Gross should be immediately and unconditionally released so he can return home. The health and humanitarian needs of he and his family are paramount.”

Cardin asked Jacobson to prioritize Gross’s release. She agreed.

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 6:54 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Currie found not guilty

By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

A Maryland jury on Tuesday found Sen. Ulysses S. Currie not guilty of accepting bribes from two Shoppers Food Warehouse executives, acquitting all three men of extortion and conspiracy charges.

The ruling, reached after three days of deliberation, ends a lengthy federal trial that lasted weeks and a bribery investigation that spanned years, sending nervous shock waves throughout the state legislature.

Currie, a well-liked Prince George's County Democrat who chaired the Senate's powerful budget committee, was indicted last year on charges he took cash payments from Shoppers Food Warehouse executives R. Kevin Small and William J. White, his codefendants, in exchange for legislative favors.

The men were accused of covering up the scheme through a consulting contract in which Currie promised assistance with minority business issues and community relations and received a monthly salary that added up to a quarter million dollars over a five-year period.

Read the rest of the story here.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:53 PM | | Comments (0)
        

BaltCo. redistricting foes: Ballot challenge unlikely

Baltimore County residents seeking a referendum on the County Council’s plans to redraw political lines say it’s unlikely they will gather enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

Members of the Liberty Road Community Council are considering filing a lawsuit to challenge the redistricting plan, though they haven’t worked out the details, executive director Ella White Campbell said Tuesday.

“That’s the only avenue we have left, is to pursue this legally,” she said Tuesday.

Campbell and other members of her group said they felt the county Board of Elections did not give them enough guidance on how to write the petition, and told them that two versions of petitions that they submitted had errors. The group believes many of the signatures already gathered are likely to be thrown out.

The residents seeking the referendum have until Nov.17 to gather about 9,700 signatures, White Campbell said. They would then need to get about 19,000 more within the next month.

“Time is not on our side,” said Aaron Barnett, a board member of the Liberty Road Community Council and president of the Powhatan Community Association.

County Board of Elections director Katie Brown could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Members of the Liberty Road group announced the petition drive a few days after County Council members approved the redistricting measure Oct. 3. Among other reasons for objecting to the legislation, the group said the plan unfairly split communities in the 4th District, which is the county’s only majority-minority district.

The Greater Towson Council of Community Associations later joined the petition drive because its members were unhappy with the County Council’s redistricting plans for their districts.

The county’s new political lines take effect in 2014.

Those seeking a referendum have not yet counted the number of signatures they’ve gathered, but believe they will fall short, White Campbell said. She added that another challenge has been people’s reluctance to put their birthdates on the petition, as required by law, because they’re worried about identity theft.

Posted by Alison Knezevich at 5:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Md. troops in Iraq tell O'Malley of concern for benefits

Maryland National Guard members stationed in Iraq told Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday that they were concerned about veterans’ retirement benefits in the current climate of fiscal austerity.

Defense is one of several areas that has come under scrutiny as Washington looks to balance its books. President Barack Obama has directed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to cut $450 billion from the Pentagon budget. The so-called Supercommittee, the panel of lawmakers charged with developing plans to reduce the deficit, could come up with additional reductions. And a failure by its members to reach an agreement would trigger deep cuts automatically.

Members of the Maryland guard’s 29th Combat Aviation Brigade spoke with O’Malley from Taji, Iraq, via Skype. When O’Malley asked if there was anything he could do for them, Col. David W. Carey spoke of the retirement benefits.

“Some of what’s being talked about as we pare down the budget … is constantly there is an article in there about adjusting their retirement system,” said Carey, commander of the brigade, which is based at the Edgewood Area of Aberdeeen Proving Ground.

He pointed to the soldiers who joined him on the call: Master Sgt. Iris Cruz of Harford County, in the service for 21 years; Chief Warrant Officer Gregory R. Turner of Elkton, in for 12 years; and Specialist Delvan Namar Anderson of Edgewood, in for three. He said they and others signed on with an understanding of the benefits they would receive after completing their service.

“It’s my hope that as a government we don’t go down and modify that retirement system midstream,” he said.

O’Malley told Carey he shared his concern.

“My sense is in the general public that people are starting to ask deeper and better questions in the face of this sort of strange, cut, cut, cut, cut, slash-and-burn, slash-and-burn sort of approach to the things that we can only do together, like supporting our armed forces,” he said. “And so I’d like to believe that as the public is starting to ask deeper questions, so, too, will their representatives.”

O’Malley has no formal role in federal spending, but said he had met “a few times” with members of the Supercommittee.

“With other governors, we’ve tried to make very clear that doing a bad deal, with huge cuts to priorities like the one you underscored for veterans retirement benefits and our armed forces, doing a bad deal would be worse than not doing any deal at all. …

“I’ll do my very best to communicate the importance of keeping faith with all of you who have taken 400 days away from your families to serve us.”

One hundred and twenty members of the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade were in the process of deploying to Iraq when Obama announced last month that the United States would withdraw all of its troops from the country by the end of the year.

They now are divided among Iraq, Kuwait and Fort Hood, Texas. It remains unclear whether they will come home or serve out the deployment elsewhere; Carey said they await further details.

“When the president said everybody would be home for the holidays, basically, we got to our soldiers, we got to our families as quickly as we could to say, ‘You know, we need to temper that message with, hey, we were deployed for 400 days.’ And everybody here is a soldier. They understand that, that that’s the order.

“So morale remains high. Everybody that’s recently deployed is excited to accomplish the mission. And we’re moving forward to whatever follow-on mission we have when we move south.”

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 2:20 PM | | Comments (1)
        

November 7, 2011

BaltCo Council pushes back ethics bill introduction

The Baltimore County Council was set to introduce County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's ethics bill Monday night, but members said administration officials gave them copies of the legislation so late that they didn't have time to review the measure.

The council now plans to introduce the bill Nov. 21, so it could still be voted on in December.

"The council members just wanted to have some time so they could read it, digest it, do their due diligence," said Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr., a Dundalk Democrat.

The council generally supports the bill, said Fifth District Councilman David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican.

But "I think my colleagues would have liked to have briefed on the details of the bill, and they would have liked to have seen the legislation," Marks said.

Sixth District Councilwoman Cathy Bevins said she got a copy of the bill around 3 p.m. Monday

"And it's 50 pages," said Bevins, a Middle River Democrat.

Don Mohler, Kamenetz's chief of staff, said administration officials were "fine-tuning" the bill over the past few days, making some last-minute changes. For instance, after Kamenetz announced the proposals at a press conference last week, he decided to add a provision that would make public officials notify the county if they changed employers, rather than waiting until the next year's forms were due.

"It's a complex piece of legislation," Mohler said. "We have respect for [the council's] position."

Posted by Alison Knezevich at 10:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Jurors in Currie trial send note to judge

My colleague Tricia Bishop is in federal court in Baltimore keeping an eye on the case against state Sen. Ulysses S. Currie.

Bishop reports that ...

"Jurors deliberating in the federal bribery trial of state Sen. Ulysses S. Currie and two retired grocery chain executives sent a note to the judge Monday, indicating that at least some of them believe a conspiracy may have occurred, though not for the length of time that prosecutors alleged in the indictment.

"The note read: "If we believe the conspiracy was not in effect in Dec. 2002 (or even Jan. 2003), but might have started at a later date [possibly as much as two years later], can we find any of the defendant's guilty on count one?"

Read the rest of the story here.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:22 PM | | Comments (0)
        

November 6, 2011

O'Malley defends Obama's jobs plan

Gov. Martin O'Malley defended President Obama's efforts to promote a jobs plan this morning on CNN's State of the Union, his latest Sunday morning talk show appearance.

He noted that the national unemployment rate dipped slightly last month, and said the public sector needs to do more. "For every three jobs our private sector is creating we are eliminating one in the public sector."

O'Malley said on CNN that Obama "battles every day" but must fight a "very obstructionist wing of the Republican party."

Since becoming the head of the Democratic Governors Association last December, O'Malley has appeared on a number of cable and network television news programs which has led many observers to believe he's preparing himself for a national role. O'Malley is term limited and will leave office in 2014. He also referred to the "Bush recession," a notion that caused CNN host Candy Crowley push back. "You can talk about the Bush recession," she said. "But he's been gone for three years."

Crowley also did something that national TV reporters rarely do: She delved in the the governor's record in Maryland, asking him about recent news report that various commissions have recommended higher taxes on water and gas.

As he's said in the past, O'Malley told a national audience that he's "considering" recommendations to increase the gas tax by 15 cents.

And, right at the end Crowley asked O'Malley the Big Question: Are you eying the 2016 presidential race. The governor did not answer directly, saying he's focused on helping Democrats in 2012.

"So we'll take that as a 'not no,' " Crowley said.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:07 PM | | Comments (1)
        

November 4, 2011

DCCC runs radio ads in 6th District

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, is targeting Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett in the first political advertisement of the 2012
race to hit the airwaves in the newly drawn 6th District.

In a radio ad, the DCCC alleges that Bartlett is “part of the problem in Washington” because he is protecting tax breaks “for billionaires instead of Medicare for seniors and jobs for us,” according to a script released by the group. The ads will begin Monday.

Maryland’s 6th District, which became more competitive after last month’s redistricting process, is one of 25 selected as a priority by national Democrats. For now, it is considered a tossup race.

Bartlett has said he will run for reelection. State Sen. Robert Garagiola has led the pack of Democratic candidates, officially kicking off his campaign Tuesday. A former member of the Montgomery County Council, Duchy Trachtenberg, is also running for the seat.

Posted by John Fritze at 6:50 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Washington
        

November 3, 2011

Wargotz forgoes Senate run

Eric Wargotz, a Republican who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski last year, announced Thursday that he will not challenge Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin in 2012 -- narrowing the field of possible GOP contenders.

In a statement, Wargotz said he was "humbled to learn" that he remains popular among Maryland's Republican primary voters, but said support for Cardin, a Democrat, remains too strong for him to mount a serious challenge for the general election.

"In this political reality, we find ourselves in the position of being able to win the Republican nomination but falling short in the general election," he said.

The decision leaves former U.S. Secret Service agent Dan Bongino of Severna Park as the only Republican who appears to be aggressively campaigning for seat, though he has so far not raised enough campaign cash to compete against Cardin. Baltimore County Republican Del. Patrick McDonough has said he is considering a run.

Last year, Wargotz captured just under 36 percent of the vote. That left Mikulski with a commanding 62 percent of the vote.

Posted by John Fritze at 11:21 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Washington
        

Miller tells business leaders: Higher gas tax is coming

Addressing a room packed with Maryland’s business and education leaders, the presiding officers of Maryland’s House and Senate both made a pitch for more spending on capital projects in the upcoming legislative session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller was the most blunt about how such a plan would be funded, saying at a breakfast meeting of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce: “There’s going to be a gas tax.”

“Is it popular?” Miller asked. “No.”  But, he said, “It is going to have to get done now.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch took a slightly different approach, saying that lawmakers in Annapolis are looking at ways to fund a large scale public works program, without specifying any particular taxes that he wants raised.

“How do we come up with an aggressive funding source to improve our capital infrastructure and put the labor force to work?” Busch said. “That is what we have to go back to Annapolis and do.”

The remarks given at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce Business Policy Conference in Cambridge were largely in step with a theme set by Gov. Martin O’Malley in October, when he asked the legislature to support more taxes as a way of funding state construction jobs. The governor and both presiding officers are Democrats, though they don't always agree on policy.  Busch's comments suggest that as proposals to raise the gas tax go forward in the upcoming legislative session, the bigger fight is likely to be in the House of Delegates.

“I don’t see anyone here standing in line to vote for a gas tax,” Busch said. “They are not.”

A state task force has proposed raising the gas tax by 15 cents a gallon as a means of bolstering the Transportation Trust Fund and paying for a backlog of state road repair and construction projects. Miller has previously suggested that he is likely to support an increase of less than 15 cents.



Miller said the legislature will also have to pass a constitutional amendment to protect the new funds, even though he said he thinks the move would be “bad budgeting” because “people in government need some flexibility.”

Such an amendment would have to be approved by voters on the 2012 ballot, which is also likely to contain a question about allowing illegal immigrants to have in-state tuition.

Maryland business advocacy organizations have been supportive of raising the gas tax, as long as the revenue is walled off from the rest of the state’s budget and can only be used for transportation projects. Since fiscal year 2009, the Maryland General Assembly has raided the so-called Transportation Trust Fund four times, moving roughly $218 million to other parts of the budget.

Del. Anthony O’Donnell, the House Republican leader, made clear that his caucus would not support a gas tax increase. “When people are banging on the door for a tax increase, think about the little guy,” he said, telling business leaders that consumers already are strapped and can ill afford more taxes and fees.

And Sen. Nancy Jacobs, who recently stepped down as Senate GOP leader, said: “There is something illogical about raising taxes to create jobs.”

Posted by Annie Linskey at 10:48 AM | | Comments (10)
        

Cardin to kick off campaign

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, one of a handful of Democrats considered a safe bet for reelection to the Senate next year, will officially kick off his campaign in Baltimore on Sunday, his campaign announced Thursday.

"The last few years have been tough times and there is still much work to be done to get people back to work and to restore our growth economy,” Cardin said in a statement. “I want to continue the fight and help rebuild the American dream."

Cardin, 68, was elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving 20 years in the House of Representatives and 20 years in the Maryland House of Delegates. He has become a leading voice in the Senate on environmental and fiscal issues.

At least one Republican candidate, former Secret Service agent Daniel Bongino, is endeavoring to mount a challenge to Cardin. Another, state Del. Patrick McDonough, has said he is considering a run.

Cardin will make the announcement at the Museum of Industry.

Posted by John Fritze at 9:41 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Washington
        

November 2, 2011

New Perkins CEO named

Gov. Martin O'Malley this morning said that the new CEO of the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center will be David S. Helsel, who has led a state facility in Catonsville facility since 2004.

Helsel will take over Perkins amid great turmoil at the institution. In the past year three patients have been killed, including two in recent days. The hospital treats mentally ill patients, including many with criminal histories who were deemed unfit to prosecuted. The institution is undergoing multiple reviews in the wake of the violence, including the possibility of some type of federal intervention. 

"We're glad he's willing to do a really tough job," said O'Malley of Helsel after Wednesday's Board of Public Works meeting. The governor noted that Joshua Sharfstein, the state's secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, "thinks very highly of him."

Sharfstein said in a statement that Helsel is "one of the most experienced and accomplished" administrators in the state. Helsel is now the CEO of the Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville, a post he's held since 2004. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in 1980.

Helsel will start on November 14. Cheryl Heilman will become the new interim CEO of Spring Grove when Helsel leaves.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:04 AM | | Comments (0)
        

County ethics bill would restrict lobbying, add enforcement

Former Baltimore County employees would be permanently barred from lobbying on issues that they worked on, under a proposal by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. The bill would also add teeth to a charter rule that prohibits County Council members from working for the state.

The proposal, which Kamenetz has asked the County Council to introduce Monday, follows Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver’s decision to quit his state job after revelations that it apparently violated the charter.

Kamenetz said his proposal is “not merely reacting to recent events,” and that he has been working on the legislation for at least four months, but a top aide later said the item on County Council members' jobs was "a late addition."

"It was added after the discovery that certain charter violations did not have any enforcement remedy within county government," said Don Mohler, Kamenetz's chief of staff.

The wide-ranging bill would also require that county officials’ financial disclosure forms be posted online, and prohibit employees from accepting gifts from people who do business with the county.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Kamenetz said in an interview. “I want to make sure that people have confidence in the decisions that county government makes. And that will allow people to accept those decisions more readily … I don’t want the public to second-guess any county employee.”

The disclosure forms would be published online starting in May 2012. Those who must file such disclosures include council members and other elected officials; department heads; the schools superintendent; and members of the planning and appeals boards.

Susan Wichmann, executive director of the watchdog group Common Cause Maryland, called Kamenetz’s proposals “very important steps forward.”

“Recent events have shown that the ethics laws and disclosure [requirements] need to be tightened up,” she said, mentioning the Oliver situation and the bribery trial of state Sen. Ulysses Currie, where testimony showed that Currie had not disclosed his work for Shoppers Food Warehouse on state financial disclosure forms.

Wichmann praised county officials for the proposal to post financial disclosure forms online. Her group has called for state legislators’ information to be published online, too.

“Online disclosure, full public disclosure, is important because it allows citizens to evaluate specific conflicts that they may be concerned about,” she said. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

Still, Wichmann said Baltimore County could strengthen the legislation by making officials update their disclosure forms if their financial situation significantly changes, such as with a new job. The law requires only annual filing, so an official could potentially hide a conflict of interest for a year.


Current county law prohibits employees from participating in matters in which a child or spouse has an interest. Under Kamenetz’s proposal, employees also would have to recuse themselves from matters involving their parents and siblings.

The measure would bar former county employees from ever being paid to represent a person or company on matters the employee had worked on for the county. Current law lets people lobby if they wait a year after leaving their county employment.

Also, contractors would not be allowed to bid on a project if they employ someone who has ever had a hand in writing bid specifications for that project.

The bill also would codify a section of the county charter prohibiting County Council members from working for the state or county agencies. The county Ethics Commission would have the authority to enforce the rule.

Last week, Oliver said he would leave his job at the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, where he had been working as a finance specialist. County officials have said there appear to be no penalties if a council member violates the employment rule.

Another provision in the bill would bar county employees from accepting sporting and event tickets from people who do business with the county.

“I would see county employees at different events – at political events, at sporting events – and it would cause me concern,” Kamenetz said in the interview.

The legislation would also address conflicts of interest among County Council members, clarifying when they must disclose a possible conflict on a matter they’re voting on. And it would impose fees on people who file financial disclosure or lobbying reports late.
If introduced Monday night, the ethics legislation would be set for a council vote in December.

County Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr. said the council supports Kamenetz’s proposals.
“Any time you can make improvements in having transparent government, that is what you should strive to do,” he said.

Kamenetz also plans to issue an executive order today, creating a code of conduct for county employees. The order names the county attorney the “chief public ethics officer” and designates department heads as “public ethics officers” who must notify the county attorney of all questions raised about ethical behavior.

-Alison Knezevich

Posted by Andy Rosen at 11:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

O’Malley promises roads money to locals

Gov. Martin O’Malley took his pitch for higher taxes on the road Tuesday evening and told local leaders at an annual gathering in Cambridge that “to create new jobs … we must be open to new revenues.”

It was the latest attempt by the governor to build a case for increasing taxes in the 2012 legislative session as a means to fund a massive public works program that he hopes will stimulate the state’s sagging economy. The most recent jobs numbers show that Maryland’s unemployment rate inched up in September for the fourth straight month in a row.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch has said that county level leaders will need to help push for tax increases. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has said he will push some type of revenue package in his chamber.

Much of O’Malley’s rhetoric was familiar. As he has frequently in the past, he noted that the cost of painting the Bay Bridge now more than the original cost of building it.

But he did offer leaders a carrot: He said additional state revenues would allow him to give them more money to repair roads. In recent years the governor has raided local “highway user revenues” in order to balance Maryland’s budget. “If we’re willing to make some tough choices on the revenue side, we’ll be able to do significantly better than $10 million for HUR [Highway User Revenues],” O’Malley said according to his prepared remarks.

“Whether we pay for our infrastructure or whether we pay in so many other ways is up to us,” O’Malley said.

The governor did not spell out any specific taxes he would raise. Last month he said that he’d consider making a change to the state’s gas tax. In Tuesday’s speech, though, he made a case against a straight increase to the levy.

“A traditional flat tax on gasoline, by itself, actually becomes a declining revenue source,” O’Malley said according to his prepared remarks. “When the new generation of cars and trucks that are being designed are built to use less and less gasoline. What worked well for us for the last 40, 50, 70 years isn’t going to work in an era when we’re pushing electric drive cars, hybrid cars or vehicles that are powered by other fuels.”

O’Malley didn’t offer any other suggestions, though in the past the governor has suggested indexing the gas tax rate.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:06 AM | | Comments (10)
        

November 1, 2011

Kamenetz to propose tougher Balto. Co. ethics rules

Baltimore County Council Executive Kevin Kamenetz plans to propose changes to county ethics laws Wednesday, his chief of staff confirmed.

The legislation would deal with issues including secondary employment, financial disclosure requirements, conflicts of interest, and penalties for violating ethics rules, Chief of Staff Don Mohler said. It also would strengthen the authority of the county Ethics Commission.

Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, recently got into hot water after revelations that he had been working as a contract employee for the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. The county charter prohibits council members from working for the state or county agencies.

Mohler also confirmed that Kamenetz additionally plans to issue an executive order that would “create a code of conduct for Baltimore County employees.”

The county executive plans an 11:15 a.m. press conference at the historic courthouse to release details of his proposals.

-Alison Knezevich

Posted by Andy Rosen at 4:36 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Senate GOP picks new leaders

**Updated with statements from the new leaders

Eastern Shore Republican Sen. E.J. Pipkin was chosen this morning to be the new senate minority leader and Anne Arundel Sen. Edward R. Reilly was picked to be the new minority whip. The Senate GOP caucus voted unanimously for the new leaders, according to statement from Pipkin.

”The caucus is committed to fighting for the jobs and property rights of hard working Maryland families,” Pipkin said in a statement.

Pipkin has been the minority whip for the past year, and frequently leads GOP opposition on the floor. His forceful arguments against Gov. Martin O'Malley's wind energy legislation helped stall the bill last session.

He's now making headlines by accusing the governor of waging a "war on rural Maryland."

Reilly, who has been in the senate since 2009, said it is an "honor" to take on the new position as whip.

The minority leader slot became open last month when Sen. Nancy Jacobs relinquished the role after 10 months on the job because she's considering running for higher office.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:49 AM | | Comments (0)
        

Garagiola jumps into Maryland's 6th District

Citing a "petty, partisan logjam in Washington" as part of the reason for his campaign, state Sen. Rob Garagiola announced his candidacy for Congress with a series of events Tuesday in Maryland's newly redrawn 6th District.

The Germantown lawmaker is the second high-profile Democrat to formally enter what could be among the most competitive House contests in the country next year -- and he is considered by many to be an early frontrunner in the still emerging Democratic field.

"So much of what we hear from Washington just doesn't sound right," Garagiola said in an address that was heavily critical of congressional Republicans. "Rather than focusing on our economy and jobs, this idealogical Congress has taken this country to the brink of economic disaster."

The seat is currently held by 10-term Republican Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, who has said he will seek reelection despite a new district that was drawn to include many more Democratic voters.

Though Garagiola is moving rapidly to secure support from state and national Democrats, there are a handful of potential primary challengers who could alter the landscape of the race, including former Montgomery County executive Doug Duncan and Chevy Chase commercial banker John Delaney.

A former member of the Montgomery County Council, Democrat Duchy Trachtenberg, was the first Democrat to enter the race.

During a four-stop swing through the district, Garagiola was shadowed by Robin Ficker, an attorney, former state lawmaker and sports heckler who is also running for the seat. The Republican held a tall two-by-four with a half dozen red signs hanging from it that read: "No gas tax hike."

In Annapolis, Garagiola had previously introduced a $471 million package of tax and fee increases that would have raised the state's gas tax by 10 cents. His support for the increase is likely to be a significant talking point for his critics, particularly in a district where many voters have long commutes to Washington for work.

"It's going to kill jobs," Ficker said of the possibility of an increased gas tax hike. "We can't stand silent."


Posted by John Fritze at 11:18 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Washington
        
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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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