October 15, 2011

O'Malley to release final Congressional map today

Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to release his plan for or new congressional boundaries this afternoon. A top aide said it will differ only slightly from the map that a panel appointed by O'Malley issued last week.

A poster board showing the new map was momentarily left near our Sun office in the state house (see photo). It has since been put under lock and key in the Speaker's offices.

The most significant changes are in Montgomery County, where the 8th district, represented by U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen gained a handful of additional precincts from neighborhoods that he's long represented but were going to be moved into other areas.

Another change is in Anne Arundel County where Cape Saint Claire had been split between the 3rd and the 4th districts, but is now completely in the 3rd district. The change gives the odd shaped 3rd district a land bridge connecting at least one part of the district to the rest of it. 

A more official version of the maps should be up up on line shortly, according to O'Malley's aides.

Separately, Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus met for hours in the state house this afternoon, but did not vote on the proposed maps as expected. They are set to meet on Monday for a vote.

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Categories: Administration

October 12, 2011

No jobs bill for the special session

Lawmakers won't see an Administration jobs bill next week, when they gather in Annapolis to approve a new political districts for Congress, said House Speaker Michael E. Busch.

O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory confirmed that a jobs package wouldn't be introduced, but left open the possibility for some other jobs related announcement next week.

The Speaker said he expects the administration to "start to promote" a jobs bill during the special session "so we can take it up in the regular session" which kicks off in January. Busch spoke briefly after a 10 a.m. state house pow-wow with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and the governor.

Busch said he expects lawmakers will see "a presentation to build momentum" for jobs legislation -- but no bill will be unveiled. The Speaker has advocated internally for accelerating parts of the capital budget during the regular session as one way to stimulate jobs, an idea that O'Malley floated publicly last week.

Last month, O'Malley said he was considering jobs legislation during the October special session, but aides have since downplayed the likelihood of an administration package before January.
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Categories: Administration

October 2, 2011

O'Malley blasts Christie on Face the Nation

Gov. Martin O'Malley told a national television audience this morning that Republican Gov. Chris Christie would provide "tremendous entertainment value" if he runs for president, but will offer little in the way of "effective government."

O'Malley, a Democrat, appeared for on CBS's Face the Nation opposite GOP Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi in a segment that focused on widespread speculation that Christie will jump into the Republican primary battle.

Maryland's governor has been picking on Christie for about a year, starting last January when he blasted the New Jersey governor's attitude toward state workers.

O'Malley has sought to raise his national profile this year, taking on a leadership role in the Democratic Governors Association, making frequent trips to Washington, D.C. and appearing on Sunday talk shows. O'Malley is set to be in North Carolina early next week raising money for the DGA.

On Face the Nation this morning, host Bob Schieffer pressed both his guests on whether Christie's weight should disqualify him from occupying the Oval Office.

Barbour spoke of his own struggles shedding extra pounds, and paid O'Malley a compliment: "You see somebody like me opposed to somebody like Martin [O'Malley], he gets the first swing" because he looks better on television. 

Schieffer next turned to O'Malley, introducing him as the "slim, trim governor of Maryland." O'Malley dodged the Christie weight question, and when chided for doing so by Shieffer, O'Malley said "it was not an evasion, it was a redirection."

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Categories: Administration

September 21, 2011

Special session could include jobs bill

Gov. Martin O'Malley said he is considering asking the General Assembly to pass a legislative package aimed at stimulating hiring during the October special session.

"We may well take up a couple of jobs items," O'Malley said to reporters after the Board of Public Works meeting this afternoon. "There may be a few things we do on the jobs front. We're still working on it."

The governor's statement was the first public indication that the Oct. 17 special session would take up any issues beyond congressional redistricting.

O'Malley declined to provide specifics about potential jobs legislation, saying the ideas are still being developed. In the past he pushed tax credits for companies hiring off the unemployment rolls.

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Categories: Administration

September 19, 2011

O'Malley, Brown announce state agency to move to PG (again)

Gov. Martin O'Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announced this morning that New Carrollton will become the new home of the state's Department of Housing and Community Development, an agency currently located in Crownsville.

The new site was selected after years of lobbying from the Prince George's County delegation which has long wanted to headquarter a state agency. The move-in state is set fall 2013.

The state will construct a new building -- called "Metroview" -- for the 385-person agency. The same building will contain about 400 units of rental housing. Carl Williams, of Grand Central Development, will build Metroview, according to the governor's office.

The governor stressed in a statement that the new building would be close to the Washington, D.C.-bound Orange Line and the yet-to-be-constructed Purple Line. O'Malley called it a "modern investment" that will "allow us to do the right thing for reducing traffic and sprawl, the right thing for our quality of life, and the right thing for our land, our water, and our air.”

O'Malley and Brown first announced that the agency would move to Prince George's County 15 months ago, during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
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Categories: Administration

September 1, 2011

Md. shows nearly $1 billion budget surplus

Maryland finished the fiscal year with $990 million in unspent funds, showing an end-of-year surplus that was about 50 percent higher than expected, according to a memo obtained by The Sun.

The administration attributes the balance to better-than-anticipated income tax returns, a sign that the economy firmed over the past year. The new data shows the state has $344 million over their estimates.

In a memo sent today to Gov. Martin O'Malley, State Budget and Management Director T. Eloise Foster warned Administration officials that it is "unclear" whether they can count on the trend to continue "due to the current uncertainties in the national economy."

Maryland budget writers had expected to close the FY2011 fiscal year which ended on June 30 with $641 million excess funds, and had planned to use nearly all of it ($590 million) to balance the FY2012 budget.

Much of the newly identified unspent funds must go into the state's Rainy Day Fund, but about $10 million will be available for day-to-day operations, according to the memo.

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Categories: Administration

August 31, 2011

O'Malley assess the utilities

Gov. Martin O'Malley said this morning that he "won't be satisfied" until power across the state is restored and showed reporters that he is tracking hour-by-hour progress on outages via his iPad.

"A lot of people had 48 hours of patience," O'Malley said. "That 48 hours is up. People are getting understandably prickly."

The governor said that Pepco, which provides power to the Washington suburbs, has been "really quick" to restore power to Marylanders. The governor had strongly criticized that utility in the past, after two blizzards in 2010 knocked out power in Pepco's service area for extended periods of time.

"I bet most of the people n the Pepco area were pleasantly surprised," O'Malley said.

O'Malley also noted that the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, which serves St. Mary's, is restoring power at a healthy clip. He said that southern Maryland suffered some of the worst damage, but as of 9:25 a.m. this morning 83.5 percent of households that lost power had it back.

Looking at Baltimore County, O'Malley observed that only 73.2 percent of households with outages had power restored. "I'm not sure that [Baltimore County] was hit any stronger," O'Malley said. The area is served by Baltimore Gas and Electric.

The governor was receiving power outage data via a webtool that his office made public for the first time during Hurricane Irene. The governor noted that the data is intended to give citizens a sense for how their utilities are preforming and compare their service against others in the state.

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Categories: Administration

August 30, 2011

Senate Finance Committee starts summer study

Maryland's Senate Finance Committee kicked off a series of five hearings on Gov. Martin O'Malley's off-shore wind proposal Tuesday, the beginning of a study period intended to help lawmakers hash through their concerns with the governor's bill.

The time away didn't seem to resolve any issues: Lawmakers expressed the same concerns about cost that led the committee to shelve the bill earlier this year.

O'Malley, a Democrat, has proposed authorizing a wind farm in the waters off Ocean City. The legislation would allow the state's Public Service Commission to enter long term contracts with wind energy developers, making energy deals that would increase ratepayer costs -- at least in the short term. Wind energy is more expensive than traditional energy sources because of the high development costs.

During today's hearing Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Howard County Republican, wanted to know why Maryland should be on the leading edge of the off-shore wind industry. "Why not wait for other states?" Kittleman asked. Over time the costs associated with wind energy are projected to decline as technology improves.

Jim Lanard, the President of the Offshore Wind Developers Coalition, said that speedy passage of the legislation would put Maryland on the "vanguard" of a developing field and guarantee jobs for the state. He said that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, is backing off-shore wind in his state purely for the economic development benefits.


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Categories: Administration

O'Malley and other pols earn kudos for storm react

In addition to the national attention lavished on Gov. Martin O'Malley and other state leaders for their handling of Hurricane Irene, Maryland's governor got a nod from inside-the-beltway publication Politico.

The politics-obsessed news organization listed O'Malley among four East Coast governors who passed an executive leadership test administered by Irene.

"With the memory of Hurricane Katrina forever serving as an object lesson in crisis management gone awry, the group of potential 2016 contenders whose states stud the coastline—Republicans Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie and Democrats Andrew Cuomo and Martin O’Malley—appear to have endured Hurricane Irene with burnished reputations after an uncommonly ferocious storm where executive missteps could have cost even more lives," according to Politico's Maggie Haberman.

The Sun wrote today about the hurricane's silver lining, which also illuminated Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. The hurricane was the topic of O'Mallely's first appearance on NBC's Meet the Press, which he did from storm-watch headquarters at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.  

Of course Irene's test is not quite over. Hundreds of thousand of Marylanders remain without power and are losing patience. O'Malley and Brown are spending the day in Southern Maryland, the hardest hit part of the state, to assess damage.

O'Malley's office asked us to note that the power outages will affect the state redistricting meeting originally scheduled for this afternoon at the Anne Arundel Community College. The hearing has been moved to the Joint Hearing Room in the Legislative Services Building at 90 State Circle, Annapolis. The meeting will be at 4:30.

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Categories: Administration

August 29, 2011

Brown gets firsthand experience with disaster recovery

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown had to step away from his position at the Maryland Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Reisterstown this afternoon to attend to his own personal disaster clean up: A flooded basement.

Brown's Prince George's County home was one of the 820,000 that lost power when Hurricane Irene barreled through the state over the weekend. While the power was out, Brown's automatic basement pump stopped working.

He estimated two inches of water have filled the basement and guessed that the carpeting would have to be ripped out.

"We are not immune to reality," Brown said. "It is what it is. We will get through it."

Brown said that he's planning to fill out insurance forms and he's kicking himself for failing to buy a generator after the basement flooded last time -- during Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:20 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Administration

August 25, 2011

O'Malley declares state of emergency

Gov. Martin O'Malley just declared a state of emergency in preparation for Hurricane Irene, which could dump as much as a foot of rain on Maryland this weekend.

The executive order signed by the governor activates the state national guard and puts the Maryland Emergency Management Agency into high gear. The governor plans to give a news conference from the MEMA headquarters in Reisterstown later this afternoon.

States up and down the eastern seaboard are preparing for the storm, the first to threaten Maryland this year.
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Categories: Administration

August 23, 2011

O'Malley planning trade mission to India

Gov. Martin O'Malley said today that his office is planning a trade mission to India, an expedition that would be the governor's second international trip this year aimed at promoting Maryland businesses abroad.

O'Malley said the purpose of the trip would be "jobs" and said he hopes to go "before the year's end."

"We're working on it," O'Malley said. "As with the trip that we took to China, we promote the competitive strengths of Maryland. Life sciences, biotech, information technology, healing -- all of the things that are our strongest sectors."

The governor led a three-nation tour of Asia in June and was joined by nearly 70 officials for various parts of it. In addition to China, the itinerary included South Korea and Vietnam.

After returning, O'Malley estimated the trip netted $85 million in deals between Maryland and Asian companies, and additional contracts were in the works at the time. The cost to taxpayers for the 10-day mission was $164,000.

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Categories: Administration

August 22, 2011

O'Malley talks taxes, but not specifics

Responding to repeated questions about tax increases on WTOP radio this morning, Gov. Martin O'Malley said: "We need to be open to a balanced approach, including, if necessary, looking at revenues."

Over the next few months the state will have to have "a conversation" about taxes, O'Malley said though he made it clear that he's not going to be a lone wolf howling for increases. "It will not be up to me," O'Malley said. "It will take a group effort."

WTOP reporter Mark Seagraves quizzed the governor for an hour on live radio this morning, focusing on the state budget, the economy and O'Malley's recent national talk show appearances as head of the Democratic Governors Association.

O'Malley declined several times to give any specifics on taxes that might be raised, though he pointed out that the Maryland General Assembly rejected his suggestion to peg the state's gas tax to an index which would trigger automatic increases. When asked if he would sign a five-cent bag tax similar to one in Washington, D.C., the governor said: "I don't know. What is your next question."

The Democratic Maryland governor also paid his neighbor a compliment, saying that Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, is a "skilled communicator" who would "be a very attractive candidate" in the GOP pool for higher office. McDonnell's name has been floated recently as a possible vice presidential partner should Texas Gov. Rick Perry win the Republican nomination for president.

O'Malley and McDonnell squared off last weekend on CNNs "State of the Union." McDonnell recently became the head of the Republican Governors Association.

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Categories: Administration

August 9, 2011

Md. Treasurer predicts state will keep AAA rating

Despite Maryland's close ties to the federal government, state Treasurer Nancy Kopp said today that Maryland's AAA score from Standard and Poor's is safe. The agency downgraded America's rating Monday for the first time in history.

Kopp said in a statement that she's “pleased" S&P will evaluate each state on a case-by-case basis and she believes "Maryland’s prudent fiscal management will be viewed positively."

Kopp said her office has been on contact with all three rating agencies and will continue to do so. She bases her optimism about S&P on word from a Standard & Poor's analyst who told her office: "There is no action on MD's rating," according to a news release from Kopp. The analyst is not named. 

An accompanying report from S&P, however, does not sound quite as sunny. Speaking generally, S&P writers said that states "with relatively low levels of funding interdependencies with the federal government" would be safer. Maryland clearly does not fit that category.

But the folks at S&P said they'd look kindly states that keep their fiscal house in order -- and they do tend to put Maryland in the group.

Sun columnist Jay Hancock also analyzed the likelihood of a downgrade to Maryland's rating in today's Sun. He spells out some of the state's so-called "interdepedancies" with Washington: Maryland benefited from $80 billion in federal funding in 2009 and one of 18 MD jobs is directly connected to the federal government. 

Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

July 7, 2011

Help wanted: Slots commissioner

Maryland's high profile slots commission isn't for everyone: New member Gloria Lawlah resigned last month after attending a single meeting.

Lawlah said that her day job as Gov. Martin O'Malley's Secretary of Aging is keeping her too busy to keep up with the commission's packed meeting schedule.

The seven-member panel issues slots licenses to casino operators and will be in the news quite a bit in coming months: They expect to be weighing bids for new casinos in Baltimore in July and Rocky Gap in September.

In an interview, Lawlah described her brief tenure on the commission as a "flash in and out process." She said she was "thrilled" to be named but had not anticipated the "tough" schedule.

Lawlah said that she believes seniors need a voice on the commission because so many of them play slots. "I'm sorry I couldn't do both," she said.

Lawlah was a senator from Prince George's County for 16 years before joining O'Malley's administration in 2007. She was Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's pick on the commission.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:51 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Administration

July 6, 2011

Redistricting commission may hold fewer meetings

The governor's redistricting commission is considering a truncated public hearing schedule this year, with eight or nine meetings around the state instead of the traditional 12.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller suggested the change during the group's first meeting in Annapolis this afternoon. He's one of five members of the Governor's Redistricting Advisory Committee, which will travel around the state to seek input from Marylanders about how congressional and legislative maps should be re-drawn.

Miller said the hearing process should have "as much openness as possible" but added that time constraints make a 12 meeting schedule difficult. House Speaker Michael E. Busch agreed. The commission was just named Monday. Members said they want to make recommendations on the congressional map by September, giving them about two months to hold their meetings.

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Categories: Administration

O'Malley: SHA employees 'let us down'

Gov. Martin O'Malley said Wednesday he is "very, very disappointed that two long-term employees let us down," his first comments since the Friday release of a scathing report about activities in the upper ranks of the State Highway Administration.

The Office of Legislative Audits examined the revolving door between SHA, which has nearly a $1 billion annual budget, and private contractors after a tipster called a fraud hotline to report questionable activities. The Democratic governor said his administration is cooperating with the auditor -- who is poised to release more details in the weeks to come.

Among the auditor's initial findings: A high-level employee in SHA's Office of Construction apparently solicited funds from contractors for a golf tournament in which he had a financial stake, and then expedited awards to some of the same companies. In another instance, an SHA manager retired and 12 days later began a job with an engineering firm that benefited from a $16 million procurement he helped arrange while he was still with the highway administration.

Neither employee works for the agency any longer, and neither is named in the report.

O'Malley appeared to view the findings as isolated rather than systemic.

The two employees, he said, "fell short of what we expect in the administration." He said employees with private experience are valuable "but not if it leads to cutting corners."

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Categories: Administration

June 30, 2011

O'Malley calls state permit process a 'weakness'

Gov. Martin O'Malley called Maryland's often lengthy and confusing business permit process "one of the weaknesses of our state," this morning before signing an executive order aimed at easing it.

"Fast Track," he said, is supposed to help speed projects with significant economic impact in specific redevelopment areas -- so long as they would not adversely impact the state's environmental and Smart Growth goals.

Developers who qualify for Fast Track would be told up front whether their business plans have any chance at approval, or whether the state will fight "tooth and nail" against the project, O'Malley said.

The new program is part of an overall administration concept called Maryland Made Easy, which corrals state permitting and business approval information in one area. Noting that small businesses account for 85 percent of the jobs in Maryland, O'Malley said, "We understand that government is not the job creator. But it sets the conditions."

Bureaucratic red tape was a theme on the gubernatorial campaign trail last year, with Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. repeatedly criticizing the Democratic governor's "over-regulation" of private businesses.

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Categories: Administration, Money and Business, jobs, jobs, jobs

June 25, 2011

Gubernatorial citation is *not* an endorsement, O'M spokeswoman says

Rev. Milton Williams said he was “shocked and mesmerized” when a special delivery arrived Saturday morning containing a gubernatorial attaboy for an unorthodox methadone clinic his church plans to open in East Baltimore.

Why the surprise?

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s health department has not granted permission for the reverend to open the new facility, which will provide methadone to addicts within 15 minutes by ignoring some of the federal and state requirements for evaluation and treatment.

Williams, who already runs one traditional clinic in East Baltimore, kicked up a storm last week when told The Sun of his intentions to go forward with new program without the state’s blessing. He says he’s currently treating 650 patients and sees the new quick care option as a gateway to more traditional treatment.

Thomas Cargiulo, director of the Maryland Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration expressed concern that the express clinic won’t give enough scrutiny to potential patients before offering treatment. Methadone is a schedule 2 narcotic.

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Categories: Administration

June 22, 2011

MD pols to attend tonight's U2 show

The Sun's nightlife reporter Erik Maza reported on his Midnight Sun blog that some Maryland politicians are planning to be at M&T Stadium tonight for the U2 show ... though music lover Martin O'Malley is taking a pass.

From his post:

Expect to see some familiar faces among the seventy five thousand or gazillion people who’ll be at U2 tonight.

Just from the number of politicians going, you’d think we were entering a second week of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Howard County executive and Katy Perry fan Ken Ulman doesn’t go to many shows outside of the music venue in his county, Merriweather Post Pavilion.

But he’s a big fan of the composers of “Spider Man: Turn off the Dark.”

“My wife and I are going. It’s pretty exciting for Baltimore and the region,” he said.

Ulman, who last saw U2 live at RFK stadium some years ago, is getting a mid-afternoon presentation on how the tour organizers mitigate the carbon footprint on a show this big. Though he’s campaigned on green issues, Ulman said he still doesn’t know how he got invited.

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Categories: Administration

June 21, 2011

O'Malley re-sets strategy to tighten septic rules

Baltimore Sun colleague Tim Wheeler posted that Gov. Martin O'Malley just named a 28-member task force to study the environmental and health impacts of on-site sewage disposal.

The governor's legislative push to tighten septic rules was a non-starter during the most recent legislative session, though lawmakers pledged to study the issue over the summer.

From Wheeler's blog:

The task force is to be headed by Del. Maggie McIntosh, chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee. McIntosh, a Baltimore city Democrat, tabled the governor's push for septic limits during this year's legislative session and called for more study of the issue. The panel's vice chair is Jon Laria, a Baltimore development lawyer who is head of the state growth commission.

A press release from the governor's office calls the task force broad-based, with representatives of business, agriculture, science, environmental advocacy and government. A quick scan of its members, though, suggests the panel is stacked at least modestly in favor of the governor's position that septic-based development needs to be limited.

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Categories: Administration

Franchot: NFL lockout could cost state $37 million

Maryland's top tax collector said Monday that a season-long lockout of the National Football League this year would cost state and local governments between $33 million and $37 million in lost sales, income and amusement taxes.

In the first report produced by a state to project revenue losses in the event of a missed season, Comptroller Peter Franchot said a cancelled season would have "a measurable impact" on the Maryland's economy because the state is home to two NFL teams.

NFL owners and players are in talks to end the three-month-old lockout. But as The Sun's Ken Murray reported today, "there is no guarantee a deal will be reached in time to save the 2011 season."

Franchot estimated that the state could lose as much as $13.5 million from income taxes, $4.6 million from admission and amusement taxes and $5.5 from sales taxes.

Local governments could lose as much as $9.4 million in income taxes and $7.8 million in admission and amusement taxes, Franchot estimated.

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Categories: Administration

June 17, 2011

O'Malley's trip to Asia costs $164K

The O'Malley administration spent $144,086 on the 10-day trade mission to Asia, according to figures released this afternoon.

Costs includes airfare, food, hotels and other expenses for six staffers.

State police spent an additional $19,868 on security, but a spokesman would not itemize expenses because he did not want to reveal how many members of the executive protection accompanied the governor.

The trip was intended to strengthen links between Maryland and Asian companies, and the governor traveled with a 68-member delegation of mostly business leaders. Gov. Martin O'Malley estimates that the trip netted $85 million in foreign investment to the state.

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Categories: Administration

June 15, 2011

State extends BWI taxi contract for one year

Jet-setters touching down in Maryland will continue taking taxis under familiar flag of BWI Taxi Management Inc., after the state's Board of Public Works decided this afternoon to extend their contract by one year.

The move tamps down a controversy kicked up by local cabbies who did not want the state contract to go to a Virginia-based firm. That company, called Dulles Airport Taxi, Inc., would have paid the state more money for the airport rights. But cab drivers feared new management would cut jobs and pay. They drove their cabs around state circle earlier this week to protest.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, one of the three state officials on the BPW, said he wants the Maryland's Department of Transportation to have an additional year to review the contract and find a way to balance state revenues with the needs of the taxi drivers.

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Categories: Administration

O'Malley, Biden to talk broadband

Gov. Martin O'Malley is set to stop at the White House Thursday when he returns from his DGA event in Chicago. He'll share the stage with Vice President Joe Biden for an event pushing greater access to broadband for first responders.

President Obama's budget included $10 billion for the "development and deployment" of a national "wireless broadband network," according to a White House press release.  The network is intended for public safety agencies.

On Monday, O'Malley pushed a similar message in Maryland, stopping in Howard County with Sen. Barbara Mikulski and County Executive Ken Ulman to launch a state-wide push for more access to high speed internet.

Maryland's chief executive has been racking up the travel miles. He landed in Maryland Saturday after a 10-day trade mission in Asia and admitted to feeling a little "blurry" on Monday, just before a groundbreaking for a new sports field in Baltimore's Patterson Park.

On Tuesday after briefing reporters on the Asia trip in Annapolis, he jetted off to Chicago for a two-day Democratic Governors Association regional policy meeting in the windy city. (Fun fact about the DGA conference: There appears to be an app for it. Really.)
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Categories: Administration

June 14, 2011

After Asia, O'Malley planning more foreign travel

Fresh from a 10-day trade mission to Asia, Gov. Martin O’Malley said Tuesday he hopes to make more foreign trips during his second term.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have requested a detailed accounting of public money spent on the expedition.

O’Malley said the trip to China, South Korea and Vietnam was good for $85 million in deals between Asian and Maryland businesses, and spoke of future travel to India, Africa and Latin America.

“You can't really be effective as a governor in a global economy … unless you are engaged abroad and doing things that only the governor's office can do,” the Democratic governor told reporters in Annapolis.

The Asia was O’Malley’s first to the world’s fastest-growing region. Other governors, including Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., his Republican predecessor, made similar expeditions.

What distinguished O’Malley’s trip was the size. Nearly 70 officials, educators and business leaders, who paid their own way, accompanied O’Malley for at least part of the mission.

While O’Malley was overseas, the Maryland House Republican leadership wrote to the state Department of Business and Economic Development asking for a breakdown of state expenses.

“Could the same thing have been accomplished without such a large delegation traveling on the taxpayer’s dime?” House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell asked.

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Categories: Administration

June 10, 2011

O'Malley announces deals with Vietnam businesses

Gov. Martin O'Malley, nearing the end of his trade mission to Asia, announced four new business agreements between Maryland companies and their counterparts in Vietnam on Friday.

Half of the agreements involved Maryland firms working with state-owned enterprises in Vietnam. These include Marlin Steel Wire Products, a Baltimore company that manufactures wire baskets that inked a “business collaboration agreement” with Inox Hoa Binh, a steel production and fabrication firm.

Marlin Steel CEO Drew Greenblatt, one of 68 business leaders, educators and state officials traveling with the governor, said before they left that he would not come home empty-handed.

“Because the governor is with us, doors are going to be opened,” he predicted.

O'Malley also discussed trade with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in Hanoi, his office said, and signed a memorandum of understanding between Maryland and the Vietnamese Ninh Thaun Province to explore a sister state relationship to promote trade, investment and educational and cultural exchanges.

The governor’s office said it was the first such agreement between a Vietnamese province and a U.S. state.

Maryland maintains trade offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The state exported more than $25 million in goods and services to Vietnam last year, O’Malley’s office said, and imported more than $156 million in goods including furniture, apparel and wax products from the Southeast Asian nation.

Continue reading "O'Malley announces deals with Vietnam businesses" »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:16 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Administration, Money and Business

May 17, 2011

O'Malley will sign waste-to-energy bill

Gov. Martin O'Malley has decided to sign into law controversial legislation that categorizes incinerated trash as a renewable energy source on par with wind and solar generation.

Wednesday morning update: Check out this article by The Sun's Tim Wheeler.

O'Malley called the legislation "but one part of a comprehensive solid waste management approach."

The Democratic governor's final bill signing for the 2011 legislative session is Thursday, and O'Malley had publicly struggled with whether he would approve the measure. Many environmental groups strongly oppose the waste-to-energy plan, fearing it will discourage recycling and undercut other green energy efforts, such as solar and wind.

“After careful deliberation, I have decided to sign Senate Bill 690," O'Malley wrote in a statement. "Our State has an aggressive goal of generating 20% of our energy from Tier I renewable sources by 2022 and we intend to achieve that goal through as much in-state energy generation as possible. This will require a diverse fuel mix including onshore and offshore wind, solar, biomass including poultry litter, and now waste-to-energy if we are to realize our 20% goal."

In his statement, O'Malley said he remains committed developing an offshore wind farm -- a plan the legislature rejected this year in favor of a study. Entire statement after the jump.

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Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 5:54 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Administration

May 16, 2011

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown returns to 'Marryland'

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown today announced that he is engaged to be married to Karmen Bailey Walker.

In a short, joint statement this afternoon, Brown and Walker said they are planning their wedding for summer 2012. Walker is Comcast's director of government affairs, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Brown and Walker each had a previous marriage. Brown lives in Mitchellville with his 16-year-old daughter, Rebecca, and 10-year-old son, Jonathan. Walker lives in Hughesville with her 11-year-old son -- named Anthony.

“It brings us great joy to announce to our friends, family, and neighbors that we are engaged to be married," the couple said in a statement. "Our love and respect for each other have grown stronger each day of our relationship and we are so very excited to be taking this next step together."

Brown was Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley's running mate in 2006 and again last year.

(Photo provided by Brown's office.)

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:26 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Administration

May 13, 2011

State rethinks youth jail, revisiting campaign issue

State prison officials now believe they overestimated the necessary capacity of a planned jail for teenagers who face charges as adults.

A study released yesterday by the National Council on Crime and Delinquency concludes the city needs about half the size of what was originally to be a 230-bed facility, Sun colleagues Liz Kay and June Torbati report this morning.

The youth lockup became a campaign trail issue last year for Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Both had a hand in planning the jail.

Just as officials prepared to break ground, juvenile services activists loudly protested, saying Baltimore needs more youth programs, not more jails. O'Malley agreed to the study that came out yesterday. The lower capacity reflects a downward trend in teen arrests.

Continue reading "State rethinks youth jail, revisiting campaign issue" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 9:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration, Crime & Justice, Law and Courts

May 12, 2011

Interim Human Resources secretary takes the job

Gov. Martin O'Malley has chosen aide Ted Dallas to lead the Department of Human Resources, the state's fourth-largest agency. The Democratic governor also announced hiring choices for communications director and deputy chief of staff (see jump).

Dallas has been O'Malley's deputy chief of staff since March 2010 and has served as interim Human Resources secretary since January. When Secretary Brenda Donald left the agency in July, O'Malley said his administration would conduct a national search for her replacement.

“I am pleased that Ted has chosen to step up and lead our Department of Human Resources," O'Malley said in a statement.

O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said the administration considered candidates from Florida, Ohio, Georgia and elsewhere before asking Dallas to take the job.

Dallas said he is pleased to become secretary of "an agency that helps people."

"The impact the agency can have on people's lives, particularly on the most vulnerable among us, is a rare opportunity," he said in an interview today.

Before coming to Maryland, Dallas was the second-in-command at Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare. He has also worked as an aide to Philadelphia's then-Mayor Ed Rendell and in the private sector for an IT company.

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Categories: Administration

May 11, 2011

Miller: Special session should include tax hikes and pension shift

Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller made a pitch this week to use the upcoming special session to erase the state's structural deficit and solve a persistent funding transportation funding problem.

To achieve the goal Miller floated one of his favorite budget policy ideas: Shifting the costs of teacher pensions to the counties.

The idea is one that terrifies county leaders since it would add a new burden to their already strapped budgets. Miller suggested making up the difference with new taxes and tackling the transportation issue with "greater contributions from the users and the beneficiaries of our public infrastructure."

In a letter he sent Monday to Gov. Martin O'Malley and all 188 members of the General Assembly, Miller called moving the pension costs "good fiscal and public policy" and pointed out that if the locals paid the full amount -- $1 billion -- the state's structural deficit would no longer exist and the state could "finally talk about what we can do to best position Maryland's future in the new economy." 

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Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:10 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Administration

Maryland higher education: the state gives and takes


Gov. Martin O'Malley just announced that he will restore funding to the Distinguished Scholars program. In a statement he called the cut an "error" saying that he never intended to revoke funding from students who had received awards.

"It was never our intention to impact prior awards," said O'Malley in a statement. "Clearly, our commitment to honor existing awards was not fulfilled and I’ve directed [the Maryland Higher Education Commission] MHEC to immediately correct the error and restore the four-year scholarships to all seniors who were expecting their award."


Roughly 350 top-performing Maryland seniors learned earlier this month that they won't be receiving scholarships from the state for college next year, The Sun reported this morning.

The reason: The $1.35 million Distinguished Scholars program was included in a package of budget cuts offered by Gov. Martin O'Malley and approved by the General Assembly. "When we're dealing with the kind of recession we've been dealing with, every program can't be protected," said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for O'Malley.

The awards, worth $12,000 over four years, only go to the state's best and brightest, like Lindsay Michocki (pictured on the right). She took 11 AP courses, graduated top of her class and was recruited by the Ivy League. Her scholarship was rescinded.

The Sun also reported today that the state is expanding funding for a different set of high school graduates  -- illegal immigrants. O'Malley on Tuesday signed into law the Maryland Dream Act, a bill that offers discounted tuition to undocumented residents who've attended three years of high school and paid taxes.

Continue reading "Maryland higher education: the state gives and takes" »

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Categories: Administration

May 6, 2011

State seeks to rescind controversial autism appointment

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is trying to oust David Geier from a state autism advisory panel, The Sun's Meredith Cohn reports.

Geier and his father, Dr. Mark Geier, have drawn scrutiny for their controversial view that autism is linked to the mercury in in vaccines -- an idea that has been discredited by the Institute of Medicine. 

Mark Geier's medical license in Maryland was suspended this week; David Geier is not a medical doctor, but the Montgomery County man has worked closely with his father.

"Under the circumstances, we do not believe it's appropriate for David Geier to serve on the autism commission," said David Paulson, a spokesman for the state health department. "Unfortunately, he declined to resign his commission. ... As a result, we are considering the appropriate next steps."

The health department recommended David Geier and 18 others for the panel, which was created in 2009 and advises Gov. Martin O'Malley and the General Assembly on autism.

Health officials have not explained why it wanted Geier's input, other than to say they sought a "diverse" array of views. Like all applicants, Paulson said, Geier applied on his own.

Continue reading "State seeks to rescind controversial autism appointment" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:29 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Administration

May 4, 2011

O’Malley says new funding needed for transportation

Gov. Martin O’Malley made a case to Maryland’s business community that the state needs more money to fix roads and build new ones in a 15 minute speech to the Chamber of Commerce Wednesday night.

Outlining five “hard truths” about the state’s aging infrastructure and dwindling revenue sources, he appeared to be laying the groundwork for a package of tax and fee increases. Top lawmakers have speculated that the fall special session needed for congressional redistricting will include a fix to the transportation trust fund.

“I’d like to tell you bridges are like trees and if we left them alone they would grow taller and stronger, but it is not true,” O’Malley said. “He said he would “like to” be able to say that the state could “build a $90 million bridge for $10 million” but added “it does not work that way.”

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Posted by Annie Linskey at 8:02 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Administration

April 18, 2011

O'Malley (in person) on Schaefer

Gov. Martin O'Malley dropped by the state house around 8:45 p.m. to offer reflections on former Gov. William Donald Schaefer. What follows are notes I sent to my colleague Michael Dresser, who is putting together tomorrow's story for The Sun.

"He was a real inspiration to anyone who served," O'Malley said. "He carried the concerns of every person in our state every person in our city."

"He was not the sort of person who rode in the back of a car with his nose in the newspaper," O'Malley said. "He was a person who was wide awake, eyes wide open, and head always on a swivel looking for opportunities to make the state a better place."

Continue reading "O'Malley (in person) on Schaefer" »

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:39 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration

April 4, 2011

O'Malley's end-of-session to-do list growing

Gov. Martin O'Malley has one week to extract his signature proposals from legislative committees and usher them to approval in the full General Assembly.

But even as he labors to save efforts such as offshore wind and an investment fund for small businesses, another agenda item is calling out for O'Malley's attention: pension reform.

Lawmakers grew so frustrated Friday that they took the weekend to cool down. Now, they must work to settle differences on state employee pensions and health care as they race to complete their budget duties. 

In an interview last week, O'Malley said he had aimed high this session.

"Those are big, difficult issues that require a lot of understanding and a lot of outreach within the General Assembly and within the public," he said. "I didn't run for a second term to do easy things."

Critics say there's another reason his agenda has foundered: his new role in Washington as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. He has spent sizable chunks of the 90-day state legislative session in the nation's capital.

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Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 9:33 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 legislative session, Administration

March 30, 2011

Nancy Grasmick to step down June 30


Updated with Liz Bowie report from school headquarters

Maryland schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick is stepping down from her post as the nation's longest-serving state education chief.

Grasmick, 72,, announced her retirement this afternoon to a large gathering of workers at the state Department of Education office that bears her name. She'll step down June 30.

"I have made a very tough decision to leave," she said. She highlighted the state's accomplishments on its Advanced Placement performance, its preparation for kindergartners and its successful Race to the Top application.

"I am never saying goodbye. We have three more months together. We will prepare for the next journey," she said with her voice breaking.

Staff members hugged her and cried. One employee, Mary Gamble, said, "She is a fabulous visionary leader, a marker for all superintendents across the country."

Gov. Martin O'Malley thanked Grasmick in a statement this afternoon.

"From her days teaching deaf children in Baltimore City, to now serving as the head of America's number one public school system, Dr. Grasmick has been long-regarded as a champion for many of the progressive reforms we've implemented in Maryland," the governor said.

Continue reading "Nancy Grasmick to step down June 30" »

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Categories: Administration

March 22, 2011

O'Malley to pull $2.3b prescription drug contract

Gov. Martin O'Malley will defer a Board of Public Works vote on a contested $2.3 billion prescription drug contract until an appeals process is finished, according to a spokesman.

O'Malley's Department of Budget Management wants to award the mega-contract to an out-of-state firm with a history of complaints in more than two dozen states, including Maryland, of swapping drugs on patients. The company, Express Scripts, offered a price for the five year contract that came in $50 million less than the closest competitor.

The Maryland-based Catalyst Health Solutions Inc., which currently holds the contract, has filed multiple protests contesting the new award. O'Malley's decision will delay transferring the lucrative work until after the State Board of Contract Appeals process is finished, which could take a year.

"This is fairly standard for a contract of this size," said O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec. He added that the Maryland company should be able to "exercise all of its options."

Some in O'Malley's administration had previously argued that the potential savings from the new contract of roughly $15 million in the next budget was enough to operate outside the usual framework.

The contract is to manage the prescription drug program for 200,000 current and retired state workers over the next five years. The company would process drugs claims and negotiate lower prices for medications with pharmacies and manufactures.

Catalyst, based in Rockville, won the contract five years ago from another firm. However, Catalyst had to wait a year before receiving payments from the state because of protests filed by the company that they beat.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:40 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Administration

March 17, 2011

Governor denies 7 commutation requests; Senate moves to limit role

Taking action for the first time on the growing pile of parole commission recommendations on his desk, Gov. Martin O'Malley has declined to commute the sentences of seven inmates serving life in prison, his office announced Thursday.

The decisions came as lawmakers weigh changes to the governor's role in the parole process.

Under current law, a convict serving a life sentence may not be freed without the approval of the governor. There is no requirement that the governor act on a recommendation by the state parole commission.

On Thursday, a Senate committee voted to give the governor 180 days to object to a commission’s recommendation to release a convict before the inmate is freed automatically. The House has passed legislation that would set a 90-day deadline.

O’Malley’s fellow Democrats have criticized his inaction on 50 parole and commutation recommendations, some of which were waiting when he took office in January 2007.

On Thursday, his office announced that he had rejected commission recommendations to commute the life sentences of five Baltimore City men convicted of murder, one Baltimore man convicted of first-degree rape and one Prince George's County man convicted of murder. They range in age from 55 to 73; all have been behind bars since the 1970s.

A spokesman for O'Malley said the governor was unavailable to comment Thursday. Spokesman Shaun Adamec said O'Malley decided to deny the parole commission's recommendations after reviewing the cases. He said the other 43 cases remain under review.

The timing of the announcement was noted by several senators at Thursday’s hearing.

Continue reading "Governor denies 7 commutation requests; Senate moves to limit role" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:35 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: 2011 legislative session, Administration, Crime & Justice

February 23, 2011

Maryland retains coveted AAA bond rating

Maryland remains one of eight states with the highest possible credit rating, a reflection, Gov. Martin O'Malley said this morning, of "tough choices" and "fiscal responsibility."

Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch assigned the state its AAA rating in preparation for the sale of $485 million in general obligation bonds next month.

Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp said the assessment shows that Maryland's fiscal picture is "basically strong with a recovering economy." The treasurer, who is up for reappointment tomorrow by the General Assembly, praised the Democratic governor and legislature for tackling long-term debt issues like the pension system and health care. 

Republicans quickly dispatched statements saying the rating is more a measure of the agencies' belief that Marylanders are amenable to higher taxes. "All a AAA bond rating means is you are willing to raise Any tax, Anytime, on Anyone," Eastern Shore Republican Del. Michael Smigiel posted on his Twitter account.

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Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 11:19 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Administration

February 7, 2011

O'Malley taps VA's Sam Abed to lead juvenile agency

Maryland's new Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed will meet the press today after touring the city juvenile lockup, one of the state's most problem-plagued facilities. He began work last week, after a recent appointment to the post by Gov. Martin O'Malley, The Sun reported this morning.

Abed will take questions at 11 a.m., but some are already raising them. House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell is among the lawmakers who wonder whether five years as a deputy official in another state -- Abed's resume -- provides enough of a base of knowledge. But other lawmakers, including Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, think Abed will be a breath of fresh air, unafraid to propose new ideas or pose questions. 

This is the second cabinet-level appointment O'Malley has made since winning a new term in November. Last month, he selected the FDA's Joshua Sharfstein, a former Baltimore health administrator, as the new leader of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 9:37 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration

February 4, 2011

State buyout numbers are in: 667 will leave

Gov. Martin O'Malley's buyout plan will not save quite as much money as hoped: Just under 700 state workers will leave early, saving the state $30.7 million. The governor's budget assumed 1,000 would leave saving $40 million.

"We had to go to the printer with the budget before we had a chance to decide which we would accept," said O'Malley chief of staff Matthew Gallagher. The budget includes at $120 million cushion, which can be used to absorb the difference, said Shaun Adamec, an O'Malley spokesman.

Three agencies took the bulk of the reductions: Maryland Department of Transportation loses 125; the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene loses 124; and the Department of Human Resources loses 105.

The state's public defenders office, which has gone through a leadership overhaul in recent years, will lose 34.

Workers who leave early receive a base $15,000 lump sum plus $200 for every year of service.

The state reported that 1,230 applied for the program. Gallagher said the O'Malley administration worked with the agencies to be sure no single department was depleted.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:17 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Administration

February 3, 2011

NJ Gov. Christie mocks O'Malley's pension plan

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican darling, had harsh words for Gov. Martin O'Malley's pension plan and approach toward public employees in an interview set to air this evening on FOX Business Network.

The New Jersey governor, who has built a national reputation for standing up to public sector employee unions, distinguished his New Jersey approach from "that pabulum Governor O’Malley was spewing down in Maryland," according to a transcript of the interview.

The comments appear to be retribution for a swing O'Malley took at Christie last week on WTOP radio. O'Malley accused the New Jersey governor of "being abusive towards public employees."

Christie, in the FOX interview challenges O'Malley to "come to New Jersey and listen to what I am saying rather than listening to his democratic consultants."

Christie  says he is "shining a bright light" on the costs of public pensions. "Governor O’Malley calls that picking on public sector workers," Christie says. "I call that telling the people who are paying the bills the truth and not kissing up to every special interest you want to have on your side to get electoral success.".

Despite the heated rhetoric the two men don't appear to be taking radically different approaches to pension reform.

Both are keeping a defined benefit system rather than moving to a 401(k) type plan. Both increase the retirement age for state workers (in O'Malley's case, for workers who are new to the system); both are fiddling with cost of living increases (Christie is eliminating them while O'Malley is tying them to investment performance); and both are making changes to retirement health care.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:05 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Administration

January 27, 2011

Governor to seek horse racing subsidies, oversight

Gov. Martin O'Malley wants state officials to review the financial documents of private horse tracks in exchange for giving track owners access to millions of dollars per year in subsidies if they need the money to operate.

Sen. David Brinkley, a Frederick County Republican, praised the governor's intervention efforts but called the proposal "a Band-Aid on an arterial wound." The administration and lawmakers have wrestled for years with how to save horse racing -- and the jobs and land preservation that accompany the struggling industry.

In legislative briefings today and Wednesday, O'Malley's aides said the forthcoming proposal would look similar to the emergency deal the governor struck at the end of the year, when the Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County and Pimlico in Baltimore, said it did not have enough money to pay for a full, 146-day racing calendar this year.

The state gave the Jockey Club, operated by MI Developments and Penn National Gaming, $3.6 million in money generated by the fledgling slot-machine gambling program. It is supposed to be used for track improvements. Instead, it'll be used just to keep the tracks open.

Joseph Bryce, O'Malley's top legislative aide, said the administration is crafting bills that would give track owners ongoing access to slots money for operations -- a proposal that would last "a couple of years."

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Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 12:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: 2011 legislative session, Administration, Slots

January 25, 2011

Business groups want transit funds in a lockbox

A constellation of Maryland business groups believe the state must raise more money for transportation, but they also want a constitutional amendment to wall off the funds so it can't be used elsewhere in the budget.

Members of the group, called START (State Transportation Alliance to Restore Trust), say they've become frustrated by Gov. Martin O'Malley's habit of closing budget shortfalls by raiding transit funds. In next year's budget, for example, O'Malley proposed taking $30 million from the Transportation Trust Fund to fill up the state's Rainy Day Fund.

Don Fry, the head of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said Tuesday that the repeated raids have caused "an undermining" of the Transportation Trust Fund. Kathy Snyder, the president and CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce said "hundreds of millions of dollars" are needed to attack a backlog of transportation projects, but her members are hesitant to support new revenues -- like a hike to the gas tax -- out of fear that the funds would be moved elsewhere.

A tax package aimed at replenishing the trust fund will be introduced in coming days by Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola, who also supports protecting the money for transit projects. He estimates the state needs an additional $400 to $600 million a year, but wouldn't provide details about his plan on Tuesday. One option frequently discussed is an increase to the gas tax: One penny nets the state $30 million.

But Garagiola has a timing problem if he wants an ironclad protection on money he'd raise this year. Changes to the state's constitution must be approved by the voters and they won't see another ballot until November 2012.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:36 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Administration

January 19, 2011

O'Malley to begin second term today

Lawmakers and VIPs will squeeze into Maryland's state Senate chamber at noon today to observe Gov. Martin O'Malley being sworn in for his second and final term in office. But the highlight occurs outside afterward when the governor takes the stage for his inaugural address.

The governor's been preparing for the speech in part by reading the beginning-of-term addresses given across the country by his fellow governors. "You see a theme emerging of the choices, the investments, the things we need to do" to return the country to a more prosperous path, he said in a recent interview.

O'Malley referred to some GOP governors as the "new secessionists"  who are part of "the make government go away crowd."

"The language is different then the language you are hearing from the Democratic governors," O'Malley said. "The difference between us and them is we're in the fight for our future. We have to make the right decisions today. There is certain urgency."

O'Malley was particularly stuck by a speech given earlier this month by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, another second-term Democrat who presides over a left-of-center state. Patrick stressed that his state leads the country in education and health care, and is creating jobs at a fast clip. Gloucester Times writer Chris Cassidy summarized the speech thusly: "It laid out an agenda of creating jobs, strengthening schools, cutting health care costs and ending urban violence."

O'Malley said it "might have been given in Maryland."

After a 14-point victory in a Republican year, O'Malley enters his second term in a position of enviable strength, a topic we wrote about in today's Sun. He also benefits from a Democratic-controlled state legislature at home and a new national position as the head of the DGA, which could let him reach a wider audience.

But he also faces challenges: He says this year's budget will the the toughest he's ever introduced and he also hopes to tackle the ballooning pension costs this year.

Among the dignitaries expected to attend today's festivities is Virgina Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican who worked actively to unseat O'Malley during the recent campaign. In one episode, the Virginia governor made a personal round of phone calls to reporters writing stories about the Republican Governors Association backing away from O'Malley's rival, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich  Jr.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Administration

January 11, 2011

O'Malley to welcome Congressional Dems to MD

Gov. Martin O’Malley will travel to the Eastern Shore the day after he is inaugurated to address the members of the U.S. House of Representative’s House Democratic Caucus at their annual meeting which is in Cambridge this year.

U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House Democratic Whip, said O’Malley was invited because of his new role as the head of the Democratic Governors Association, a position he may use in the next year (or two) to expand his national profile. Also, Hoyer noted, Maryland is hosting the event. His role will include welcoming the representatives.

The Cambridge speech will be short, and is set for Jan. 20 at the Democratic Caucus Issues Conference, will give O’Malley a rare chance to rub shoulders with many of the country’s top Congressional Democrats and build relationships that could be helpful down the road. O’Malley is term limited.

Hoyer said that O’Malley is “getting respect around the country” for his 14-point victory in a year where Democrats faired poorly at ballot boxes.

Its the first in a trio of out-of-state nationally focused events O’Malley has planned in the coming weeks. Next month he’ll speak on a panel set up by Governing Magazine in Washington, D.C. and, as DGA head, he plans to address hundreds at the Virginia Democratic party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:06 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Administration

State to begin assessing buyout applicants

Almost 1,400 state workers have asked for the buyout offered by Gov. Martin O'Malley as a way to shed personnel costs. The number, shy of the 1,500 he was seeking, is likely to drop further in the coming days.

Employees have until Friday to rescind their offer. And not all who applied will be granted the buyout. Some employees have grumbled that their superiors have told them they can not participate.

Under the terms of the Voluntary Separation Program, employees who agree to retire by the end of this month would receive a $15,000 payout plus $200 for each year of service. The buyout program is designed to help avoid layoffs in a year in which the state faces a $1.6 billion deficit.

Continue reading "State to begin assessing buyout applicants" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 6:00 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Administration

January 7, 2011

O'Malley: Pleased with Thursday's response

Maryland's governor defended his decision to continue his public appearances Thursday after two incendiary devices ignited spewing smoke and a small flame.

“Once we decided it was not the type of thing that would have caused bodily harm I went ahead with my normal schedule," he told reporters at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. "I felt it was inappropriate to call a press conference over what was a sparkler,” O’Malley said.

Pressed by one TV reporter about why he chose not to "calm any fears that the public may have had" O'Malley quipped: "Your question is better directed to CNN and FOX."

He also said he "didn’t want to overplay,” the incident. He said that people "in this age" must always be "vigilant and on guard against acts of terror.”

“Overall I think we responded appropriately.” O’Malley said.

He predicted one consequence will be "a lot more mail scanned in the months and days ahead.”
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

Worker who opened incendiary package back on job

A man who identified himself as “Hank,” the state employee who opened a package addressed to Gov. Martin O’Malley containing an incendiary device Thursday afternoon, was back at work today in the Jeffery Building – handling packages and in good spirits.

O’Malley identified the employee as Hank on Thursday. When a Baltimore Sun reporter caught up to him today, he declined to give his last name. He was in the lobby of the Jeffrey Building at 1 p.m. carrying a U.S. Postal Service box in his hands.

“Everything’s fine,” said the Eastern Shore native. “I’m fine.”

Wearing a number five Baltimore Ravens jersey, he proclaimed with a smile, “It’s purple Friday!” But the mailroom employee, who has worked there for “a couple of years” said although the governor’s office had given him the go-ahead to talk to the news media, he wanted to stay “private.”

“That’s OK, thanks,” he said, quickening his pace as he walked from the Jeffrey Building onto State Circle with another mail room employee. “I know I can talk. I just don’t want to.”

His gloveless fingers, which the state police said had been “singed” by the flash of fire that ignited when he opened the package, appeared undamaged as he held tight to the postal box.

“I’m fine,” Hank repeated.

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 1:22 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

January 5, 2011

Changing of the guard at MD health department

Outgoing Maryland health secretary John Colmers was smiling broadly this afternoon as Gov. Martin O'Malley made the official announcement that his job would go to Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, the No. 2 official a the Food and Drug Administration and long-time ally of the governor.

O'Malley heaped praise on Colmers, saying he did an "outstanding job" and the four years he held the position "flew by." Colmers showed no regrets about his decision to leave, though said leading Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is "the best health job in Maryland."

Colmers plans to stay in Maryland and focus on health care reform. He told us he's "talking" to a few groups but won't say who.

O'Malley also introduced Sharfstein, 41, a man he first hired five years ago to be Baltimore's Health Commissioner. The two clearly like each other: O'Malley joked that Sharfstein is leaving his federal job to "round out his resume" with a state position. The governor also punted questions about potential cuts to agency's budget to Sharfstein who didn't say much about what could be sliced.

Plus the governor prompted Sharfstein to thank his wife and two young boys, who came to the Annapolis news conference. Sharfstein's parents, both doctors, also attended. 
Posted by Annie Linskey at 2:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration

January 4, 2011

Report: Sharfstein to head Health and Mental Hygiene

The number two official at the Food and Drug Administration will join the O'Malley administration.

Josh Sharfstein, the agency's Principal Deputy Commissioner would lead the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, according to a source familiar with the transition. That bureaucracy is now headed by Secretary John M. Colmers. The news was first reported by CQ's John Reichard.

A spokesman for Colmers referred calls to the governor's office, as did Sharfstein. O'Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec said O'Malley is planning a press conference concerning DHMH in Annapolis Wednesday morning.

The state's health secretary oversees a $9 billion budget which includes the sprawling Medicaid program. The new secretary will have a significant role in implementing the Obama health care overhaul, an issue that O'Malley is prioritizing.

The change would bring Sharfstein much closer to home: The 41-year-old is a resident of Baltimore's Mount Washington neighborhood. Plus he's  familiar with Maryland politics -- before President Barack Obama tapped him for the FDA, Sharfstein was Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's health commissioner.

Most recently Sharfstein was the FDA's front man in its efforts to ban alcohol infused energy drinks like Four Loko. His name is frequently mentioned in the national press, where he's been closely associated with with the federal agency's new tougher stance on enforcement including recalls of pediatric medications and pistachios.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 9:20 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Administration, People, Washington

December 22, 2010

O'Malley brokers deal to save horse racing

Update: Hanah Cho is now reporting that there's a deal in the horse racing standoff.

"Gov. Martin O'Malley brokered this morning a last-minute deal between the owners of Maryland's two major thoroughbred tracks and the horsemen and breeders to guarantee live races next year — less than 24 hours after a state commission rejected a proposed schedule.

The owners of Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course and representatives of horse owners and breeders — who traded some contentious words on Tuesday night at a Maryland Racing Commission meeting — agreed after a meeting at the State House this morning to a framework that would allow the tracks to at least break even financially and run 146 days in 2011, the same as this year's schedule.

The agreement, which would need the racing commission's approval, calls for the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association to contribute $1.7 million and the state to transfer $3 million to $4 million from the state's slot-machine program to help pay for the Maryland Jockey Club's operations. The slots revenue had been earmarked for a track improvements."

Earlier post below:

Continue reading "O'Malley brokers deal to save horse racing" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 10:50 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Administration

December 7, 2010

O'Malley offers buyouts

Gov. Martin O'Malley today offered state workers $15,000 a piece if they resign by the end of January, the latest effort by the administration to cut costs as they look ahead to another massive budget hole next year.

Not all of the state's 79,000 employees will qualify for the plan. Those who do will also receive $200 for each year of state employment.

In a statement accompanying the announcement, O'Malley said Maryland continues to "face significant budget challenges" and told workers "we all need to do more to cut costs."

He also said the plan will help avoid layoffs, a goal he has repeatedly mentioned. Already state workers have seen their pay reduced three years in a row via furloughs, with employees giving up between five and 10 days of pay depending on their salary.

The state's work force has contracted since O'Malley took office, shedding 1,286 positions since 2007 -- a reduction of 1.6 percent. The General Assembly this year required that the executive branch eliminate 500 additional workers, though most believed those reductions would come from erasing empty positions or attrition.

O'Malley's fiscal leaders are currently working on next year's budget, a spending plan that will have to take account for an expected $1.6 billion gap between revenues and expenditures. O'Malley has said the plan will rely on a "continued diet of cuts" rather than any new taxes.

(A longer version of this story appeared in Wednesday's Sun.)

Posted by Annie Linskey at 12:13 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Administration

November 23, 2010

Higher education sec also leaving

James E. Lyons Sr., the state's secretary of Maryland's Higher Education Commission, is also leaving the O'Malley administration, we just learned.

That makes two high level departures in one day, and three in the past week. Lyons is retiring and will leave his post as of January 1.

In a statement, Gov. Martin O'Malley thanked Lyons for his "remarkable service" and called him "an effective leader."

Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:47 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration

Department of Environment Secretary to leave

Maryland’s Secretary of the Environment, Shari T. Wilson, is leaving her post in two weeks, making her the second cabinet-level official to leave the O’Malley Administration since the election.

Gov. Martin O’Malley offered praise in a statement announcing her departure, complimenting her work on new storm water management regulations and climate change rules. "Shari brought an in-depth knowledge of environmental and public health issues to MDE," O'Malley said. "Her expertise will be missed.”

Wilson did not seek re-appointment for a "personal" reason, according to a news release from the agency.

Wilson was the target of intense criticism during the recent gubernatorial campaign, with small business-owners and developers frequently complaining that the agency took too long to reply to requests and unevenly implemented the law.

On the campaign trail Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich would call MDE alternatively the “most broken” or “second most broken” state agency.

The agency is charged with overseeing environmental regulations including compliance with new tougher federal rules, but remains chronically underfunded and understaffed. A recent fiscal analysis showed that the agency’s roughly $264 million budget needs an additional $3 million a year to keep up with personnel costs and additional state and federal mandates.

Robert Summers, a Deputy Secretary at MDE, will take over on an interim basis, the agency announced.

O'Malley's embattled Juvenile Services secretary, Don DeVore, also announced last week that he would not stay on for a second term.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 3:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

November 22, 2010

1,700 miles away, O'Malley says no to taxes

Gov. Martin O'Malley spent the weekend in Denver for a meeting of the National Governors Association, a group that grew redder with Republicans on Nov. 2. There, the incumbent Democrat told a Bloomberg reporter that Maryland's budget will be balanced entirely with cuts.

From the Bloomberg piece

“We’re going to be on a constant diet of deep and painful cuts,” he said. The trick, he said, will be preserving the state’s economic resiliency, he said.

"There are certain priorities that we must protect in order to continue to come out of this recession,” he said. O’Malley said he hoped to spare college affordability and tax credits for research-job creation from the deepest reductions.

Areas that may be cut, he said, are corrections, employee costs, pensions and Medicaid, the federal-state health-care program for the poor.

Analysts for the Maryland General Assembly say that the state faces a $1.6 billion gap next fiscal year, created in part by flagging revenues and growing costs of health care and other state services. O'Malley's deficit estimate is slightly lower.   

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 4:39 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

November 19, 2010

O'Malley selects a new state prosecutor

Gov. Martin O'Malley picked Emmet Davitt, a staff attorney on the Public Service Commission, to be the new state prosecutor.

Davitt's prosecutorial experience comes from time in the criminal division of the Attorney General's office. There he led the the insurance fraud unit. Other courtroom experience on his resume includes prosecuting drug cases in Baltimore.

He graduated from the University of Maryland's law school and earned his undergrad degree from the University of Virginia, according to his bio on the Community College of Baltimore County's website. He is listed as a member of the Board of Trustees for that college.

Davitt would take over from outgoing prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh, who was appointed to the six year term by Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich and did not seek re-appointment.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:59 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Administration

November 18, 2010

Juvenile services secretary steps down

Maryland's embattled Juvenile Services secretary is stepping down to pursue "an opportunity in a different state," the agency announced this afternoon. The secretary, Donald W. DeVore, is the first cabinet-level departure since Gov. Martin O'Malley won a second term.

DeVore's last year was marred by the sexual assault and murder of a teacher, apparently at the hands of a student, at the Cheltenham Youth Facility in Prince George's County. State auditors also recently turned up chronic problems with the agency's procurement and bureaucratic procedures.

In today's Sun, my colleague Julie Bykowicz reported that DeVore (the man on the right with the red tie) was called on the carpet at Wednesday's Board of Public Works meeting when he was forced to defend $171 million in no-bid contracts that were in place for nearly five years without board approval.

From The Sun story: "Asked after the meeting whether he planned to remain as secretary through O'Malley's second term, DeVore said he was having 'private conversations' with the governor about that."

O'Malley's spokesman Shaun Adamec says the Administration will conduct a national search for a replacement and added that DeVore will stay on until the transition is complete.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 4:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

November 17, 2010

Franchot 'fed up' with 'sloppiness' at DJS

Comptroller Peter Franchot blasted the state Department of Juvenile Services for "administrative sloppiness" that led to a request this morning for the approval of $171 million in no-bid contracts for which work has already been performed.

DJS Secretary Donald W. DeVore said he has made personnel changes and warned his agency officials of "dire consequences" if they continue to circumvent state procurement procedure. He also said he is implementing better contract tracking tools, included a color-coded "dashboard."  

"I'm fed up with it," Franchot said, adding that DeVore has "no credible explanation for why it happened." The multi-year contracts date to July 2008, though some were entered as recently as August of this year, and were uncovered by state auditors.

The exchange at the Board of Public Works followed an audit released last month that described procurement problems and other bureaucratic disorganization in Juvenile Services. The agency oversees juveniles charged with and found responsible for crimes and has an annual budget of about $275 million.

Continue reading "Franchot 'fed up' with 'sloppiness' at DJS" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 2:55 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Administration

Franchot wants caffeinated alcoholic beverages pulled

Maryland’s comptroller wants the state’s liquor stores to stop selling caffeinated alcoholic beverages like the ones made by Four Loko.

Comptroller Peter Franchot called the drinks “a clear public health and public safety threat,” this morning at a Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis. He said that he's been working with industry representatives for about a week to come to an agreement that would pull them from the shelves.

Bruce Bereano, a lobbyist for two major liquor wholesalers in Maryland, said his clients would agree to the ban. "They will cooperate," he said. Bereano did not know exactly when the beverages would be pulled.

Dangers associated with the drinks have been the source of national news stories in recent days, and Franchot said the Federal Drug Administration appears poised take action some action today on the topic, possibly banning the drinks. The comptroller said he wants companies to yank the drinks before that expected administrative process plays out.

The action might not be necessary, according to news reports Four Loko, one of the major manufacturers of the drink, is going remove caffeine and a few other ingredients from the beverage.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:49 AM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Administration

November 4, 2010

The next four years begins

Gov. Martin O'Malley put the kitchen table adorned with stickers from the campaign trail in the center of the room for his first post-election cabinet meeting in Annapolis this morning.

"The kitchen table was dragged all over our great state," he told the officials. "This is going to be the symbol for the next four years."

Only the first part of the cabinet meeting was open to the press ... but as reporters were leaving Budget Secretary T. Eloise Foster began her briefing with an ominous note. "It's going to be a tough year," she told the agency heads.

Over the summer, while the political world has been in campaign mode, the agencies had been given reduction targets to fill a General Assembly mandate to cut 500 positions. Most -- if not all -- can come from erasing vacant positions. But, she said repeatedly, it is "too early to tell" what jobs go.

This morning, we looked ahead to what O'Malley might do to kick off his second term. Among the options: overhauling the cabinet.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 11:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration

October 8, 2010

Obama back in Maryland again today

Less than 24 hours after headlining a re-election rally for Gov. Martin O'Malley in Prince George's County, President Barack Obama was back in Maryland (and P.G.) delivering a brief statement on the latest jobless figures.

Obama's destination was Bladensburg, which he's previously used as a handy real-world backdrop. It's minutes from the White House but outside the evil capital city, if only barely (the entire event--door-to-door--took less than an hour of the president's day).

After touring Ernest Maier, Inc, a block and masonry company, Obama called economic recovery "the moral and national challenge of our time."

The president attempted to put a positive spin on the economy's very slow pull out of the worst downturn since the Depression. But as he stood behind a microphone on the shop floor, he acknowledged that "the damage (has been) so deep that it's going to take a long time to get out."

Trying to look the part of a chief executive working to turn things around, he addressed a live cable TV audience coatless, with shirtsleeves rolled (though his tie remained tightly knotted).

Obama touted provisions of a small business jobs law that he recently signed, including one designed to bolster state lending programs.

"Maryland, for example, will be able to support $250 million in new lending for businesses that are expanding and creating jobs in communities like this one," he said.

The latest jobs report, the final one before next month's midterm election, was more bad news for the administration and for Democratic candidates who--unlike Obama--are facing voters at a time of discontent and unease spurred by persistently high unemployment and slow economic growth.

Non-farm payrolls dropped by 95,000 nationwide, a result not only of the end of temporary Census jobs but also a reduction in employment by hard-hit state and local governments. The White House chose to highlight what little positive news there was in the latest figures.

Austan Goolsbee, the president's chief economic adviser, said in a statement: "Today’s employment report shows that private sector payrolls increased by 64,000 in September, continuing nine consecutive months of private sector job growth. This growth provides more evidence that the economy continues to recover, but we must do more to put the economy on a path of robust economic growth. At the same time, the rate of job growth is not as large as needed to bring the unemployment rate down quickly, as the unemployment rate remained at 9.6%."

Brendan Quinn,who bought the masonry block company from the Maier family in 2001, lives in Washington, DC. The chief operating officer, Frank Keeney, lives in Fallston, Maryland.

The lightning visit was Obama's 60th to Maryland since taking office.

Posted by Paul West at 12:40 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Administration

September 28, 2010

O'Malley defends labor department

** Updated to include GOP leaders calling for formal investigation

Gov. Martin O'Malley defended his labor department Tuesday morning after a lengthy stop at a Baltimore charter school. The agency is under fire for removing from their website a July jobs report that included a downbeat analysis of the state's recovery and replacing it with a sunnier talking points.

The governor said that a single month's worth of data was shaky ground to draw grim conclusions about the state's economy. "One month does not a trend make," O'Malley said.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, a Republican, held a news conference Monday to blast O'Malley for politicizing the agency and Audrey Scott, the chairwoman of the state's GOP, today called on the agency's secretary to resign. The GOP released a stack of emails showing communications staffers scrambling to deal with the "fiasco."

*** ADD ***
The state's  two top elected Repbulicans, House Minority Leader Anthony O'Donnell and Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman, requested that AG Doug Gansler launch a probe about possible "collusion in the effort to remove the orginial post." They've also asked the General Assembly's top Democrats, Sen Prez. Mike Miller and Speaker Mike Busch, to appoint an emergency committee to investigate.

Sanchez has said that the first version of the report, titled "Maryland's Market Stalls During July" was a draft and should have never been posted. It was taken down and replaced with one that contained more positive "approved messaging." The jobs numbers, put out in August, showed that the employers created 1,600 jobs that month, the slowest growth since the Maryland employers started adding jobs in April.

State economists wrote in their original analysis that they were worried about "declining consumer confidence and spending" and "lackluster hiring at the national level." Those factors them to believe that "Maryland's economic recovery faltered" in July. The second version of the report did not include the gloomy analysis.

O'Malley said he was unaware of the flap at the time, but said he agreed in principal with the later version. "What we shouldn’t do is put opinions randomly," he said. "The numbers are what they are and economists will differ on that. Whether those economists are people inside our staff or people in academia or other places."

But, the Department of Labor this month put out new data suggesting the state anaylists' first instincts were correct. The feds revised Maryland's July numbers to show that the state actually lost 1,000 jobs that month. The situation worsened in August, when employers cut 5,700 jobs. 
Posted by Annie Linskey at 1:33 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Administration

August 30, 2010

O’Malley to regulators: Pay more attention to PEPCO

Gov. Martin O’Malley wants the state agency that regulates utilities to keep a closer eye on PEPCO, the electricity company that provides power to Maryland’s Washington suburbs.

Hundreds of thousands in those areas underwent days of outages this summer after violent storms knocked out power lines. In a letter today to the state’s Public Service Commission, O’Malley asked regulators to establish standards for the frequency and duration of power outages – and then hold the company’s feet to the fire.

“We can no longer accept that utilities are trying their best” O’Malley wrote. “We must demand safe and reliable electric distribution service and responsive and meaningful customer communication as measured by objective standards.”

Montgomery County was walloped by two storms that left residents in the dark (and with no air-conditioning) -- A July storm left 200,000 without power; and this month a storm knocked out 90,000 residences.

But, what the county residents may lack from time to time in electrical power, they can make up in electoral clout. Montgomery is brimming with independent voters that could tip the balance in the upcoming gubernatorial contest, my colleague Julie Bykowicz wrote in The Sun this weekend.
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:03 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Administration

July 30, 2010

Maryland L.G. to govern lieutenant governors

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown has been elected leader of the National Lieutenant Governors Association.

A Prince George's County Democrat and the nation’s highest-ranking elected official to have served a tour of duty in Iraq, Brown takes the reins Virginia Lt. Governor Bill Bolling, a Republican. Brown has been lieutenant governor for four years under Gov. Martin O'Malley and is his running mate again this year.

Brown said in a statement that he is looking forward to "working more closely with my colleagues from across the nation to share ideas and best practices that will help Governor O’Malley and me fight for Maryland’s families and small businesses.”

The National Lieutenant Governors Association organized in 1962. Brown was elected today at its annual meeting, held this year in Biloxi, Miss. He had been its vice-chairman.

The lieutenant governor assumes leadership of the state if the governor becomes incapacitated. O'Malley-Brown have changed what was "once largely a ceremonial, ticket-balancing office into a position of influence and substance," according to a statement from Brown's office.

No lieutenant governor in Maryland has gone on to be elected governor. Brown's predecessor, Michael Steele who was Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s partner, unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate seat held by Ben Cardin. Steele is now chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 6:00 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Administration

July 28, 2010

Franchot, O'Malley weigh in on Charles Village killing

State Comptroller Peter Franchot this morning that he’s been haunted by news accounts of the weekend murder of a Johns Hopkins research assistant in Charles Village. Speaking before this morning's Board of Public Works meeting, Franchot said he’d like to talk with the suspects in the case.

“I just wish I could sometimes sit down with this person and say: What was it? Why did you murder him?” Franchot said.

Police arrested two suspects in the stabbing death of Stephen B. Pitcairn, who was killed Sunday after being robbed.

Franchot also said he wants a briefing on the O'Malley Administration’s work to help law enforcement target parolees suspected of continued violent criminal activity, a tactic police find useful because it is generally easier to have a suspect re-committed to prison via a simple violation of parole or probation hearing than by building a fresh criminal case.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has worked hard to increase communication between parole and probation agents and local police and prosecutors, said that the state is “doing much better” sharing information and pointed to the judicial system. He stressed that judges must play their role.

John Wagner, one of the two suspects in the killing, was charged six times with violating the terms of his probation, but in each instance a judge let him go.  "In this case the person was violated," O'Malley said. "This person was brought before a judge."

He added: “I don’t think I do a single interview with candidates for judges where I don’t emphasize the importance of protecting the rest of us from that small tiny group of people who harm others, who kill. That is the most important thing that a judge does is protect the public.”
Posted by Annie Linskey at 5:07 PM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Administration

July 27, 2010

Gov. notes strides on anniversary of disabilities act

Gov. Martin O'Malley celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act yesterday by highlighting his administration's strides in that arena and presenting citations to advocates of the issue.

O'Malley told hundreds of disabled people and their families and caregivers, who'd gathered at Camden Yards, that "there's no such thing as a spare individual" and "God loves even partial victories."

The Democratic governor, who is seeking reelection this fall, echoed themes of his stump speeches, saying jobs are key to protecting Maryland families and even leading the group on a "we move forward, not back," chant.

Continue reading "Gov. notes strides on anniversary of disabilities act" »

Posted by Julie Bykowicz at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Administration, People

July 22, 2010

Maryland scoops up $26 million in waste, fraud

Touting a favorite program, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown said Thursday the state’s health department has found $26 million in fraud and waste in the state Medicaid program.

The extra cash will not close the roughly $1.5 billion deficit that awaits the winner of November's gubernatorial election, but Brown argued the extra money will help.

Brown also used the occasion to remind folks that he lobbied to strengthen the state’s Medicaid False Claims Act during the legislative session (he’s photographed here testifying on that bill). The new bill created a civil penalty for Medicaid fraud, which lets the state collect damages and allows Maryland to piggyback on the larger and lucrative federal investigations.

Remarkably, state health and budget analysts believe that anywhere from 5 to 10 percent of the billions spent annually on Medicaid is lost to waste, fraud and abuse. Schemes include doctors billing the state for phantom patients and pharmaceutical companies wildly overbilling for drugs or devices.

Posted by Annie Linskey at 6:32 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Administration

July 19, 2010

Biden in Baltimore to boost O'Malley

Vice President Joe Biden heaped praise on Gov. Martin O’Malley at a Baltimore fundraiser Monday evening, Baltimore Sun colleague Annie Linskey reports, telling a room of 200 supporters that the governor can be trusted to lead in part because he “feels” the pain of ordinary Marylanders “in the gut.”

Speaking for half an hour at the private event at the Baltimore Hilton Convention Center, Biden highlighted some of the themes O’Malley regularly hits while on the stump: keeping jobs in Maryland and pushing a tax credit for small businesses.

Tickets to the event, intended to raise money for O’Malley’s reelection campaign, ranged from $250 to hear the Biden’s remarks to $1,000 for a brief private reception with the vice president. Members of the host committee paid $4,000.

Biden is the first big-name Democrat to stump for O’Malley, who is locked in a tight re-election race with his predecessor, Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. O’Malley has already spent more than his opponent, airing two radio commercials and a TV spot. Fundraising reports will not be public until August.

Biden said that he’s known the governor since O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore. “This is a man whose passion for Maryland starts in the gut and moves to the heart,” the vice president told the audience.

The economy and fiscal management was the theme of the day Monday. Hours before Biden arrived in Baltimore, The state Republican party issued a statement calling him “the Administration’s chiefspokesman for the failed stimulus bill” and saying that the legislation had failed to create as many positions as promised – a subject of continuing debate.

Continue reading "Biden in Baltimore to boost O'Malley" »

July 16, 2010

Auditors: Center must return $79,800 to state

A state home for intellectually disabled adults improperly kept nearly $80,000 that it should have returned to the state general fund at the end of fiscal year 2009, the Office of Legislative Audits reported Friday.

The state Department of Mental Health and Human Hygiene, which operates the Potomac Center in Hagerstown, has agreed to return the $79,800 to the general fund, according to a letter signed by Secretary John M. Colmers and included in the OLA report.

Auditors for OLA, an agency of Department of Legislative Services, found that the Potomac Center did not have adequate records to susbtantiate general fund expenditures it had accrued on June 30,2009, the last day of the fiscal year.

Under the comptroller’s State Policy on Accounts Payable, Accrued Expenditures and Encumbrances, expenditures should be accrued only when goods or services have been received before the end of the fiscal year but not paid. State law requires that any funds remaining at the end of the fiscal year be reverted to the state’s general fund.

The auditors said the Potomac Center is responsible for establishing and maintaining effective internal control of financial records, but acknowledged that errors or fraud might still occur and not be detected.

They said their audit “did not disclose any conditions that we consider to be significant deficiencies in the design or operation of internal control that could adversely affect the Center’s ability to maintain reliable financial records, operate effectively and efficiently, and/or complyu with applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”

Continue reading "Auditors: Center must return $79,800 to state" »

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 3:05 PM | | Comments (0)
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About the bloggers
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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