Senator relents, schedules hearing on stormwater compromise

The chairman of the General Assembly committee charged with reviewing new state regulations has agreed to consider the compromise on stormwater rules, planning a hearing for this week. But supporters of the compromise, concerned that the General Assembly’s Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review Committee might still decline to act on the regulations before the end of the legislative session, are continuing to keep open the possibility of forcing the stormwater compromise into law through a bill. Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat and the Senate chairman of the joint AELR committee, has scheduled a hearing on the compromise for Tuesday at 4 p.m. If the committee does not act on the regulations, then a Senate committee will likely move ahead with its plans to hold a hearing on the separate bill Thursday afternoon. The stormwater compromise — reached last month through difficult negotiations among environmentalists, lawmakers, builders and county... Continue reading
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State pension shortfall looms large for Maryland

By Tom LoBianco Maryland’s pension funding situation is one of the worst in the nation, a panel of financial experts said Tuesday. The state has chronically shortchanged its pension system since 2002, and payments to another pension system -- so-called Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEBs) – have been almost non-existent. The panel was convened as lawmakers prepare to pass a $32 billion budget, strapped together with massive spending cuts and one-time fund transfers designed to account for a $2.5 billion shortfall. Lawmakers are staring down an estimated $8.5 billion spending shortfall over the next four years, or more than $2 billion a year. The combined cost to fully meet state pension and OPEB benefits amounts to about $26 billion over the next 30 years, or slightly less than $1 billion a year on top of the existing shortfalls, according to a Pew Center for the States study. While that pension number may... Continue reading
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Josh Kurtz: Bob and Weave

Say this for former Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) as he makes his final calculations about running for governor: no matter what he says, no matter what he does, whether it’s on April 7 or some other day — the man has staying power. He captured the imagination of Republican insiders when he first won a Baltimore County legislative seat in 1986, at age 29, and he’s stayed there ever since. He has, single-handedly, kept hope alive for a generation of Maryland Republicans. Without him, the state GOP would be, hard as it is to fathom, in even worse shape than it is now. It’s a shame they haven’t cloned him: Ever since gliding to Congress with breathtaking ease in 1994, Ehrlich has been the one person who party leaders have wanted to run for Senate or governor every election cycle. He’s disappointed them as often as not; a shrewd political tactician,... Continue reading
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House approves stormwater legislation in effort to put compromise into law

Concerned that a compromise over new stormwater regulations is in jeopardy, the House of Delegates voted over the weekend to impose the compromise through legislation. The compromise -- reached earlier this month through difficult negotiations among environmentalists, lawmakers, builders and county officials -- is currently locked in a joint General Assembly committee, and the committee chairman is threatening to block the compromise because he believes environmentalists gave up too much. Under the stormwater regulations that are currently set to go into effect in May, builders have been concerned that projects that are underway -- but do not yet have final permits -- could be forced to go back to comply with new, stricter regulations, potentially costing millions of dollars. Many county officials have also been critical of the stricter regulations, warning that the rules could undermine their Smart Growth redevelopment efforts by making it prohibitively expensive to launch projects in older... Continue reading
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Breaking up a crime ring

Check out what Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson, Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger, and Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz had to say about the federal indictments related to a multi-million dollar organized retail theft operation in the region. In addition to discussing the smart police and regional cooperation, they discuss how the indictments illustrate why politicians in Annapolis should not weaken regulations on pawn shops and scrap metal dealers. Here's the Baltimore Sun's article on the indictments.... Continue reading
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