Friday, January 21, 2011

I Walk the Line

Annapolis- With many apologies to the late Johnnie Cash, the FY 2012 Budget toes a tight line with cuts to make the budget work.

According to the State these are the highlights:

• State budget is more than $34 Billion dollars.
• State tries to close $1.4 Billion shortfall.
• Uses reductions in workforce, makes state employees pay for benefits.
• Counties and cities will not get 100% of state property taxes, state will charge them for the operation of their assessment offices.

Who got lucky?

• The state schools remained at level funding.
• The Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust will see a 25% increase.
• Community Colleges received an increase.

There weren’t many smiles and a lot of challenges.

The Roundtable with Bryan Sears

Annapolis - This week I'm joined by Bryan Sears who writes for We talk about the budget.

Check out Bryan's post

If you're up on Sunday morning check out my appearance on Channel 11's TV Hill, 11:30 a.m.

New Minority Leader of Maryland

Annapolis - "There's a new sheriff of the "12 Apostles" or the "Dirty Dozen." Take your pick. Sen. Nancy Jobs was named the Minority leader and Sen. E.J. Piken was named the whip.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Observations from Maryland Inauguration

Annapolis, MD – The official swearing in ceremonies for the top two elected officials in the state came on one of the warmest days of the event that I have ever covered. Inaugurations are mandated by the constitution. They are conducted on the second Wednesday of January. There are actually two ceremonies. The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor are sworn in before a joint session of the legislature. Then the event is repeated outdoors before the public.

As protocol would have it, the Lieutenant Governor goes first and then the Governor. The ceremony is always conducted by the Chief Judge of the State of Maryland. For the last four governors it’s been Judge Robert Bell doing the swearing in. (I’m a big fan of the judge – first he’s one of the sharpest dressers I have ever met, and you know “he’s all that” because he cares “a man purse.” I ain’t mad at the judge.) Today he told he toned down his outfit. He was draped with a scarf that matched his bow tie. I thought his shoes were Bally’s (for sure Italian) and he wore a dark blue Berea. He looked like he just left the “Left Bank” in Paris, France.

Each of the speeches was a challenge to the audiences.

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm!!!

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was supposed to be the Mistress of Ceremonies, instead Speaker of the House Michael Busch filled in. Mayor Rawlings-Blake was attending the funeral of Baltimore Police Officer William H. Torbit, Jr., who was shot and killed outside a downtown nightclub. Also spotted in the crowd was Baltimore Councilman Carl Snowden who has announced he will try for third time to become Mayor of Baltimore.

The announcement of Senator Alan Kittleman stepping down as Minority Leader was a big buzz among legislators. Democrats praised his stance of same sex marriage. Republicans seem to accept his decision to take up the issue of civil unions. Senator E.J. Pipken summed up what most in the GOP were thinking, “We wanted to make sure it wasn’t a Republican position.” The likely successor will be Senator David Brinkley.

Joining the Marylanders at this event were Washington, DC Mayor Vincent Gray and Virginia Governor Robert McDonald.

Lastly, as I watched Lt. Governor Anthony Brown I noticed only his children were in attendance. Lieutenant Governor Brown has not hidden the fact his marriage has had “some challenges.” I’m guessing this confirms the Lieutenant Governor is now the state’s most eligible bachelor. Is there a potential shot he could become America’s next reality star?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sen. Kittleman Steps Down

In what some observers called "news to me" Senator Alan Kittleman says he will step down as Republican Minority leader in the Maryland Senate. The decision comes as he prepares to sponsor legislation recognizing civil unions of same sex couples.

It poses a particular problem in a Republican Caucus which has fewer numbers and is trying to stay true to its base. According to a report in the Baltimore Sun, Senator Kittleman would rather stay true to his principles. Such litmus test have posed problems for members of the GOP.

By example last year Senator David Brinkley help co sponsor legislation that would legalize marijuana usage for chronic pain suffers. Maryland has often had members of the GOP not following party purity. You can go all the way back to Sen. "Mac" Mathias.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Roundtable

Several people have asked for it so I thought I would bring it back, The Lou and Charles Show online. Get our honest assessment and what we're covering.

Oops…Where is Norman?

Annapolis – On Opening Day, Delegates and Senators are swamped with request, making sure spouses and relatives are in place, and last but not least making sure you’re in the chamber for the swearing in ceremony.

“No I wasn’t in the chamber,” Senator Norman Stone reluctantly told me. Senator Stone a member of the senate since 1967 says, “I just got this new watch (self winding) and it was fifteen minutes late. I was sitting in my officer for two hours.”

Donna L. Horgan, Chief Page of the Senate was the first to recognize the problem saying, “Where is Norman?” The hush following the discovery had several clerks with inquisitive looks.

While congratulations are being made by Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, in walks the Democratic Senator.

Since Tuesday, I’ve been wondering? By not taking the oath of office is it a violation of protocol not to be sworn in with your colleagues?

Senator Stone assures me he was sworn in, “I took the oath of office with two witnesses present following the session.”

All members of legislature who are duly elected must have their elections certified by the State Board of Elections. They are to take an oath of office and required to sign the official Senate roster.

Two out of three ain’t bad, but the oath? I think that’s kind of important. “In all my years I haven’t missed a swearing in ceremony.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Tempest Before the Storm

The process of getting prepared for the start of the legislature has nuisances. The varied party leaders are always "ginning up the troop."

For the Democrats it comes to head with their annual luncheon.

The Republicans for their part are all about business.

Some of us in the press corp giggled when Senate President Thomas V.(never knew the V stood for Vincent) Micheal Miller was introduced as a "gentle" legislator...Hmm?

There always accolades of the body and its leaders.

Returning by popular demand the "Lou and Charles Show." You'll see what we're working on, our take on the first week and the week to come.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Top Ten Maryland Legislative 2011 Issues

10. Balancing the books - With a $1.6 billion (I think its closer to $2 Billion but -who's counting) budget deficit the options for balancing the books is going to look ugly. Buyouts, pension reform, user fees (don't call them taxes), gasoline tax, asking local governments to pick up bigger share of what state gives them...hmmmm.!

9. Keeping Maryland Schools on Top - This is a tough one. For the last three years Maryland schools have been ranked number #1 in the nation. (I don't think they went to Prince George's County or Baltimore City - but they are improving). They have been spared the budget axe. Not this time. Will the axe fall on administration or teachers.

8. Coming in from the cold, MD GOP - for the last eight years the Maryland GOP set its sights on coming back to the governors mansion and increasing their size. Oops they have lost a number of members and are looking for an identity. Former Senator Alex Mooney is the chair of the MD GOP. Was he trying to signal change by suggesting he might run for the Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's seat? And why doesn't Republican County Executive John Leopold get any respect.

7. Who comes after O'Malley? With four years left Governor Martin O'Malley can reward friends and punish enemy's (it's not like he hasn't done it). The early favorites for his seat on the Democratic side are Attorney General Doug Gansler, Comptroller Peter Franchot, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and what about former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith. To gauge who's in the running I always watch who's in Annapolis for no apparent reason.

6. Liquor Tax - I appreciate all the individuals who believe a 10 cent a drink tax would be good to offset and help people who need health care coverage but this isn't going anywhere. Let's be clear the tax hasn't been changed since 1954. Guess what there's a reason for this and it begins with Senate President Mike Miller. His family owns a liquor store. He calls the suggestion of a "alcohol tax; nonsense." That pretty much ends the conversation.

5. Slots and Horse Racing: What a debacle. Eleventh hour negotiations produced a horse racing season this year but literally, all bets are off come 2012. The states major Thoroughbred race tracks want a redo because they were shut out of the slots business. Rosecroft Raceway has new buyers if only they will allow slots and table games. Baltimore's slots emporium is tied up in courts. Remember to change any of the rules there must be a statewide referendum.

4. Lobbying - Shhhhh!!!! don't tell anyone but there is likely to be a record year for people who pay to influence government. Pick a subject and someone has an axe to grind or money to pay for influence. It will be interesting to see the financial reports.

3. Local Jurisdictions - Can they keep the state from pulling back on providing resources while at the same asking for more assistance. This won't be pretty. There are some pretty savvy executives and the arm twisting has just begun.

2. New players with agenda's - There are 10 new Senators and 30 new Delegates. Some are familiar faces (Del. Herb McMillan) others are moving from one chamber to another (Senators Joanne Benson and Victor Ramirez). I'm watching Senator Ramirez. As the Senate's first Hispanic member he will be pushing this body to recognize the sons and daughter of undocumented workers. This body didn't want to deal with the issue but maybe this time with an advocate it could get a real hearing.

1. Who will O'Malley be? When you're in your last term as governor you can make bold statements and deliver on promises and crave out your legacy. With the defeat of his Republican nemesis, Robert Erhlich he doesn't have to be cautious. Will he throw caution to the wind or make calculate moves. This why I love watching politics.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Welcome to MD State of Mind

For those of you who've been fans this is my newest endeavor and looking for fans and followers. I've been covering Maryland Politics for nearly 20 years. I've decided to sort out the Maryland stuff from my national material because it makes sense.

While the Maryland legislative session is in you'll get a lot of stuff that doesn't make the air. You'll also get some insight on where some legislation is going and what's up with things in state.

You'll also get previews of my work on MPT and my numerous radio appearances. Some of the Maryland material may be posted on Charles Black Politics.

I want you to join the conversation. This is not one sided but interactive.