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More On The Upcoming General Assembly Session, Baltimore's Plans To Replace All Its Speed Cameras, and PSC Hearings On BGE's Rate Increase Proposal
January 8, 2013
Maryland lawmakers will stream into Annapolis tomorrow, for the first day of the 2013 General Assembly session. And it looks like they'll have a lot on their plates... they'll deal with topics ranging from transportation funding to gun control, speed cameras to offshore wind, and more. WYPR's Karen Hosler has been roaming the State House to get an idea of what could be on the agenda... and brings us this report.
Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed spending $336-million to build and upgrade Maryland public schools in the coming fiscal year; that includes $25-million for adding air conditioning to buildings that don't have it.The governor also says he is interested in learning more about Baltimore City's plan to fast track school renovations. Today, the city School Board is set to vote on that plan... it would cost $2.4-billion over 10 years, and result in the closure of 26 schools. If the Board approves the plan, it would have to be okayed by legislators in Annapolis (via our wire service, the Baltimore Sun, the Baltimore Business Journal, and WJZ).
Another issue before lawmakers is how to regulate the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing -- or "fracking" -- that drilling companies want to use to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation underneath Western Maryland. A state panel put out several recommendations yesterday, including imposing a "severance tax" on natural gas to pay for the impact that fracking could have on nearby communities (via the Baltimore Sun).
Also up for debate: Maryland's open meetings law. Delegate Dan Morhaim is introducing a bill that would give the state's Open Meetings Compliance Board the power to fine public bodies that close proceedings that should stay open. The Board currently has no power to impose penalties (via the Gazette).
Baltimore's getting rid of its automated speed cameras. At least, it's getting rid of the current ones -- the city's has announced that it will replace all 83 of the speed enforcement cameras that are currently operating with new ones, which it says will be more accurate. Some of the current cameras have error rates abover 5%. The upgrade could have a total price tag of around $450-thousand (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
Public hearings have begun on BGE's proposal to raise distribution rates on its customers. The utility wants to charge the average residential customer about $6.60 more per month to get electricity and about $4.25 more per month to get gas. Maryland's Public Service Commission has to sign off on the request, and the PSC has recently refused to grant the full rate increase requests of other utilities. Last night, the PSC held the first of five public hearings on the matter. There's another set for tomorrow in Baltimore, and a third in Towson on Thursday... with two more hearings set for next week. A final decision will likely come in February (via the Baltimore Sun; the PSC has information about hearings here).
The Baltimore County Council has a new chairman; yesterday, councilmembers unanimously elected Tom Quirk to lead them for the coming year (via the Baltimore Sun).
Maryland's three casinos took in $45-million during December. Overall the state's three casinos made about $378-million in 2012. Some analysts expect big revenue increases this year, with the addition of live table games in the spring, and the planned opening of a casino in Western Maryland in the summer (via our wire service, the Baltimore Business Journal, and the Baltimore Sun).
A new fire station is coming to Towson; it will be built at Towsontown Boulevard and Bosley Avenue, instead of Towson Manor Park as originally planned (via our wire service and the Baltimore Sun).
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