Your daily download of Maryland’s top political news and analysis
Monday, January 4, 2010:
Welcome to 2010, and Maryland’s Year in Politics: It starts next week when lawmakers return to Annapolis to tackle another multibillion-dollar budget shortfall. From there, it only gets more intriguing as Gov. Martin O’Malley and hundreds of other (mostly Democratic) lawmakers seek re-election. Will Democrats lose some of their Maryland supermajority? Will former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. run? Will the state deal with same-sex marriage and the death penalty? Will Rep. Frank Kratovil (D) hold on to his Eastern Shore seat? Stay tuned. The Post’s Maryland politics team will bring you all the developments. This morning, the New Year’s Weekend roundup:
Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.
The company, Beef Products Inc., had been looking to expand into the hamburger business with a product made from beef that included fatty trimmings the industry once relegated to pet food and cooking oil. The trimmings were particularly susceptible to contamination, but a study commissioned by the company showed that the ammonia process would kill E. coli as well as salmonella.
Officials at the United States Department of Agriculture endorsed the company’s ammonia treatment, and have said it destroys E. coli “to an undetectable level.” They decided it was so effective that in 2007, when the department began routine testing of meat used in hamburger sold to the general public, they exempted Beef Products.
With the U.S.D.A.’s stamp of approval, the company’s processed beef has become a mainstay in America’s hamburgers. McDonald’s, Burger King and other fast-food giants use it as a component in ground beef, as do grocery chains. The federal school lunch program used an estimated 5.5 million pounds of the processed beef last year alone.
The search is on! The March of Dimes of Southern Maryland is beginning the selection process for the 2010 Southern Maryland Ambassador. The Southern Maryland Ambassador Program is a semi-annual campaign that puts a face on the March of Dimes mission…the face of a child who was helped by March of Dimes-funded research, programs, or educational campaigns designed to improve infant health. As a living symbol of the March of Dimes mission to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality, the Southern Maryland Ambassador plays a vital role in promoting the Foundation’s outreach.
Throughout the year, the Southern Maryland Ambassador and at least one parent travel across the region to meetings, special events, conferences, and fundraising activities, sharing their compelling story with audiences. During these visits, the Southern Maryland Ambassador may participate in media interviews and photo sessions and makes appearances with local celebrities, public officials, and senior-level corporate management to increase public, awareness of the March of Dimes mission.
All interested persons may request an application package by contacting Jennifer Abell at (703) 824-0111 ext.17 or by email email@example.com. All 2010 application forms are due no later than Friday, January 29, 2010.
Early versions of the Senate’s far-reaching health care bill said that small businesses with fewer than 50 workers would not be penalized if they failed to provide insurance. That was before labor unions in the construction industry went to work and persuaded Senate leaders to insert five paragraphs.
Their provision, added to the 2,074-page bill at the last minute, singles out the construction industry for special treatment, in a way that benefits union members and contractors who use union labor.
The Internal Revenue Service plans to start regulating paid tax preparers, requiring them to register with the government, pass competency tests and adhere to ethical standards.
The regulations, announced Monday, will not be in effect for the current filing season — individual tax returns are due April 15. But IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said Monday that tax preparers will be held to higher standards in future years as the IRS steps up its oversight.
Personalities dominate much of the past 10 years in state politics
Voters gambled on slots. The state began construction of a long-planned highway. Old lions retired, and new faces rose to prominence. Many are glad the decade is over, but few can say it was an uneventful one for Maryland politics.
Here are 10 of the biggest political stories of the past decade.
Case Number C09-1912 - Circuit Court for Charles County in La Plata, Maryland tomorrow January 5, 2010 at 9:30 am before Judge Nalley. It is in courtroom C, second floor. Enter courthouse from the rear, go to second floor. Courtroom A at Left, Another left courtroom C.
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Japan’s prime minister said Monday he will press for more equal ties with Washington this year, the 50th anniversary of a joint security treaty that grants many special privileges to U.S. troops stationed in the country.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, in a New Year’s speech shown live on national television, said he hopes the alliance will evolve to become more open and candid.
Under a security pact signed in 1960, U.S. armed forces are allowed broad use of Japanese land and facilities, and currently some 47,000 American troops are stationed in Japan. The U.S. is obliged to respond to attacks on Japan and protects the country under its nuclear umbrella.
More than half those troops are stationed in the southern island of Okinawa, where many residents complain about noise, pollution and crime linked to the bases.
Maryland advocates for a ban on a toxic flame retardant that accumulates in the environment and has been linked to cancer and brain development problems intend to pursue an earlier phaseout of the chemical than the timeline currently spelled out in a recent federal agreement.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced last month that the three largest manufacturers and importers of decabromodiphenyl ether, also known as decaBDE, had negotiated a pact to phase out the chemical, used in upholstery, mattresses, electronics and more, by 2013.
The Maryland Bureau of Mines reports that coal production in the state jumped 25 percent in 2008.
But a trade group says the upward trend stalled in 2009.
Over the years, many have lived at Sotterley Plantation … and died. Some have gone to their rest, yet others continue to be restless. On Saturday, January 23, 2010, Education Director, Carolyn Hoey will lead guests on this eerie after-hours tour experience through the over 300 year old Mansion.
Space is limited. Limited to ages 16 and up
Price: $20 per person
Two Tours: 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
RESERVATIONS REQUIRED! (301) 373-2280
Maine’s vast backcountry backyard offers outdoors lovers 3.3 million acres set aside from development in recent years, roughly the size of Connecticut, nearly 18 percent of the entire state of Maine. Not everyone is thrilled about the conservation _ foes say it takes lands off tax rolls and restricts use of snowmobiles _ but others revel in the unspoiled playland.
For generations, Maine residents and visitors took for granted their access to this land as guests of the paper companies and other big landowners who allowed recreational use. But that long-standing tradition was threatened as the land was sold, broken into smaller parcels and taken over by developers.
Development inspired the creation in the late 1980s of the Land for Maine’s Future program for buying and preserving those long-cherished open spaces. The lands set aside, at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, now include state and national parks, public lots and preserves like the one surrounding the majestic Bigelow and privately owned areas protected by easements. The land was either bought outright by the state and private conservation groups or public access was granted by landowners who, in many cases, continue their traditional logging enterprises.
To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.
The government looks like it is ready to start taking the notion of flying cars seriously.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, commonly called DARPA, will host a workshop on Jan. 14 in Arlington, Va., to listen to ideas for its “Transformer” program. Not clear on whether the name was chosen because of the flying robots that turn into vehicles, but knowing DARPA and its outlandishly fun projects, we wouldn’t be surprised.
Here’s what the whole thing is about:
Internal Revenue Service agents already try to catch tax cheats and moonshiners. Under the proposed health care legislation, they would get another assignment: checking to see whether Americans have health insurance.
The legislation would require most Americans to have health insurance and to prove it on their federal tax returns. Those who don’t would pay a penalty to the IRS.
That’s one of several key duties the IRS would assume under the bills that have been approved by the House of Representatives and Senate and will be merged by negotiators from both chambers.