Monday, January 18, 2010
New mortgage rules curb closing-cost surprises
Sandra Block ― USA TODAY

Buying a home should be a joyful experience, but all too often, the mortgage settlement process leaves consumers confused, angry and paying more than they anticipated.

The reason? Closing costs and fees that are significantly higher than the lender’s original estimates. Borrowers find themselves faced with two unappealing choices: Pony up or walk away and start searching for another house.

Sammy 08:23 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Communities put a halt to red-light cameras
Larry Copeland ― USA TODAY

Red-light cameras that have been gaining a foothold in many states face a growing public backlash and outright removal.

The cameras, billed as safety devices since their introduction in the USA nearly 20 years ago, are increasingly viewed by many motorists as unreasoning revenue generators for hard-up local governments.

Maine, Mississippi and Montana banned red light cameras last year, joining at least four other states, Nevada, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Wisconsin, says Anne Teigen, a transportation specialist at the National Conference of State Legislatures. State senators in Missouri and Tennessee are sponsoring legislation that would limit cameras. Elsewhere:

Sammy 08:21 AM | (2) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Texas Shuts Door on Millions in Education Grants

Texas will not compete for up to $700 million in federal education money, Gov. Rick Perry said on Wednesday, calling the Obama administration’s main school improvement grant program an unacceptable intrusion on states’ control over education.

Mr. Perry’s decision, days before a Jan. 19 deadline, interrupted months of work by Texas officials and a consulting company financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to prepare the application for the federal grant competition, known as Race to the Top. Texas had been eligible to win up to $700 million of a total of $4 billion the department will award for encouraging charter schools, improving teacher instruction, overhauling schools and joining an effort to adopt common academic standards.

“We would be foolish and irresponsible,” Mr. Perry said, “to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special-interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington.”

Sammy 08:18 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
United States Attorney Plans Drug-Terrorism Unit

Some Western law enforcement and intelligence agencies have long pointed to what they say are the symbiotic relationships that sometimes exist between terrorist groups and narcotics traffickers, from Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Hezbollah in the Middle East to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

But the move by the United States attorney, Preet Bharara, comes as United States officials have suggested that some members of Islamic extremist groups, including Al Qaeda and some of its affiliates, are more frequently turning to the drug trade — as well as kidnapping and other criminal activities — to help finance their operations.

Sammy 08:16 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Unemployment fund tops session agenda

As the General Assembly launches straight into a fight over ways to keep the state’s unemployment- insurance fund solvent, Annapolis resident Brian Gill, who employs 20 people on his company’s payroll, has much of his livelihood riding on the decision.

Gill’s small business, Gill Grilling Co., provides kitchen management and cooking services for 17 Greek clubs at the University of Maryland College Park campus. Because his company only operates while school is in session, that makes Gill Grilling a seasonal business - ultimately “laying off” all of his staff at the end of each season, even if he intends to hire them all back when classes reconvene four months later.

The majority of his employees makes ends meet in the off-season by collecting unemployment-insurance benefits from the state. And that means he owes the maximum amount in unemployment insurance taxes, according to the rate schedule, he said.

Sammy 08:11 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
2007 & 2008 Planning Commission Annual Report

PDF Date: January 11, 2010

Page 4:

Population Growth Rate

􀁺 The 2006 Comprehensive Plan specifies a target growth rate (percent change in population) of approximately 1.7% but less than 2.0% per year.

􀁺 In 2007, the population growth rate was 0.72%.

􀁺 In 2008, the population growth rate was 0.42%.

Sammy 07:57 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink

The State of Maryland has established a Home Builder Guaranty Fund that is overseen by the Consumer Protection Division. This fund allows consumers to seek compensation for losses resulting from an act or omission by a registered builder who constructs a new home for a consumer.

Sammy 07:54 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink

Meeting Date: Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sammy 07:48 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Social Security rarely uses E-Verify
Stephen Dinan ― Washington Times

Despite helping run the government’s electronic database designed to weed out illegal-immigrant workers, Social Security failed to run E-Verify checks on its own employees nearly 20 percent of the time.

An audit by the Social Security Administration’s inspector general says the agency outright failed to check 19 percent of its hires in 2008 and 2009, and of the checks it did run, nearly half of them weren’t performed in a timely manner.

It’s all the more embarrassing because the agency, along with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, runs E-Verify, the tool the government expects to become mandatory for all U.S. businesses.

Sammy 07:43 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
School system is Top County United Way Donor for 2009
The Bay Net

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) employees are the top 2009 Campaign donors to the United Way of Charles County. School system employees have pledged $95,639 to the 2009 United Way campaign, up more than $5,000 from $90,092 in 2009. CCPS continues to be the largest contributor in the county.

Dorothy L. Harper, president and CEO of the local United Way, said, “We rely on school system employees as a major part of our campaign. We especially appreciate their generosity this year when the campaign overall is down. For the school system to go over and beyond last year’s contribution is very much appreciated.”

Sammy 07:39 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Hogan loans campaign $325,000 in ‘seed money’
Washington Post

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan said Saturday that he has put $325,000 of his own money into his campaign and is eager to formally launch his bid.

Hogan, a Cabinet secretary under former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), announced an exploratory effort in September. He repeatedly has said he would not be a candidate if Ehrlich seeks a rematch with Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) this year. A decision from Ehrlich is not expected for several more weeks.

Sammy 07:29 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Open Thread - January 18, 2010

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sammy 03:55 AM | (11) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Hoping It Won’t Be Needed, Democrats Ponder a Backup Plan on Health Care Bill

With the Massachusetts special election for United States Senate increasingly unpredictable, Democrats in Washington are contemplating a fall-back plan to advance far-reaching health care legislation, even if a Republican victory on Tuesday deprives Senate Democrats of the crucial 60th vote they need to overcome filibusters.

For the moment, at least, the preferred Plan B would be to try to persuade House Democrats to approve the health care bill that the Senate adopted on Christmas Eve, obviating the need for an additional Senate vote and sending the measure directly to President Obama for his signature, administration officials and Congressional aides said on Sunday.

Sammy 03:51 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
Speed cameras snap almost 8,800 drivers
Nick Madigan ― Baltimore Sun

Photos capture cars going more than 12 mph over work zone limit

Maryland’s drivers should be getting the hint right about now that speeding in highway construction zones will cost them.

Almost 8,800 drivers were given $40 tickets during a six-week period that began Nov. 16, when state officials started photographing vehicles exceeding the speed limit by 12 mph or more on three stretches of highway marked as work zones.

Sammy 03:39 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
New Md. rules on storm runoff assailed
Timothy B. Wheeler ― Baltimore Sun

Local officials, builders say redevelopment costs would foster sprawl

Builders and local officials are mounting a campaign to delay or change new state rules aimed at reducing storm-water pollution, arguing that they will undermine Maryland’s Smart Growth policy by discouraging redevelopment in cities, towns and older suburbs.

The rules, finalized last year, carry out a 2007 law that requires developers across the state to do much more than before to keep rainfall from washing pollutants off lawns, roofs and pavement in their projects. Such storm runoff is a significant and growing source of the fertilizer and other contaminants that are fouling local streams and rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, officials say. Environmental advocates have hailed the law as a major new tool for helping to restore the bay.

Sammy 03:35 AM | (0) Comments | Email this post | Permalink
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