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GENERAL ASSEMBLY ORIENTATION The Capital's Liam Farrell reports on the orientation sessions this week for new members of the General Assembly, which he called "part political science seminar and part pep rally." Alan Brody in the Gazette profiles some of the new members of the General Assembly.

CROSSING THE LINE FOR EHRLICH The Sun's Larry Carson analyzes Howard County Democrat Andy Barth's recent job as spokesman for GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich. Carson's analysis is reported in his Howard County political notebook , and is partially repeated in a blog post.

O'MALLEY CABINET The Daily Record's opinionators say that the recent resignations of Juvenile Services Secretary Donald DeVore and Environment Secretary Shari Wilson -- two people who fell short of their job expectations -- gives Gov. Martin O'Malley a chance to place new and capable people in those positions. DBED Secretary Christian Johansson said he plans on staying in the second O'Malley administration, Kevin James Shay writes in the Gazette.

HEALTH INSURANCE SKYROCKETS A new study found that premiums for employer-sponsored family health insurance in Maryland increased 50 percent between 2003 and 2009, reports The Post's Lena Sun. Maryland has had one of the nation's highest increases in premiums, and is one of the costliest places to provide insurance.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE SUMMIT Leaders from the state's 16 community colleges will meet today to discuss ideas and strategies to increase enrollment. The Frederick News-Post's Blair Ames reports that Frederick Community College will present a panel on improving completion rates without sacrificing institutional quality. Megan McKeever of the Carroll County Times reports that Carroll Community College is approaching the summit with caution.

JUVENILE SERVICES Fixing the Department of Juvenile Services is among the top priorities for legislators in the upcoming session, Erin Cunningham writes in the Gazette.

WOMEN LEGISLATORS Across the country, there was a slight decline in the number of female legislators, but Maryland bucked that trend, Sarah Beitenbach reports in the Gazette.

MOONEY Defeated Sen. Alex Mooney is officially running to chair the state Republican Party. That's the lead item in the Gazette's Reporters Notebook.

MARYLAND REPUBLICANS Don't believe the stories about a Republican resurgence in Maryland, Blair Lee writes in his Gazette column. Barry Rascovar gives his own take on GOP rebuilding in Maryland. And Queen Anne's County Republican Central Committee member and President of the Institute for Liberty Andrew Langer is no longer seeking the state GOP chairmanship, reports Red Maryland's Mark Newgent.

HORSE RACING Despite the widely publicized problems with setting up a horse racing schedule for 2011, Pimlico and Laurel Park owner Frank Stronach tells The Thoroughbred Times' John Scheinman that he will solve them when he comes to Maryland from his native Austria next week. Stronach tells the Associated Press he can break the impasse. The Sun's Jay Hancock blogs about Stronach's optimism.

Meanwhile, Gov. Martin O'Malley's chief legislative officer Joseph Bryce and Labor Secretary Alexander Sanchez will meet with racing representatives on Monday to discuss the schedule for next year, reports the Baltimore Business Journal's Daniel Sernovitz.

DISABLITY ACTIVISTS FOR ALCOHOL TAX The Arc of Howard County and the Howard County Autism Society held a legislative breakfast this week to push state legislators to pass the proposed 10 cent increase on alcohol taxes, reports The Sun's Larry Carson.

DRUNK DRIVING LAW The fact that Carl Snowden, director of the civil rights division of the Maryland Attorney General's Office, received an illegal probation sentence shows that drunk driving may not taken as seriously as the General Assembly thinks it should, reports the Sun's Annie Linskey.

LOBBYISTS Cindy Schwartz is leaving the League of Conservation Voters, but Tom and Diana Saquella are back as a lobbying team, Alan Brody reports in the Gazette

MOCO CUTS Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett told most county department heads to start looking to cut their departments up to 15 percent in order to offset a projected $300 million shortfall, reports The Post's Michael Laris. Leggett tells The Examiner's Brian Hughes that considering all of the cuts the county has already made in recent years, this will be extremely painful -- and may result in completely cutting some services.

PG COPS The Jack Johnson corruption scandal has focused a lot of attention on less-than-ethical practices of the county's politicians, but The Post's Mike DeBonis argues that there has been much less of a focus on the county's dirty cops -- which will provide an immediate issue for incoming county executive Rushern Baker.

BOTTLE TAX Baltimore City stores said at a news conference that the 2-cent tax on bottled beverages that took effect four months ago has significantly impacted their business, and they want it repealed, reported The Sun's Julie Scharper. A spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that is unlikely to happen, since it is a temporary tax. The Baltimore Business Journal's Gary Haber reports that retailers say the tax is costing jobs and will drive out small businesses. WBAL has video.

SMITH FAREWELL Outgoing Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith tells WBAL's Anne Kramer that his eight years in office were wonderful.

FLUSH WITH SENIORITY The most coveted office space for senior Baltimore County Council members are two with private bathrooms, Patch.com's Bryan Sears tells WBAL's Bill Vanko.

CARROLL SEVERANCE SURPRISE Incoming members of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners are shocked by the $257,319 in severance packages approved for four department heads by their predecessors, reports The Carroll County Times' Christian Alexandersen. They said the decision, made earlier this week, should have been left to the new board, which is sworn in Monday.

FREDERICK WISH LIST Frederick County Commissioners are forwarding more than a dozen proposals to Annapolis this year -- including an immigration law similar to Arizona's and increases in liquor license costs, reports The Frederick News-Post's Meg Tully.

GARDNER'S GAG GIFTS At the swearing-in ceremony for new Frederick County Commissioners, outgoing president Jan Gardner gave gag gifts to new board members -- including duct tape for new President Blaine Young to use to control members, reports The News-Post's Meg Tully.

DAILY RECORD PUBLISHER Suzanne Fisher-Huettner is the new publisher of The Daily Record, the first woman to lead the publication in its history.


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