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Maryland News Roundup

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From MarylandReporter.com:

CASINO TRIAL RUN Nearly 1,000 guests gambled on hundreds of slot machines at the new Ocean Downs casino on the Eastern Shore during a trial run yesterday, setting the stage for the state's second gambling parlor to open to the public next week, reports Hanah Cho for the Sun.

HOTEL FED AID Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to sign off today on a deal to steer $45 million in federal aid toward the construction of a luxury hotel in Baltimore’s Harbor East, developed by H&S bread magnate John Paterakis and associates, writes Daniel Sernovitz in the Baltimore Business Journal.

According to H&S Vice President Michael Ricketts, the hotel project is expected to create 1,273 construction jobs and 577 full-time jobs, Ed Gunts reports for the Sun.

WINE SHIPMENTS In a column for the Sun, Tom Wark, of the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, says that Maryland should allow wine shipments from out-of-state retailers as well as out-of-state wineries.

BAY CLEANUP The EPA established an aggressive "pollution diet" for the Chesapeake Bay yesterday, spelling out steps that Maryland, five other states and the District must take by 2025 to put the troubled estuary on the path to recovery, the Post's Juliet Eilperin reports.

The diet requires pollution reductions of 25 percent of nitrogen, 24 percent of phosphorus and 20 percent of sediment. The nutrients and sediment sully the bay and rob oxygen from the water, making vast stretches of the Chesapeake inhospitable to marine life, reports Pamela Wood of the Annapolis Capital.

WHICH BAT? A state biologist says that it is so difficult to distinguish the endangered hibernating Indiana bats from little brown bats it is uncertain how many of the former are in a Garrett County cave, which is mentioned in a lawsuit to delay the startup of a major wind project by Constellation Energy. Michael Sawyers writes the story for the Cumberland Times News.

HENSON ROBOCALLS The attorney for Julius Henson claims that the election night robocalls that drew a federal civil complaint and the attention of Maryland’s state prosecutor in a criminal investigation are constitutionally protected free speech. He filed a motion to dismiss the case, blogs Julie Bykowicz for the Sun.

The Post's John Wagner blogs that the attorney, in essence, is claiming that even dirty tricks are free speech.

INAUGURAL EVENTS Scroll down in Laura Vozzella's column for the Sun, where she writes that Gov. O'Malley apparently will be toning down his inaugural events. And Del. Michael Smigiel, in offering up a prediction on the next General Assembly session, quoted John Water's "Hairspray."

WATTS APPOINTED Shirley Watts will become the second black woman to serve on Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, following her appointment by the governor on yesterday, Danielle Ulman reports for the Daily Record.

NEW LAWS Laws governing solar power purchases, traffic court and heavy equipment rental will take effect New Year's Day, the Associated Press reports in the Daily Record.

EHRLICH AIDES AID HARRIS U.S. Rep.-elect Andy Harris has recycled aides to former Gov. Bob Ehrlich to fill his top leadership positions, when he is sworn in Jan. 5, the Sun's Julie Bykowicz blogs.

IONIC ICON Some wags were expecting a bust of state Senate President-for-life Mike Miller on the pedestal in the courtyard entrance to the building that bears his name. Instead, there's an artifact slightly older and drenched with as much history as Miller, who will begin a quarter-century as presiding officer in two weeks, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

HOUSE COMMITTEES The Dagger's Brian Goodman reports that State House committee assignments have been made. Following the Harford County delegates' assignments, he lists the full roster.

RESTORING PRINCE GEORGE'S Prince George's leaders say their primary focuses for the new year — restoring county trust and growing revenue — were foregone conclusions even before they took office, the Gazette's Daniel Valentine writes.

County Exec Rushern Baker said he will continue a hiring freeze and streamline departments to address an anticipated $77 million deficit for fiscal 2012, Valentine also writes in the Gazette.

DELEGATION SPLIT State lawmakers say Baker's election will provide the unity needed to secure more state aid and finally end the county's hospital system crisis, but the delegation remains split on proposals to close a campaign funding loophole, ease removal of elected officials and allow poker tournaments at volunteer fire stations, the Gazette's Valentine reports.

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS Computer technology is making it harder for illegal immigrants who get arrested to remain in this country. Suzanne Collins of WJZ-TV reports that local jails in Maryland are now sharing fingerprint information with the feds.

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