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From MarylandReporter.com:

MD DEFICIT While Maryland is facing a $1.6 billion deficit, other states are in a deeper quagmire, blogs Julie Bykowicz of the Sun. Which ones are far worse and what are they doing about it?

FINANCE REFORM The Sun's Julie Bykowicz blogs that Attorney General Doug Gansler is set to release a report on recommended changes to the state's campaign finance system. Among the commonly discussed problems: That political slates and limited-liability corporations can circumvent the donation rules and out-of-state political committees are subject to few donation regulations.

CANDIDATE FILING FEES A Prince George's County delegate wants to hike filing fees for most political hopefuls in an effort to weed out non-serious candidates, writes Alan Brody for the Gazette.

EPA GETS TOUGH ON BAY This latest Chesapeake Bay restoration plan gives the EPA a far bigger say in what Maryland and its six neighboring jurisdictions must achieve to reduce daily pollution. But, writes Sun opinionators, whether its ambitious goals are met depends on how tough the EPA is willing to be.

CALVERT CLIFFS Federal regulators agree with opponents of a proposed third reactor at Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant that a draft report did not sufficiently consider alternative power sources, such as wind and solar, to the $10 billion, 1,600-megawatt project.

STIMULUS BOOST The University of Maryland BioPark, a Baltimore hotel and three buildings in Hagerstown are getting a significant boost from the 2009 federal stimulus law, the Gazette's Kevin James Shay reports.

MASSAGE REGS Massage therapists are balking at proposed changes to their continuing education requirements, which they say would increase the cost of licensing by adding additional training requirements. The changes were approved last month by the Maryland Board of Chiropractic and Massage Therapy Examiners, reports Barbara Pash for MarylandReporter.com.

EDUCATION TRACKING Gov. Martin O'Malley says the state should adopt a tracking system to identify trends among students from kindergarten through college to help strengthen public education, blogs Hayley Peterson for the Washington Examiner.

INAUGURAL Gov. O'Malley's scaled back Inaugural Celebration -- set for Jan. 19 -- is asking attendees to bring canned or nonperishable food items for the Maryland Food Bank, blogs John Wagner of the Post.

RNC & STEELE Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, Maryland's former lieutenant governor, stood up to criticism being lodged against him at yesterday's RNC chairman debate, standing behind his record over the last two years as four opponents noted the committee's troubles, including a $20 million deficit, writes the Post's Aaron Blake.

Steele was unapologetic through most of the 90-minute session, pointing to the 2010 midterm elections in which Republicans made major gains, including a takeover of the House, Dan Balz reports for the Post.

Get through the 15-second Glenfiddich ad to view the Post's photo gallery of the event, taken by Matt McClain.

Susan Ferrechio of the Washington Examiner reports that RNC chair candidate Ann Wagner asked, "How can an organization that has lost its credibility, is $20 million in debt, is steeped in mismanagement, distractions and drama actually lead us into the next election cycle of 2012 and offer change?"

Ralph Hallow has the story for the Washington Times.

NEW LEGISLATORS Next week, the 2011 Maryland legislative session gets underway in Annapolis. The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM hosts three new state legislators, Mary Washington, Bill Ferguson and Keiffer Mitchell, to discuss the issues.

BA CO REORG The Baltimore County Council, five of whose members are newly elected to office, unanimously approved a government reorganization that could save about $8 million, Mary Gail Hare reports for the Sun.

OPEN SEAT Greg Latshaw of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that a shortage of candidates is forcing O'Malley to reopen the application process for an open judge seat in Wicomico County.

BALTIMORE ISSUES State Sen. Verna Jones and Del. Curt Anderson, the Baltimore delegation leaders, appear on The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM to discuss issues they will be focusing on for the next three months in Annapolis.

BERNSTEIN TEAM Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein named the final member of his leadership team: former Secretary of the Maryland Department of Budget and Management Cecilia Januszkiewicz will be his executive assistant state’s attorney for administration, reports Brendan Kearney for the Daily Record.

NO SWEARING IN Laudette Ramona Moore Baker won an uncontested spot on Baltimore city's Orphans Court in November — after a dozen years of running for various offices under different combinations of her four names. Yet, despite her victory, she never received the governor's commission required for her swearing-in. And, writes the Sun's Tricia Bishop, according to O'Malley's spokesman, she likely never will.

NPR

Remembering Alan Cheuse, Our Longtime Literary Guide

For some 30 years, Alan Cheuse was our guide to the best and worst of the written word. He passed away today at 75, after a car accident two weeks ago. NPR's Susan Stamberg has an appreciation.
NPR

Pesticide Drift Threatens Organic Farms

Conventional farmers use millions of pounds of pesticides each year to protect crops from weeds and insects. When those chemicals drift to neighboring property, they can ruin crops on organic farms.
NPR

Hillary Clinton To Release 8 Years Of Tax Returns

The returns will show that she and her husband Bill Clinton paid nearly $44 million in federal taxes since 2007, according to her campaign. "We've come a long way," she said.
NPR

Letting Go Of The Wheel: How Google Is Easing People Into Self-Driving Cars

Google has begun testing a new self-driving car this summer that is designed to work without a steering wheel. But as the Planet Money team reports, the company's biggest challenge may be convincing Americans to hop inside.

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