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HEALTH REFORM As Republicans in Congress consider a vote to repeal federal health care reform, Maryland officials are poised to begin taking specific steps this year to implement the law, reports Meredith Cohn for the Sun.

Meanwhile, consumer and business groups disagree on whether health care reform will cost more, Kevin James Shay writes for the Gazette.

BIDDING FOR SLOTS Several groups are making sure their lobbyists are in place to begin campaigning in Annapolis for bidding to secure the right to open slots parlors in Baltimore and at horse tracks, writes the Sun's Julie Bykowicz.

MEDICAL POT In the weeks after a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Maryland failed last spring, state Sen. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County, who championed the legislation, found himself in a doctor's office with a new perspective on the issue. The Post's Ann Marimow interviews Raskin about what he has learned in his battle with colon cancer.

TEACHER PENSIONS Local governments may have escaped having to pay a share of burgeoning teacher pension costs next fiscal year, but not for long, according to all but one member of a panel of state legislators, Larry Carson of the Sun reports.

REDISTRICTING Results from the 2010 Census will come in later this winter, laying the groundwork for redrawing the state's eight congressional and 188 state legislative districts later this summer, Julie Bykowicz blogs for the Sun.

CIVIL UNIONS Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman's proposal to legalize civil unions may put him on an island politically, but it appears unlikely to drive a wedge within the Republican caucus, Alan Brody writes for the Gazette.

TAX HIKE TIMEOUT Comptroller Peter Franchot told a meeting of nonprofit groups that the government should "take a timeout on tax increases" even while the group's leadership continued to press for more tax hikes, blogs Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com.

FIRST-TIMERS Meg Tully of the Frederick News Post interviews first-time delegates and senators to the General Assembly as they face a baptism by fire in Annapolis when the session begins tomorrow.

KEYNOTES Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley will cross the Potomac next month to serve as the keynote speaker at an annual party dinner for Virginia Democrats, the Post's John Wagner blogs.

1,400 BUYOUTS Nearly 1,400 Maryland state employees have applied for a voluntary buyout program, falling just shy of the goal of 1,500, blogs the Post's John Wagner. This will still mean significant savings to the state, an O'Malley spokesman said.

FBI PROBES An FBI terrorism task force has taken over the investigation of fiery packages that were sent last week to federal and Maryland government officials, according to an Associated Press report in the Carroll County Times.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports about a study of terrorism in Maryland.

SOUNDS OF VIOLENCE The attempted assassination of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords serves as a stark rebuke to the invective Sarah Palin and some tea party leaders have so casually employed, opines the Sun editorialists.

ASSESS THREAT Following the attack on Giffords, U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger has asked the Capitol Police to "conduct a thorough threat assessment" of his Maryland office, and advise him on how to improve security at public events, blogs Mathew Hay Brown in the Sun.

BAKER ETHICS The Gazette's Zoe Tillman follows up a weekend story about Prince George's County Exec Rushern Baker, who will be submitting a campaign finance ethics package to the General Assembly that would close a loophole in state law that allows developers with pending zoning applications to contribute to slates, among other things.

KAMENETZ PRIORITIES Don't look for to many (or any) bells or whistles on Baltimore County Exec Kevin Kamenetz's wish list, when he makes his legislative priorities public today in Annapolis, writes Bryan Sears for Patch.com.

LIQUOR TASTINGS A proposal to the Carroll County delegation of the General Assembly would allow liquor stores in the county to offer limited liquor tastings throughout the year, Christian Alexandersen reports for the Carroll County Times.

ADVICE TO BERNSTEIN Opinionators at the Sun offer new Baltimore City State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein some advice as he begins to fulfill his campaign promise of reorganizing the office.

DUELING FUNDRAISERS Tonight is the night of the dueling fundraisers kicking off the election season for the Baltimore mayor's race. It will be interesting to see who shows up at Otis Rolley’s fundraiser, headlined by comedian and actor Bill Cosby, because the invitation for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's event makes it apparent she has lined up a lot of big name donors, blogs Julie Scharper for the Sun.

STILL NO. 1 For the third year in a row, Maryland public schools have been ranked No. 1 in the nation by Education Week magazine, writes Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com.

Maryland again tops the list with an overall grade of B-plus. Massachusetts and New York, each with a grade of B, followed, Marge Neal reports for the Frederick News Post.

IDEHA AUDIT The Infectious Disease and Environmental Health Administration didn't have adequate procedures to verify that claims paid by its drug assistance program for AIDS were legitimately filled, nor did it monitor inspectors at some of its food and milk processing plant, an audit of the program found, reports Abby Rogers for MarylandReporter.com.

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