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Maryland

Headlines: Tornadoes, Proposed Baltimore Bag Fee, & Gansler Calls For An Independent Prison Inquiry

The National Weather Service is investigating to determine whether tornadoes touched down in several locations in Maryland yesterday. A 10-cent fee on disposable paper and plastic bags has been proposed for Baltimore City – and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she’s “open” to the idea. MD Attorney General Doug Gansler calls on Governor Martin O’Malley to appoint an independent special counsel to investigate the corruption scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center. Plus: home sales, EPA grants, Annapolis’s budget, and more.

Tornadoes: Severe weather slammed parts of the WYPR listening area yesterday, cancelling flights and bringing heavy rain, flooding and even reports of tornadoes. WJZ reports that a tornado in Howard County destroyed a garage; the Baltimore Sun tells us that another tornado was reported in Baltimore County, and a waterspout (tornado over water) moved across Baltimore Harbor yesterday afternoon, tearing off part of a warehouse roof in Locust Point. No injuries were reported.

Gansler Calls For Independent Investigation Of Prison Scandal: State Attorney General Doug Gansler is calling for an independent investigation into the corruption scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The Washington Post reports that Gansler has sent a letter to Governor Martin O’Malley, calling for the appointment of a special counsel. The Baltimore Sun reports that O’Malley was opposed to the request; he said the current investigations are response enough. Earlier this year, 13 corrections officers at the Baltimore jail were indicted as part of an alleged smuggling ring, that brought drugs, cell phones, and other contraband to inmates inside the prison.

Baltimore Bag Fee: A bag fee could be coming to Baltimore. City Councilman Brandon Scott has proposed legislation that would impose a ten-cent fee on every disposable paper or plastic bag you get at local stores. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake tells the Baltimore Sun that she’s “open” to the idea; four years ago, when she was City Council President, Rawlings-Blake had opposed a similar bill. Bag fees already exist in about 100 jurisdictions around the country… including Montgomery County and Washington DC. 

Home Sales: Homes sales in Central Maryland are booming. Metropolitan Regional Information Systems says that sales were up 17-percent in May… and that the nearly 28-hundred homes sold last month represents the largest number the region has seen in six years. The Baltimore Sun reports that the average sale price also jumped to 250-thousand, up by about 5.3 percent over last year. 

Annapolis’s Budget: Property taxes are about to go up slightly in Annapolis, under the nearly $100-million operating budget approved yesterday by the City Council. The Baltimore Sun reports that the spending plan calls for property taxes to go up by about a penny per 100-dollars of assessed value. The budget also includes funding for a bulkhead replacement at the City Dock.

EPA Grants For Baltimore: Baltimore's getting $400-thousand in EPA grants to redevelop contaminated property. The grants are designed to attract developers who work with banks and construction in "an environmentally responsible manner." The Baltimore Business Journal reports half the funding will go toward petroleum-contaminated sites, while the remaining 200-thousand is earmarked for sites containing other hazardous substances.

Housing Authority Officials Disciplined: Some top officials with Baltimore's housing authority are being disciplined for hiring lower-level staff to do work at their private homes. The Baltimore Sun reports the housing agency's inspector general concluded the officials showed "a lack of good judgment" in hiring the workers for things like painting, caulking, door replacement, mold removal and installation of a ceiling fan.

Flags On Sale, Free Of State Sales Tax: Flag Day is Friday, and state Comptroller Peter Franchot is reminding Marylanders that they can buy many tags tax-free. American flags, Maryland flags, and POW/MIA flags are all exempted from the state’s six percent sales tax in the state code. Franchot tells the Frederick News Post that sales tax shouldn’t be charged on these flags now – or at any other time of the year.

Baltimore Baseball: yesterday’s rain put the game between the Orioles and the LA Angels on hold for two hours and 14 minutes… but when it ended just before midnight, the O’s were the victors. The final score was 4 to 3. The two teams play again tonight in Baltimore; the game starts at 7:05pm.