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Maryland

Headlines: The Prison Corruption Investigation, Baltimore’s Stormwater Fees, and A Proposed Foam Ban

Republicans in the State Senate want to expand the authority of a legislative panel formed to investigate corruption at the Baltimore City Detention Center. A reduced stormwater fee bill has passed a Baltimore City Council committee, and heads for a final vote on Monday. A City Council committee has also approved a bill that would ban polystyrene foam products. Plus: more on the NSA’s data-gathering programs, layoffs at University of Maryland Medical Center, the latest on the 2014 elections, and more.

NSA Data-Gathering: Maryland’s Congressional representatives got a closer look at the details of secret National Security Agency programs that collect phone and internet data. At a meeting held behind closed doors in Washington yesterday, intelligence officials briefed the House of Representatives on the surveillance programs. As the Washington Post reports, 2nd District Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger said that lawmakers need to talk about the best way to balance civil liberties and public safety. 

Prison Corruption Investigation: Republicans in the State Senate are joining Attorney General Doug Gansler in calling for an independent investigation into the corruption scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Senate minority caucus is also calling for an expansion of the authority of a legislative panel formed last week to investigate the matter. Earlier this year, 13 prison guards were indicted as part of an alleged smuggling ring that brought drugs and cell phones into the jail. 

Baltimore’s Stormwater Fees: Baltimore City residents will soon be paying stormwater fees… but it looks like they’ll be lower than originally proposed. The Baltimore Sun reports that a City Council committee has approved a measure that would reduce the planned fees by about 16 percent – meaning homeowners would pay between 40 and 120 dollars a year. The Sun notes that the committee also approved a proposal to cap the fees for businesses… and to drastically lower the rates for religious institutions – a cut of 83 percent. The full City Council will vote on the proposal on Monday.

Baltimore Foam Ban: The Baltimore City Council is considering a bill that would ban foam cups, plates and takeout containers. The Baltimore Sun reports that a council committee approved the ban on polystyrene foam products yesterday; the bill calls for fines of up to 1-thousand dollars on businesses that use them; the full council will vote on the bill on Monday.

Layoffs At University of Maryland Medical Center: Layoffs are coming to the University of Maryland Medical Center; the Baltimore Sun reports that they’re designed to cut costs in the wake of the federal budget cuts known as sequestration… and the lower-than-requested hospital rate increases approved earlier this month by the state’s Health Services Cost Review Commission. The number of people who will be laid off hasn’t yet been determined.

Kittleman Launches Howard County Executive Bid: Republican State Senator Allan Kittleman has officially launched his bid to be the next Howard County Executive. The Baltimore Sun reports that Kittleman is expected to face Democratic Howard County Councilwoman Courtney Watson in next year’s General Election – although Watson says she hasn’t decided whether to run.

Leggett Looks For Third Term: Isiah Leggett announced yesterday that he’ll run for a third term as Montgomery County Executive next year. The Washington Post reports that he’ll face off against former County Executive Doug Duncan and County Councilman Phil Andrews in the Democratic Primary. 

Bongino Eyes The Sixth: Former Secret Service Agent Daniel Bongino is saying more about his plans to run for Congress next year; the Baltimore Sun reports that he’s “95 percent” sure that he’ll run for the 6th District Congessional seat, currently held by Democrat John Delaney. Bongino was the Republican nominee in last year’s US Senate Race.

What Some Gun Dealers Are Doing About Background Check Backlog: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Erin Cox of the Baltimore Sun talk about the backlog in background check requests for gun buyers and what some gun dealers are doing about it. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics

Baltimore Parking Rates: Monthly parking rates could soon go up at some Baltimore parking garages; the city’s Parking Authority is calling for the rates to increase between 5 dollars and 20 dollars at the city-owned parking garages along Caroline Street and in Little Italy, as well as the city’s garage at the Baltimore Marriott Inner Harbor Hotel. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that monthly rates at those garages haven’t increased since 2011, or earlier. All the garages currently have waiting lists for monthly parkers.

Wagering Up At Pimlico: Pimlico Race Course saw more money being wagered on its races during the spring season. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that the increase was 12-percent over last year; in all, Pimlico brought in 188-million dollars. But that’s overall; the average amount wagered per day, or the average daily handle, was down 12-percent. That's due to more live racing days this past spring.

Senator Theatre Timeline: The new owner of the Senator Theatre is optimistic that historic north Baltimore movie house will reopen later this summer. The property is in the midst of a three-point-five-million-dollar facelift… and owner James Cusack tells the Baltimore Business Journal the Senator could reopen as early as August if the renovations go as planned.

Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles beat the L-A Angels 3 to 2 last night, marking the O’s third win in a row. The Orioles look to sweep the series this afternoon; first pitch is set for 12:35 at Camden Yards.