Miller: It was a mistake to endorse National Harbor as Prince George’s casino site

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III should not have publicly endorsed National Harbor as the future site of a Prince George’s County casino, the presiding officer of the state Senate said Thursday.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, said he wanted a casino built in southern Prince George’s County, but never wanted National Harbor to become the focus.

“That was Rushern Baker’s position, my position was either or,” Miller said. “I started out saying that it had to be Rosecroft [Raceway] and then National Harbor entered into it later, and then the county executive expressed, or opined, for National Harbor, which I thought was a mistake, as much as I like National Harbor.

“I thought the decision should be made by the commission. But we’ll let the commission make the decision and move forward.”

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Eye Opener: Unpacking O’Malley’s State of the State

Here’s a few government and politics headlines for Thursday morning:

O’Malley pleases everyone in partisan crowd (for a few seconds)

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s State of the State Address Wednesday has already been lauded by loyal Democrats and criticized by outraged Republicans.

But O’Malley, in his seventh year as governor and addressing a joint session of the General Assembly for the next-to-last time, knows how to bring both parties to their feet.

“There is more that unites us than divides us,” O’Malley said. “And this year, one of those things is the mighty, mighty Baltimore Ravens.”

Just 10 seconds into his speech, O’Malley — wearing a purple tie — forced most Republicans and Democrats to leap from their seats and roar in approval of the Ravens’ Super Bowl run.

But in an address that focused on his administration’s accomplishments and advocated for several high-profile initiatives this year, it was the last bit of Republican approval the governor received.

Eye Opener: Jobs to be O’Malley’s focus in State of State

Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to focus on job creation when he delivers his annual State of the State address Wednesday at noon in the House of Delegates chamber.

In a tweet Tuesday, O’Malley said the speech would focus on “fiscally responsible choices to create jobs, expand opportunity & strengthen middle class families.”

Here’s a few other headlines today:

 - The Daily Record and others report Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold was found guilty on two counts of misconduct in office, clouding his future as the county’s top elected leader.

- The Washington Post says O’Malley’s State of the State address is an opportunity to cement his legacy.

- The Capital of Annapolis reports on the annual bump in business in downtown Annapolis as lammakers and their staff descend upon the Capital City.

The Eye on Annapolis Podcast

The Eye on Annapolis Podcast is back with the latest developments on transportation funding and a preview of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s State of the State address Wednesday.

Alex and I also look at the (brief) life of a proposed online lottery and discuss what Senate President Mike Miller is pleading senators to do.

Enjoy.

Longest serving member of House dies

Del. Hattie N. Harrison, who became the first African American woman to chair a General Assembly standing committee in 1979, died Monday night.

Mrs. Harrison, 84, was elected to the House of Delegates in 1973 to represent District 45 — part of Baltimore’s East Side.

By 1979, she was made chair of the House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee, a post she held through 2012. Mrs. Harrison was hospitalized and had not reported to Annapolis for the start of the legislative session this year.

“Del. Harrison was a great influence on everyone she touched,” House Speaker Michael E. Busch said. “She took enormous pride in public service and while someone will ultimately take her seat, no one will ever be able to take her place in the House.”

In a statement released by Busch’s office, Mrs. Harrison was called “a tireless advocate for civil rights and workers’ rights.”

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Mrs. Harrison, a former teacher at Dunbar High School, was “a dedicated public servant.”

“Her calm but stern demeanor and her matriarchal standing in the community foiled even her most ardent political opponents, who, in the end, came to respect her greatness,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Baltimore has a lost a good legislator — the Baltimore city delegation’s ‘fairy godmother’ — and I have lost a someone I was proud to consider my friend.”

Mrs. Harrison, born in Lancaster, S.C., on Feb. 11, 1928, attended Baltimore city public schools and graduated from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

She is survived by two sons, Robert “Skip” Harrison, and Philip Harrison and daughter-in-law, Lula; three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

House speaker creates work group to revitalize Baltimore

The presiding officer of the House of Delegates — an Anne Arundel County Democrat — has created a work group that will study ways to revitalize the greater Baltimore area.

“The Baltimore region has historically been a hub of economic activity in the state of Maryland,” House Speaker Michael E. Busch said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We need to better leverage the strengths of the region to bolster investment and job creation, including the Port of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland in Baltimore city, new opportunities at Sparrows Point and the BRAC process in Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard Counties.”

The work group will examine transportation, education and community revitalization in determining how state and local government can better partner with private entities to improve the metropolitan area.

Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, will chair the panel. He’s joined by two other city delegates — Mary L. Washington and Peter A. Hammen — as well as Baltimore County Dels. A. Wade Kach, Dana M. Stein and Stephen W. Lafferty. Dels. Joseline A. Peña-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s and Anne Arundel, Guy J. Guzzone, D-Howard, and Brian J. Feldman, D-Montgomery, will also be part of the group.

Busch, beginning his 11th year as speaker of the House, is a staunch supporter of public education and has at times articulated serious concerns about Baltimore city schools, despite representing the Annapolis area in the legislature.

Regional transportation plan called conversation starter, but a solution?

As the Senate president’s transportation revenue plan is drafted, the presiding officers’ counterpart in the House of Delegates is cautioning that the bill may just be a way to get the conversation started.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, plans to introduce a bill that would create regional transportation authorities that could levy taxes on residents under the supervision of local governments.

Miller has been mulling such a plan since before the General Assembly began, but announced his intent to sponsor that legislation after Gov. Martin O’Malley chose not to include a new transportation funding model in the legislative agenda he unveiled last week.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said Wednesday that he and other delegates were still compiling data in search of a new funding source. Busch said the regional transportation authority was an interesting idea, but wasn’t willing to give it his full endorsement.

“The devils are in the details on that,” Busch said, reasoning that composition of the regions and their tax structures would be potentially contentious. Still, with business leaders shouting for infrastructure improvements that could reduce congestion and spur economic development in Maryland, the speaker said he was glad Miller was offering a plan that could restart the discussion.

“I’m in no way critical of that,” Busch said.

Senate president talks transportation options

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, has said since before the General Assembly began that a regional model for transportation funding could pass in the Senate with some Republican support.

Miller again mentioned that option on Wednesday, telling The Baltimore Sun that his office was drafting a bill that would raise the gasoline tax and create a regional authority capable of raising transportation money.

The first lawmakers to suggest the plan was Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, R-Upper Shore, who Miller credited last week with providing a “kernel” of a plan the legislature could work with.

Gov. Martin O’Malley did not include creation of a new transportation funding stream in his legislative agenda unveiled last week, but his office has maintained options are still being considered.

Miller also suggested to The Washington Post that the state lease the Inter County Connector in order to raise money for other transportation projects, though that idea was received less enthusiastically by O’Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel.

The partisan divide in Annapolis

It was an innocent enough question.

Gov. Martin O’Malley, speaking in front of a room filled with business leaders brought together by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, wondered aloud if he was about to introduce the operating budget for fiscal year 2013.

What he actually introduced last week was the budget for fiscal 2014, which begins in July 2013. O’Malley said he sometimes confuses fiscal years, comparing that confusion to problems he also has remembering the Jewish New Year and understanding military time.

Those in the room broke into laughter, minus one: the House of Delegates’ minority leader, Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell.

“Come on Tony, that was funny,” O’Malley said, gesturing toward the stone-faced Calvert County Republican. “Smile!”

More laughter came.

“Nobody’s going to write that you smiled at something the governor said,” O’Malley continued, flashing a toothy grin in O’Donnell’s direction.

There didn’t seem to be real tension in the room; O’Malley’s was the kind of tongue-in-cheek jab a governor can get away with less than a week into the Maryland General Assembly’s annual 90-day session.

O’Donnell later returned serve, thanking O’Malley for reminding him he could smile when the governor speaks.

“I often do,” O’Donnell said. “Sometimes, I laugh. It’s good to have fun.”

Again, the ballroom in the Loews Annapolis Hotel filled with laughter. The interaction was mild and good-spirited when measured against some of the partisan bickering that is certain to soon fill the House and Senate chambers in the State House.

But it also emphasized the gulf between Maryland’s ruling Democrats and the Republican contingent that struggles to have its voice heard in the legislature.

A few moments later, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, implied it was a shame politics had to be that way, saying that Democrats and Republicans ought to be able to work together and compromise.

“If we could get rid of the far left and the far right, and get the people in the middle together making policy, it would be a lot better,” Miller said.