Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Week in review: 3/23/12

High court rules against Md. man

A former court employee’s $1 million lawsuit has ended in the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that states cannot be sued under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act’s self-care provision. Daniel Coleman, once the executive director of procurement and contract administration at the Administrative Office of the Courts in Annapolis, claimed he was illegally fired in 2007 for requesting sick leave. But the Supreme Court found 5-4 that Coleman’s suit was barred, agreeing with lower courts that have heard the case.

Bill would lower city tax rate

A bill to lower Baltimore’s property tax rate by 20 cents by 2020 was introduced before the City Council. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made a campaign pledge to reduce the rate when she ran for a full term last year. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday at 5 p.m.

House passes drilling fee

Natural gas companies would have to pay for safety studies before drilling into Western Maryland’s Marcellus Shale deposits under legislation passed by the House of Delegates, a move that one Garrett County lawmaker said would discourage the industry. HB 1204 would force companies to pay a one-time fee of $15 per acre on land they’ve already leased in Maryland. Prospects for similar legislation in the Senate are uncertain.

Auction ahead for Alter

After 93 years in the hands of the same family, the Baltimore Jewish Times could go to auction on Wednesday. Zvi Guttman, trustee for publisher Alter Communications Inc., entered a proposed schedule in U.S. Bankruptcy Court under which the company’s assets would be auctioned that day. Guttman was appointed to oversee the sale of Alter after the publisher and its former printing company missed a deadline to agree on a plan to bring Alter out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Speed camera fight continues

Maryland’s top court has agreed to decide whether motorists can challenge Montgomery County’s speed-camera system on the grounds that it illegally gives the lead contractor a cut of the proceeds. Eight motorists, all of whom have paid fines, contend that ACS State & Local Solutions Inc. gets $16.25 of every $40 fine paid, which they say violates a provision in the Maryland Transportation Code barring operators from collecting a “contingency fee” based on the amount of fines collected.

Natty Boh celebrates O’s Park

The Pabst Brewing Co. is marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of Orioles Park at Camden Yards by packaging National Bohemian in a 16-ounce commemorative can. It will be available in restaurants and bars around town, or you can wait for the Orioles home opener on April 6 and enjoy it at the ballpark itself. A six-pack will retail for $5.99.

MARC trains to get D.C. home

The Board of Public Works voted to build a $21.3 million train storage facility in Washington, D.C. that is designed to make it easier for Maryland commuters to board their trains.

Whitewater course hits rapids

Garrett County will assume ownership of a manmade whitewater course near McHenry after the nonprofit developer of the Western Maryland tourism and training site defaulted on more than $3 million in bank loans. However, the International Canoe Federation will still hold its 2014 world whitewater paddling championships at the 5-year-old mountaintop course, according to developer Adventure Sports Center International.

Ethics? In Maryland?

Two reports released this week gave the state poor rankings on ethics and transparency. The State Integrity Investigation ranked Maryland 40th out of 50 states for corruption prevention, awarding the state a D- (important footnote: Half the states scored D or lower). The Maryland Public Interest Research Group was less harsh, awarding Maryland a C+ for government spending transparency (you can search its website, but you can’t necessarily find details).