State Digest

STATE DIGEST

May 26, 2006

Duncan sends back Abramoff funds

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a Democratic candidate for governor, said last night that he was returning campaign contributions received seven years ago linked to convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"It has come to my attention that seven years ago I received contributions to my county executive campaign account from corporations related to or affiliated with Montgomery County resident Jack Abramoff," Duncan said in a statement. "I plan to return this money immediately."

"This is a good reminder to all public officials to double check their records," the statement said. "Last year, I reviewed my campaign account to see if I had received any contributions from Mr. Abramoff and had none; other types of contributions made many years ago, however, were not as readily apparent."

A source familiar with the contributions said Duncan received six checks of $4,000 each, but that one of the checks bounced. The checks, the source said, came from Bobbie's Amusement Company Inc.; Infinity Inc.; Toys 4-U; Business Solutions Inc.; Yang's Corp. and Pacific Business Solutions Inc. It was unclear how the companies were tied to Abramoff.

Other Maryland politicians have returned Abramoff-related money. In January, a day after Abramoff pleaded guilty to federal fraud and tax evasion charges, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said he would return $16,000 in campaign contributions he received from the lobbyist and his wife.

The Maryland Republican Party returned $4,020 it received from the Abramoffs, and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski donated to charity money she received from Indian tribes that were Abramoff clients.

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for the O'Malley campaign, said he has no knowledge of any Abramoff-related contributions to the mayor.

David Nitkin

Baltimore: Bus routes

MTA sets two hearings on proposed changes

The Maryland Transit Administration said yesterday that it will hold two public hearings next month on proposed changes to the Baltimore region's bus routes as part of the second phase of its restructuring of its system.

The hearings, which the General Assembly required the agency to hold before beginning the next stage of the Greater Baltimore Bus Initiative, will be held June 29 at Coppin State University and June 30 at Sojourner-Douglass College.

Both hearings will last from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The MTA also announced that it would accept written comments for 30 days after the second hearing.

The legislature required the hearing on the second phase after problems with the implementation of the first stage last October prompted complaints from riders.

The MTA, which had opposed the hearing requirement, had originally planned to begin its second round of major changes in June. The agency said yesterday that because of the time required for driver training and to prepare new maps and timetables, the changes will not take effect until next year.

The MTA said information on the proposed route changes is available at its Web site, www.mtamaryland.com, or by calling 410-539-5000 or toll-free at 866-RIDE-MTA .

Michael Dresser

Maryland: Senate race

Democrat Rales offers plan for wider health insurance

U.S. Senate candidate Josh Rales introduced a plan to tackle the nation's health care crisis yesterday, a program that aims to reduce the number of uninsured Americans by providing employer incentives to offer coverage.

Rales, a Democrat from Montgomery County who is seeking office for the first time, says employer-based coverage "provides the best opportunity to reduce the number of uninsured in the near future."

His 12-page plan would require employers to enroll full-time and part-time workers in a health care plan. If employers did not offer coverage, they would be required to contribute 8 percent of their payroll to a state fund for those without coverage.

Rales proposes a tax credit of $1,000 per enrolled employee for businesses with fewer than 25 employees that generate taxable income of less than $250,000 a year. He said the credit would cost about $7.8 billion annually.

In an effort to streamline health care technology, Rales would advocate that by 2011, hospitals, physicians' offices and clinics will be required to record all patient information electronically. He said government should help nonprofit hospitals and clinics offset related costs. For-profit entities should be able to write off their expenses for tax purposes, he said.

Jennifer Skalka

Worcester County: Extradition

Ehrlich OKs sending Shrieves to Va. to face murder charges

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has signed a warrant to extradite Ronald Lee Shrieves to Virginia, where he faces charges of killing his parents, niece and nephew last month.

Shrieves, 32, has been held in Worcester County Jail for more than six weeks since police arrested him. Police say he fled Accomack County, Va., in his father's pickup truck after the killings.

On April 7, the bodies of Harry Shrieves Sr., 68, Edna Shrieves, 58, DeNiya, 4, and Deonte, 14 were discovered in their home.

Associated Press

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