State Digest

STATE DIGEST

January 10, 2007

Phase 2 of city bus changes delayed

State transportation officials delayed a series of planned changes in Baltimore-area bus lines yesterday - giving the incoming administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley a chance to put its stamp on a comprehensive overhaul of the Maryland Transit Administration route system.

Deferring to a request from incoming Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari, current Secretary Robert L. Flanagan announced that the second phase of the route restructuring will be postponed so the new administration can seek additional public comments about the plan.

The changes, which were to affect 20 routes, had been scheduled to go into effect Feb. 11.

The Ehrlich administration had planned to make the changes as part of its overhaul of MTA routes, an initiative that encountered widespread criticism among riders after the first phase was implemented in October 2005.

The Phase 2 changes have not provoked as much dispute and have received praise from some transit advocates. But with O'Malley scheduled to take over from defeated Gov. Robert L.. Ehrlich on Jan. 17, Porcari said the new administration wants to examine the changes before moving forward.

"The transition team and the governor-elect and the lieutenant governor-elect have gotten a lot of input and comments, and we want to make sure we looked at those comments ... before there are major changes," Porcari said.

Ed Cohen, president of the Transit Riders Action Council, said he doesn't want to see an extended delay in the Phase 2 changes but believes they can be improved with some "tweaks."

Cohen said that after the second phase goes into effect, he hopes the MTA will begin a thorough review of all of the changes it made in the first round of the restructuring.

MICHAEL DRESSER

Utilities

Gansler names Carmody advocate for customers

Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler announced yesterday the selection of a new advocate for utility customers, an assistant attorney general who has represented the state in utility mergers and electric and gas industry restructuring proceedings.

Paula M. Carmody, a 15-year veteran of the Office of People's Counsel, replaces Patricia A. Smith, who left last week after a three-year tenure that culminated in legislation demanding her firing amid debate over rising electric rates.

Smith had been accused by many lawmakers of not doing enough to protect consumers from a 72 percent rate increase for customers of BGE, a claim she denied.

Gansler had said he would look for someone with a broad background in both state and national regulatory issues, and yesterday he noted Carmody's experience in protecting the environment, a top goal for the new attorney general.

JUSTIN FENTON

REPUBLICANS

State party selects new executive director

The Maryland Republican Party announced yesterday the selection of a new executive director.

John Flynn, 33, an Annapolis resident who most recently served as counselor to the U.S. labor secretary, will replace John Gibson, who spent 20 months in the position.

Corey Stottlemyer, regional political director for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign, was named political director, and Wendy Hershey was named events coordinator.

Last month, the party selected Dr. James Pelura, an Anne Arundel County veterinarian and longtime Republican activist, as its new chairman.

"We will remain diligent in providing leadership and balance for our state and have a competent and enthusiastic staff to move our Party forward," Pelura said in a statement.

JUSTIN FENTON

CONGRESS

Sarbanes is named to House committee

U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes has been named to the House Committee on Natural Resources, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced yesterday.

The freshman Democrat from Baltimore County, who spoke during the campaign of working to protect the Chesapeake Bay, joins Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest of the Eastern Shore on the panel, which has jurisdiction over public lands, fisheries and wildlife.

Rep. Albert R. Wynn, a Prince George's Democrat, was elected chairman of the Environment and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce yesterday. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Environmental Protection Agency and Superfund.

MATTHEW HAY BROWN

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