- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2012

Gay marriage finished, Maryland assembly refocuses on budget, taxes; Nonprofit linked to Thomas‘ stealing goes before D.C. Council; Rosecroft Raceway: Losing slots bid would doom the horse track; Injuried P.G. firefighters face painful recovery; Maryland next to request No Child Left Behind waiver; D.C. Council rings up big cellphone bills; Metro opens public hearings on fare increases.

After settling the hot-button social issue of same-sex marriage, Maryland’s General Assembly appears poised at the halfway point of its 90-day session to begin tackling its many financial issues, including calls for tax increases to help trim the state’s $1.1 billion structural deficit, reports David Hill of The Washington Times.

A public-private nonprofit that played a pivotal role in former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.’s theft of more than $350,000 from the city is expected to face tough questions from the council Monday. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said his oversight committee will present “substantial questions” to the Children & Youth Investment Trust Corp. that could provide a window into the trust that Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat, used to embezzle funds intended for youth programs from 2007 to 2009, reports Tom Howell Jr. of The Times.

A proposed Prince George’s County casino along the Potomac River could spell the end of racing in Fort Washington and doom Maryland’s standardbred horse-racing industry, opponents say. Officials at the long-beleaguered Rosecroft Raceway have made it clear that slots or other casino-style gambling must be a part of its business for the racetrack to survive, according to the Washington Examiner.

Two firefighters seriously injured during a house fire in Prince George’s County are awake and recovering, family members speaking publicly Sunday for the first time said about the young volunteers overpowered by a blast of flames, reports Meredith Somers of The Times.

Maryland is set to become the latest state to apply for a waiver from the most rigid requirements of the No Child Left Behind education law. The Baltimore Sun reports that the waiver request is expected to be filed today. If it is granted, Maryland schools would be measured not just on how all students perform but also on specific groups, including minorities and special education students.

Members of the D.C. Council and about 30 staff members have spent about $61,000 in cellphone bills over the past 16 months because of excessive roaming and data charges. The Washington Post reports that D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown recently determined the council was wasting thousands of dollars with such charges. For most, the bills were between $50 and $75 a month. But some regularly exceeded $100 a month. Council member Muriel Bowser had the highest average bill at about $251 a month and topped $700 in August. Ms. Bowser attributed the charges to international roaming while on vacation.

Metro has scheduled a series of public hearings to hear from riders about proposed fare increases. The first of the hearings begins tonight at Montgomery County’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center at 7 p.m. They will continue through March 6. The hearings are required whenever Metro plans a fare increase. Hearings this week also will be held in Falls Church and Southeast Washington. A hearing next Monday will be held in Arlington, according to the Associated Press.