- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Maryland, Virginia didn’t adjust gas tax for inflation; D.C. clinic accused of fraud; Va. votes on adoption regulations that could affect gay couples; Maryland advocate wants tax increase on smokeless tobacco; D.C. campaign finance office releases latest report; Md. Delegate O’Donnell to challenge Hoyer; Metro: Crime dropped in 3rd quarter; Microsoft eyes St. Elizabeths property; Report finds Prince George’s among Md.’s unhealthiest counties.

Maryland and Virginia could have collected hundreds of millions of dollars a year since their last gas-tax increase had they imposed regular increases to account for inflation, according to an analysis by a nonprofit tax-policy institute. The states, which desperately are trying to cobble together more money for transportation, had among the highest totals in the nation of unimposed gas-tax dollars, according to the D.C.-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, reports David Sherfinski of The Washington Times.

A mental health clinic in Washington stands accused of defrauding Medicaid and the city’s Department of Health Care Finance by counseling patients without first doing proper diagnostic examinations, cutting corners when it conducted the exams and manipulating requests for reimbursement, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times and interviews with current and former employees.

The Virginia Board of Social Services is scheduled today to take up final regulations that advocates say would allow state-licensed adoption agencies to discriminate against prospective adoptive and foster parents based on their sexual orientation, according to the Associated Press.

The price of cigars in Maryland could go up soon if one of the state’s most prominent health advocates has his way. Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, said he will push the General Assembly in January to increase the state’s 15 percent excise tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco — a rate that has not changed since 1999. Supporters of an increase say it will deter underage smokers who increasingly have turned to cigars and chewing tobacco as cheaper alternatives to cigarettes, but opponents say the added tax will be nothing more than a drain on local businesses, The Times reports.

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance’s most recent report shows Maryland and Virginia towns inside the Capital Beltway are suddenly part of the District of Columbia, subsidiary companies and their owners are donating to campaigns despite calls to end “bundling,” and a two D.C. Council incumbents failed to disclose who employs their financial backers, The Times reports.

Maryland House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Calvert Republican, plans to launch an uphill bid Wednesday for the 5th Congressional District seat, in which he will argue that longtime incumbent Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Democrat, is part of what’s wrong with Washington, according to The Washington Post.

Major crime on Metro’s rail and bus network decreased in the third quarter, which ended in September, because Metro Transit Police used a computerized system to track crimes, did more strategic patrolling and launched more public awareness campaigns, transit officials said, The Post reports.

Tech giant Microsoft is eyeing Washington’s St. Elizabeths Hospital redevelopment project as its new home for a research and development center, city officials said Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner.

Prince George’s County ranks as one of Maryland’s unhealthiest, while Montgomery County is considered the second healthiest in the state, according to a recent report. Poor access to health care, poor quality of the care available to residents, and a high rate of uninsured patients are among several of the glaring weaknesses in the health of Prince George’s County residents, a report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found, the Examiner reports.

• Joseph Weber can be reached at jweber@washingtontimes.com.old.

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