Cumberland Times-News

January 8, 2009

We can track state's spending

Jan Alderton, Managing Editor

Calling it a move toward “transparency and accountability,” Gov. Martin O’Malley last week unveiled a new Web site allowing Marylanders to search for any state agency and see how much money it spent with different vendors.

The site can be found at www.spending.dbm.maryland.gov and can be searched by vendor or ZIP code.

Check the State Highway Administration spending, for example, and you will find quite a few local vendors in 2008, including, to name a few, Carl Belt Inc., of Cumberland, $6.4 million; Bedford Road Petroleum, $114,417 and Nightengale & Sons LLC, Lonaconing, $80,557.

Unfortunately, the site does not give any other details about the spending. But it is a good start toward accountability. Let’s hope more details are added soon....

Maryland restaurant owners received a little encouragement recently when the National Restaurant Association’s 2009 Restaurant Industry Forecast was released. The group is predicting a 2.87 percent increase in restaurant sales in the state this year....

The ban on smoking in Maryland bars and restaurants will be a year old on Feb. 1. The reports we’ve been hearing are that the ban is working out fine. Some bar and restaurant owners tell us they would not revert back to allowing smoking even if the law were repealed....

A number of new laws took effect across the land on Jan. 1. One is in Illinois and allows judges to order those who violate a restraining order to wear tracking devices. This would be useful in our area, given our high incidence of domestic assault cases.

A new California law permits veterans with license plates designating a special military status, such as Purple Heart or Medal of Honor recipients, Pearl Harbor survivors or former POWs, to park in metered spaces for free....

Memorabilia related to President-elect Barack Obama and the upcoming Jan. 20 inauguration can be found seemingly everywhere. The popular TV shopping channel QVC has jumped on the bandwagon big-time (see related story on today’s business page, 1E).

Over the next couple of weeks, the station will hawk a $200 coin set with each of the 44 presidents on a South Dakota quarter. A gold presidential pocket watch with Obama’s image can be had for $90. A coin and stamp set commemorating Martin Luther King Day and Obama’s inauguration is $20.

Speaking of the inauguration, it promises to be a prosperous time for porta-potty firms. With as many as 1 million people expected in Washington, the Portable Sanitation Association said its guidelines suggest the city will need 12,000 porta-potties on the Mall....

Scripps Howard News Service carried an item recently about changes you may see in your doctor’s office — because of a new ethics code from the nation’s drugmakers.

The code ends the long-standing practice of sales reps leaving promotional pens, pads, mugs, etc. with physicians. The policy does not stop distribution of samples. Nor does it bar consulting deals with doctors or sponsorship of physician seminars....

Ever thought about riding a bicycle to work? It could put some money in your pocket.

Employees who regularly use their bicycles to go to and from work are eligible for a $20-a-month, tax-free reimbursement from their employers for bicycle-related expenses. The employers, in turn, will be able to deduct the expense from their federal taxes.

The Bicycle Commuter Act is part of a larger set of Renewable Energy Tax Credit initiatives included in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. The legislation was signed into law by President Bush in early October....

Seen on the Internet — Funny politics quotes:

• Asking an incumbent member of Congress to vote for term limits is a bit like asking a chicken to vote for Colonel Sanders. — Bob Inglis

• If elected, I will win. — Pat Paulsen

• Never vote for the best candidate, vote for the one who will do the least harm. — Frank Dane

• He knows nothing and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career — George Bernard Shaw

• If you can’t convince them, confuse them. — Harry S. Truman

• The first Presidential debate was down in Florida. Residents spent all day putting plywood on their televisions. — David Letterman

Jan Alderton is managing editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Contact Jan Alderton at jpalderton@times-news.com.