Defeat for the Governor

Senate Rejects Choice for Environment Chief

The Maryland Senate rejected Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s nominee to head the Department of the Environment, handing an embarrassing defeat to the new Republican governor. On a 26 to 21 vote, the Senate opposed Lynn Buhl for the position, the first time since the state went to a Cabinet system in 1969 that a nominee has been turned down. Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) argued that the former auto industry attorney from Michigan had failed to demonstrate a strong commitment to enforcing the state's environmental regulations.

Tax Increases on Ehrlich's Mind

Property, Business Levies Under Consideration

A steep decline in Maryland's tax collections will send the state's budget shortfall spiraling to nearly $2 billion by 2004, prompting lawmakers to predict that they will be forced to make even more painful cuts in state programs. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and some Democratic lawmakers said they were willing to consider tax increases.

Mistaken Freedom

Prison Releases Were Errors, Montgomery Says

Montgomery County corrections officials mistakenly released seven prisoners since January 2000 -- five during the last year -- but did not publicly disclose the errors, according to records obtained by The Washington Post. The reasons for the foul-ups included paperwork mistakes, miscalculated sentences and, in one case, a man released in place of a cousin with the same surname. Every inmate was recaptured within a few days, and none is believed to have committed crimes while at large. County Corrections Director Arthur M. Wallenstein described the mistakes as regrettable but not cause for alarm.

Moose Hires Firm in Book Controversy

Police Chief Wants Approval From Ethics Panel

In a move to win approval from ethic officials to write a book on the inside story of the Washington area sniper manhunt, Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose has hired a politically connected Bethesda law firm. The law firm sent a letter reminding the panel that "there are some serious constitutional issues involved in telling people they can't write books," according to Ronald Karp, Moose's attorney.

Murder-Suicide Case Raises Questions

Pr. George's Leader Blasts State's Attorney

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson questioned State's Attorney Glenn Ivey's handling of a domestic violence case that ended with a murder-suicide in Oxon Hill. Johnson said that Tyrone Dyson should never have walked out of the courtroom after promising he would stay away from his wife. Less than 24 hours later, Dyson shot Ernestine Dyson and then himself.

Number of Area Welfare Recipients Rises

Poor Economy, Budget Cuts Are Blamed

Welfare rolls in the Washington area have started to rise after nearly five years of decline, reflecting the weakened economy that has brought widespread layoffs and also forced cuts in services designed to keep families off public assistance. Some officials say the increases should not be seen as a failure of welfare reform. Advocates for the poor say they worry about the erosion of support for families on welfare.

Around the Region

Arundel Gets Aid; Taxes May Rise in Howard

* U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) presented Anne Arundel County officials with a check for $447,075 in federal funds to help turn a former high school for black students into an apartment complex for the elderly as well as a senior center and a Boys & Girls Club. Construction is expected to begin on the $22 million project next year.

* To overcome an anticipated $50 million shortfall in next year's budget, Howard County Executive James N. Robey may seek an increase in both the income and real estate taxes. The rare move to raise both taxes in one year could cost residents hundreds of dollars, yet still may not be enough to close the county's widening financial gap.

Late bloomers: The National Park Service predicts that cherry blossoms won't show until the second or third week in April.