Kevin Spacey whips votes for Maryland film tax credits

The invitations — sent to every member of the Maryland General Assembly — promised “an evening of Annapolis, D.C. and Hollywood.” Oh, and it was. The guest of honor was Kevin Spacey, the two-time Academy Award winner who plays an unscrupulous, murderous politician in the wildly popular Netflix series “House of Cards.” Spacey? He was there to whip votes. “House of Cards” filmed its first two seasons in Maryland and planned to start filming the third season this spring. That has been pushed off until at least June, as the show’s makers refuse to continue filming in Maryland until lawmakers vote to set aside millions more in film tax credits. (Wash. Post)

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Long-term unemployed watch coming debate over benefits closely

The first thing Eric Miles lost was his Jeep. Then it was the apartment that he and his 12-year-old son called home. Since the federal government cut off jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed late last year, the 54-year-old East Baltimore man has moved in with his sister, relied on family to pay the phone bill and borrowed bus fare to go out and look for work. Nearly three months after Congress allowed the benefits to lapse, tens of thousands of out-of-work Marylanders are hoping that a bipartisan deal to extend the program through May will win approval. But the plan could be doomed by opposition from some conservatives, who say the benefits create a disincentive for seeking a job, as well as a national group representing state unemployment officials. (Balt. Sun)

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Auction of Pat Turner's Westport land canceled after another last-minute legal maneuver

A foreclosure sale scheduled for Friday morning to auction off developer Patrick Turner’s Westport land has been canceled again after a last-minute U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing forced an automatic stay in the case. The filing on Friday came from a creditor who is claiming Turner’s Inner Harbor West II LLC, which owns some of the waterfront property assembled at Westport, owes the company just over $2 million. The company, Tiderock Capital LLC of Towson, is unlikely to receive any money as a result of Friday’s foreclosure sale, so the timing of the filing likely means it is the latest in a string of legal maneuvers used by Turner to avoid losing the property. (Balt. Bus. Journal)

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Energy-bill shocks follow cold weather

Matt Kumpar paid $622 for the electricity his auto shop used in January, so he thought the February charge — a whopping $3,192 — was a mistake. It wasn't. The rate for his electric supply skyrocketed, a shift his provider blamed on abnormally low temperatures brought on by the polar vortex. Most Marylanders are seeing big bills — continuing to arrive this month and likely next month, too — because their heating systems needed extra fuel to maintain normal temperatures. But customers with variable-rate contracts got a double whammy. They used more power and discovered just how variable their rates are. (Balt. Sun)

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Local bill would lift open-bottle limit for some wine tastings

Local wine sellers with high-tech preservation systems might soon pop the cork on a few more bottles during sampling events if the Legislature decides to tweak state laws. Under the current rules, no more than six bottles can be open at a time during tastings, and customers can drink no more than 6 ounces of wine per day. But the bill now before the Maryland General Assembly would remove the six-bottle limit for stores with special wine preservation systems used to dispense samples for customers. (News-Post)

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Purple Line clears federal environmental review

State officials' assessment of the environmental impacts of the proposed Purple Line through suburban Washington satisfies federal environmental standards, the Federal Transit Administration announced this week — an important green light for the project to proceed. The federal clearance is required for federal funding to be spent on the project, as planned, and gives state officials more confidence to begin the long task of acquiring land in the proposed transit line's right-of-way, officials said. (Balt. Sun)

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Harbor Point critic sets up his own air monitoring system

A vocal opponent of the Harbor Point development is setting up his own air monitoring system to assess whether hazardous chemicals are released into the air during construction of the Exelon Tower. With federal and state environmental officials poised to grant approval of the developer’s air monitoring system – thus allowing the Exelon building to break ground – Stelios Spiliadis has arranged for air monitoring equipment to be installed at his boutique hotel, Inn of the Black Olive, across Caroline Street from the site. The baseline readings will be used to assess the amount of dust and hazardous chemicals released during construction of the 650,000-square-foot Exelon building. (Brew)

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Proposed changes to Montgomery County energy benchmarking bill favor building owners

The Montgomery County real estate community’s outpouring of concern about a proposed energy benchmarking and auditing bill has spurred some drastic changes in the private sector’s favor. In January, Councilman Roger Berliner, D-District 1, introduced a package of “green” bills aimed at driving the private sector to improve the energy efficiency of its real estate. One of those bills, as currently drafted, includes an energy benchmarking requirement that kicks in almost immediately for the largest residential and commercial buildings, as well as a mandate that property owners have their buildings audited and retro-commissioned to encourage less energy consumption. But in response to opposition and calls for study, Berliner is poised to make a series of key amendments to his bill — delaying the first private benchmarking submissions by at least 18 months, applying benchmarking requirements only to nonresidential buildings, eliminating the energy audit and retro-commissioning mandate, and creating a benchmarking work group. (Wash. Bus. Journal)

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