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The Third Floor is back from Easter vacation, but still way behind, so just fast-and-furious catch-up today. Back to normal tomorrow, hopefully.

Patronage Abuse: From today's Sun, DOT Secretary Bob Flanagan hires another incompetent, this time Anne Arundel County pol/perennial Ehrilich administration employee Phillip Bissett, to head the state's MARC train system, for more than $92,000 a year.

Quota Quarrel: From a rather badly written story in today's Sun (does anyone understand the lead?), police union and City Councilman Kenneth Harris criticize department's relatively new "point" system, which is supposed to evaluate officers' performance through their number of arrests and such.

Staying Alive: From yesterday's Sun, according to city officials, fatal drug overdoses fell by 12 percent last year, to 261, the lowest number in five years.

Howdy, Pardner: Looks like gay couples will finally get some more rights, though of course not marriage, this year, as the "life partners"-rights bill--which would give unmarried longtime couples the power to make health and funeral decisions and such--passes through the Senate and looks golden in the House. UPI/Washington Times story, and a pretty good Sun preview story.

Generally Assembled: House votes 81-53 to fund stem-cell research in Maryland at $23 million a year; now goes to Senate, where a fillibuster or at least a long fight is expected. Pending House bill would allow public-school students to use sunscreen with impunity. Taxpayer-funded state elections bill looks dead.

O'Rumors: This story blew up on Friday and stayed newsy over the weekend. First, Gov. Ehrlich accuses former state employee/Ehrilch volunteer of blackmail, in connection with the whole Joseph-Steffen-spreading-O'Malley-rumors thing, saying that Dems set Steffen up in a sting-type operation (or something like that), and that the ex-worker, Michelle Lane, is trying to blackmail him so that she doesn't get investigated (or something like that); it's complicated. (Post story.) Then, in The Sun, even more confusing follow-ups on Saturday and Sunday.

Lane's involvement in this mess also somehow points to flaws in the state's foster-care system (or something like that). Stories in the Post and The Towerlight. The Third Floor will read all this more carefully and get back to you, maybe even with a clear explanation and well-thought-out analysis, but don't count on it.

Going in Circles: Also from The Towerlight, Greater Towson Council of Community Associations strongly opposes student housing on Towson Circle.

Slots Updates: From yesterday's Sun, officials in Frederick County, slated for 2,500 machines under the House of Delegates slots plan, are drafting legislation to keep them out; expect other jurisdictions to follow suit, in both directions. From today's Sun, Gov. Bob Ehrlich visits Laurel Park to meet with Maryland Jockey Club CEO Joe De Francis and to push Generally Assembly to pass slots legislation.

TMBWI Airport: The effort to rename Baltimore's airport is gaining more traction. From yesterday's Sun, Thurgood Marshall's family now publicly urging lawmakers to rename BWI Airport for the former Supreme Court justice, civil-rights pioneer, and Baltimore native. Washington Times story.

Senate Race Update: Nothing really new, but a good update about what's going on from yesterday's Post.

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