Limits proposed on standardized school testing — 2% of class time

Instead of waiting for a state commission to finish studying overtesting in Maryland’s public schools, legislators working with teachers and parents are pushing a standardized testing limit of 2% of annual instructional time. Organizations representing school superintendents and school boards across Maryland are urging lawmakers to reject the proposal, HB141, and wait for the testing commission's initial recommendations due July 1.

Ken Capone, left foreground, at hearing on subminimum wage FEb. 10.

Advocates push for phase out of subminimum wages for workers with disabilities

Disabilities rights groups called on lawmakers Wednesday to support a bill that would eventually eliminate a sub-minimum wage law that discriminates against employees with disabilities. The bill, referred to as the Ken Capone Equal Employment Act, HB 420, would prohibit the Commissioner of Labor and Industry from allowing sheltered workshops and work activities center employers to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage.

Gov. Larry Hogan gives his State of the State address Feb. 3.

Unusual political coalition for redistricting reform battles intransigent Democrats

The ongoing issue of redistricting in Maryland represents one of the most unique political alignments in state politics in some time. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has found common cause on this issue with not only his Republican base, but independent voters as well as progressive and “good government” Democrats. Liberal special interest groups have endorsed Hogan’s plan and criticized the state’s Democratic leadership. Even the editorial boards of the state’s leading newspapers have overwhelmingly supported the governor’s cause on this issue.

Democrats introduce more gun safety legislation

Days after the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sent Maryland’s assault weapon ban back to a lower court for strict review, top Democrats in the state legislature announced new measures to strengthen gun safety laws. One bans guns on college campuses; one bans anyone on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from purchasing a gun in Maryland; and the third requires judges to inform anyone convicted of a domestic violence offense that they must surrender their weapons

Large exemptions proposed on pension income

Believing senior citizens are fleeing Maryland due to high taxes on retirement income, Del. Karen Young, D-Frederick, is proposing to exempt as much as $75,000 on pension income. The bill, HB 311, which mirrors a proposal she introduced last year, would expand existing pension exemptions for eligible seniors and disabled Marylanders and would be phased in over seven years. The House Ways & Means Committee considered the bill on Tuesday.

Morgan State University in snow.

The drawn-out lawsuit that could reshape Maryland’s public universities

In a development well off the radar screen, a federal judge in Baltimore last week issued an order that marks the most recent stage in a controversy that has been percolating for years. The so-called “Coalition Case” involves a lawsuit against the state brought by supporters of Morgan State University and the three other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Maryland. The plaintiffs have been seeking a judicial order requiring Maryland to provide a range of specific remedial actions to make the HBCUs more viable and competitive with other universities in the state.

New Hampshire Debate Google Trends

Commentary on final GOP debate before N.H. primary

Not a strong first half of the debate, but a much better second half. It may have been a consequential night for the candidates. Not a good night for Rubio, certainly not in the first half of the debate; a strong night for Christie; a good night for Bush; a pretty good night for Kasich, Cruz and Trump, who was a little less egocentric and baiting than usual -- a little. Commentary by Rick Vatz and Len Lazarick.

Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals, Mary Ellen Barbera

13 new Maryland judges proposed at cost of $4.1M

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Thursday that there are not enough Circuit and District judges in Maryland, which has resulted in courts being overloaded with cases. Barbera testified in favor of SB 117, a bill the judiciary asked for that would add a total of 13 judges around the state at a total estimated cost of $4.1 million including support staff in its first year. The judiciary has included $3.8 million in the fiscal 2017 budget to pay for the new judges.