Finance Committee approves mandated reimbursement increases for mental health

Several hundred rallied in Annapolis Thursday in support of the Keep The Door Open Act, a bill that would increase funding for mental health and addiction treatment and tie the reimbursement rate for service providers to the Consumer Price Index. A few hours later, the Senate Finance Committee voted to send the bill, SB 476, to the full Senate after 16 groups representing hospitals, service providers and nonprofits spoke in support of the bill. Opposition from two cabinet officials at the hearing won a small concession from Finance Chair Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles, who added an amendment that would sunset the act in five years.

Annual corporate filing fee would be raised based on company assets

Maryland businesses have come out strongly against a proposed change in an annual corporate filing fee that would go from a flat fee structure to a progressive tax based on a company’s assets. The annual corporate filing fee is currently a flat fee of $300 in order to maintain the legal entity’s existence in the state; the progressive tax could climb as high as $4,000 based on a company’s fixed assets.

80,000 more salaried workers could get overtime pay under proposed bill

A bill that would make 80,000 more salaried employees in Maryland eligible for overtime pay is not sitting well with business and nonprofit groups, whose salaried employees often work more than 40 hours a week. But the bill’s sponsor says companies have avoided paying overtime for decades by unfairly classifying hourly workers as salaried employees. The bill, HB665, would increase the salary cap for white-collar and service workers currently exempt from overtime pay to $47,476 up from the current $23,660.

Rascovar: Giving Frosh his independence

You can’t blame Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr., for getting irritated over the Maryland attorney general’s new authority – granted by the General Assembly – to sue the federal government without the governor’s permission. This strips Hogan of a smidgen of his enormous powers. Yet if the Republican chief executive truly wished to stop this slight weakening of his powers all he did to do was pick up the phone and negotiate a compromise.

GOP legislators offer pension reforms

The legislature can no longer ignore the state’s $20 billion in unfunded pension obligations, a group of House and Senate Republicans said on Thursday. “There is a problem in our current pension system,” said Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington County at a press conference. “The current system is unsustainable, it’s uncompetitive, and most powerfully it’s unattractive.”

AG Frosh asks for $1 million to exercise new powers

Hours after the House of Delegates gave final approval to broad new powers for Attorney General Brian Frosh to sue the federal government, he was in front of a House committee asking for $1 million a year to hire five lawyers for his new mission. The delegates approved the new powers for the Democratic AG to go after the Trump administration without the permission of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in a straight party line vote 89-50, with all Republicans opposed.

Financial aid officers oppose new requirements to help students manage loans

Financial aid officers across the state oppose two proposals that would require state funded colleges and universities to generate an annual “loan letter” to students that spells out their loan obligations and help them manage their finances better. The letter would be required to include payoff amounts, cost of borrowing and monthly payments – even for loans obtained at other schools.

Opinion: The time is now for the End-of-Life Option Act in Maryland

Thursday afternoon, the House Health and Government Operations Committee will hear testimony on the “Richard E. Israel and Roger ‘Pip’ Moyer End-of-Life Option Act,” HB370. This legislation offers mentally capable, terminally ill adults with no hope of a cure the option to voluntarily request a prescription for medication from their doctor that they can decide to use to die peacefully if their suffering becomes unbearable.

Comptroller seeks more powers to combat tax fraud

Legislation supported by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Gov. Larry Hogan would give new powers to the comptroller’s office to combat tax fraud. Testifying Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, Franchot, a Democrat, asked lawmakers to “give me the power to make a difference here.” At a summit he hosted last month, Franchot said it’s “an existential threat to our agency that tax fraud is increasing.”