December 11, 2012

State Roundup, December 11, 2012

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STATE HEALTH EXCHANGE: An AP story in the Daily Record reports that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announced that Maryland has received conditional approval by the federal government to operate a state-based health insurance exchange in 2014.

The approval by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services means that Maryland is on track under federal guidelines to operate an exchange during open enrollment next October. Most aspects of health reform will be implemented in 2014, writes Andrea Walker in the Sun.

A Maryland panel is recommending that the state charge a combination of taxes and fees to pay for the roughly $35 million annual cost of running the state’s health benefits exchange, the insurance marketplace required under the federal health care law, Rachel Baye reported in the Washington Examiner. Among the fees the committee of state lawmakers and health officials suggests are new charges on individual ratepayers and increases to existing charges on health care professionals.

SPEED CAMERA AUDIT: Speed camera companies and local governments would be penalized $1,000 for each “bogus” citation issued to motorists under proposed legislation announced Monday by state Del. Jon Cardin, the Sun’s Scott Calvert reports. Christopher Assaf created a video report that tops the story.

Cardin said he plans to sponsor a bill calling for an audit of state and local speed camera tickets with an eye on rooting out bogus citations, reports Bryan Sears of Patch.com.

Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette reports that a legislative audit of the SHA, released in November, found that the contractor operating speed cameras in construction zones along state roads took many unreliable photographs from October 2009 through June 2010. Only 44% of drivers photographed were sent citations; the other photos were unreliable or unreadable, according to the audit.

The editorial board for the Sun opines that if there is a general theme that runs through the Sun’s investigation of speed camera programs on the state and local level in the Baltimore area, it is this: Governments have found ways to follow the letter of the law that maximize the number of citations issued while flouting the spirit of the law that protects the public from erroneous tickets.

LOCAL CONTROL: State Del. Mike McDermott opines in a column in the Salisbury Daily Times that, under the guise of “for the greater good,” state government has increasingly taken an activist role in planning issues that is overshadowing what had traditionally been local controlled, and he does not like it one bit.

TODD EBERLY, PUNDIT: For some young boys, the only research they want to conduct is reading the stats on the back of a baseball card. But as a child, St. Mary’s College political science professor Todd Eberly cared about politics and policy. Now Eberly has become the go-to guy for political punditry in Maryland, writes Sam Smith in MarylandReporter.com.

TAX HIKES DRAW CONCERN: As the 432nd Maryland General Assembly session approaches on Jan. 9, local politicians weighed in on big issues that will plague the state and the Eastern Shore in 2013, reports Josh Bollinger of the Easton Star Democrat. Many agree that possible tax hikes are going to be the biggest issue next year, particularly an increase on gas taxes.

Members of the public had the chance to make their views known to local legislators face-to-face Monday night, and they had a clear message: They told members of the District 1 legislative delegation they don’t like taxes and they don’t like added fees tacked on by state government, writes Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News.

NO HEROES HERE: In writing about the situation surrounding former Del. Tiffany Alston and her supposed replacement, Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland says, “What could be more inadequate than a thief almost replaced by a former drug dealer, in a process led by a man with designs on the thief’s job himself and interrupted by an ambitious governor who may be desperately trying to avoid an attack ad sometime in the future?”

CARROLL’S OFFICIAL LANGUAGE: Today Carroll County Commissioners will gather to hear public comments on a proposed ordinance designating English as the county’s official language in an effort to promote assimilation, reports WMAR’s Sherrie Johnson.

FAUX POT: Pressure builds throughout Frederick County for towns to outlaw synthetic marijuana, writes Cara Anthony of the Frederick News-Post.

OUT WITH THE OLD: Columnist Bill Kennedy of the Carroll County Times he is of the opinion that the commissioner form of local government had outlived its usefulness by the late 1980s or early ’90s, about the time that he arrived in one of the early waves of urbanites who moved here for a better way of life and better schools for our children.