August 5, 2013

State Roundup, August 5, 2013

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AETNA LEAVES EXCHANGE: Aetna Inc. has canceled plans to sell insurance on Maryland’s new health insurance exchange, part of the federal health care reform law, after regulators cut the rates it could charge consumers for its plans, reports Scott Dance in the Sun. Aetna told the Maryland Insurance commissioner that cuts regulators made to the rates the companies had proposed “would not allow us to collect enough premiums to cover the cost of the plans.”

VALLARIO ETHICS QUESTIONED: A woman who lost her daughter in a hit-and-run accident went to Del. Joe Vallario asking him to tighten negligent drivers laws. Vallario, a criminal defense attorney, had for years stood in the way of bills aimed at making it easier for prosecutors to get jail time for negligent drivers, arguing they criminalized what were often accidents. Weeks later, reports John Wagner in the Post, prosecutors told the woman that Vallario’s son, who operates out of his father’s law office, would be representing the driver who killed her daughter.

PRIVATE FIRM FOR PURPLE LINE: Maryland will seek a private company to build and operate a planned $2.2 billion light-rail Purple Line, marking the first time the state has used such financing on a public transit project, writes John Wagner for the Post.

SNAP CUTS: According to Maryland Money Matters, 774,000 low-income people in Maryland will see a cut in their food assistance benefits this fall, when a temporary boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) is set to expire.

TAX FREE WEEK: The Easton Star-Democrat is reporting that the state comptroller and the Maryland Retailers Association are readying for Shop Maryland, a week of tax-free shopping for clothing and shoes. During Shop Maryland week, Aug. 11-17, purchases of clothing or shoes at $100 or less will be exempt from the 6% state sales tax.

STOP RELEASING GUNS EARLY: Here’s the scary thing about the news that the Maryland State Police has found 30 cases in which gun dealers decided not to wait for the state to complete a background check and handed firearms to people whose criminal histories made them ineligible to own them: It’s almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg, opines the editorial board for the Sun. For the sake of public safety and any pretense they have to moral authority, gun dealers must immediately stop releasing guns before background checks are complete.

BRIDGE WAKE-UP CALL: You could describe last month’s three-vehicle crash on the Bay Bridge — in which a car wound up in the water — as a wake-up call. But you can’t awaken politicians determined to stay asleep. Just ask state Sens. John Astle and E.J. Pipkin, opines the Capital-Gazette’s opinionators. on building a third span of the Bay Bridge.  The two have been trying for 10 years to interest the General Assembly in approving a $25 million environmental impact study. The response they’ve gotten every year boils down to two words: Go away.

ARRA REPORT FAILURES: Six Maryland companies and two local governments failed to file their quarterly compliance reports on time for federal funds received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, according to Red Maryland. Several companies have failed to file reports for consecutive reporting cycles.

ANTI-ABORTION ROBOCALL: Cindy Mumby of the Dagger writes about a dust-up among Harford County Republicans over a pro-life group’s robocall that blasts several GOP legislators for not standing up for legislation banning abortions at 20 weeks. Some Republicans are saying the robocalls are illegal. The Maryland House Republican Caucus has gotten involved, defending the targeted delegates.

GANSLER’S NEW CAMPAIGN BOSS: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler, who is gearing up to announce his 2014 bid for governor next month, has hired a new campaign manager, reports John Wagner in the Post. Matthew “Mudcat” Arnold recently took over for Carrie Glenn, who has left the campaign for health-related reasons.

GANSLER & SUNSHINE: Whatever you think of Gansler as a candidate, writes the editorial board for the Frederick News Post, he deserves a pat on the back for at least broaching strengthening the state’s sunshine laws, which state lawmakers themselves have no real vested interest in improving.

GUBERNATORIAL CAMPAIGN TRAILS: Democrats campaigning to be Maryland’s next governor are visiting areas their opponents have claimed as support centers in multiple events scheduled for today, writes Alexander Pyles for the Daily Record.

HOUSE RACES: With the 2014 campaign season has starting early, MarylandReporter.com be running a new monthly roundup covering Maryland election news by office and district.  Each district is listed by county and incumbents with their status. The districts reflect the new district lines, which have placed some incumbents into the same district. A separate roundup on the statewide and executive races will run Tuesday.

PRESIDENTIAL BID: The Sun’s Erin Cox writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley told a group of reporters Saturday he was laying the “framework” for his 2016 presidential bid, suggesting the governor has shifted from considering whether he’d like to run to how he would run for the Democratic nomination, and that by the end of this year, he will have mapped out “a body of work that lays the framework of a candidacy for 2016.”

NEUMAN’S BUDGET: Is Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman ready to break out the taxpayer checkbook? Two months after her first budget as county executive was passed, the Annapolis Republican has some big-ticket items in mind, writes Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette. Her spending plan was about $89 million more than that for fiscal 2013. It included a property tax increase, which drew criticism from one of her opponents in next year’s Republican primary.

PATH TO CITIZENSHIP: Proposals to change the country’s immigration laws, now before Congress, offer a number of Anne Arundel County residents a chance at citizenship, writes Jack Lambert for the Capital-Gazette.