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Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by Cynthia Prairie

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State Roundup, August 23, 2013

STAND YOUR GROUND IN MARYLAND? Del. Pat McDonough said Thursday that he plans to introduce legislation in the General Assembly that would bring to Maryland the “stand your ground” legal doctrine that became a central part of the debate over Florida’s Trayvon Martin case, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

McDonough acknowledged that passing a “stand your ground” law would be a mounting task in a Democratically controlled state, according to a story at WMAR-TV. “The reputation of the House Judiciary Committee regarding stonewalling good legislation promoting public safety is well-known,” he said.

TAX-FREE MERCHANDISE: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot would like to see the governor and General Assembly expand what merchandise is covered under Maryland’s tax-free week during the annual state-subsidized sale, writes Alexander Pyles for the Daily Record.

MORTGAGE INTEREST DEDUCTION: Maryland, the richest state in the nation, ranks tops in the nation for mortgage interest deduction claims, according to Red Maryland. Using data from 2010 (the latest available) the Tax Foundation created a map showing Maryland ranks No. 1 in the nation for taxpayers claiming the mortgage interest deduction.  The Reason Foundation report advocates phasing out the deduction, calling it an “upper class entitlement,” and return the savings to taxpayers in the form of lower income tax rates. But neither U.S. Senator from Maryland, Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, have proposed eliminating the mortgage interest deduction.

COLLEGE VALUE RATINGS: Some Maryland education officials lauded a presidential plan to make colleges more affordable by assigning them value ratings tied to federal financial aid, yet others feared the state’s historically black colleges and universities would suffer, writes Tricia Bishop in the Sun. The reactions came Thursday as officials tried to determine what President Barack Obama’s proposal might mean for their institutions.

POKER ROOM TO OPEN: Maryland Live! Casino will open its new 14,800 square foot Poker Room at noon Wednesday, Aug. 28, pending final regulatory approval. It expects the Poker Room to increase its overall gaming revenue by more than $1 million per month, WBFF-TV is reporting.

POLITICAL NOTES: In this Political Notes in the Capital-Gazette, Allison Bourq recaps the week and reports on campaign kickoffs for state and local elections, town hall meetings etc.

GANSLER-MITCHELL TICKET: WYPR’s Fraser Smith talks to Keiffer Mitchell Jr. about the increase in black political leadership since the March on Washington in 1963, and the suggestion that he might be Doug Gansler’s gubernatorial running mate in 2014.

HARFORD BOARD ON DEFENSE: In a story we missed from earlier this week, Cindy Mumby of the Dagger reports that, facing a barrage of criticism from Harford County Executive David Craig over its handling of the budget, the Harford school board on Monday fired back, defending its actions as a necessary response to the rising cost of doing business, unfunded mandates and shrinking revenues. Craig is also a gubernatorial candidate for 2014.

SMIGIEL VS SCOTT: Controversy is revolving around whether U.S. Rep. Andy Harris or his staff is meddling in the replacement of state Sen. E.J. Pipkin with the four central committees that must choose his successor. Blogger Jeff Quinton of the Quinton Report believes he has proof. Here’s his earlier report on the apparent choice of Audrey Scott by two committees.

Cheryl Mattix of the Cecil Whig reports that the official vote is not tabulated yet, but early indications are that Audrey Scott, former Maryland Republican Party chairwoman, has the lead in the 14-way battle to succeed E.J. Pipkin in the Maryland Senate. Del. Mike Smigiel was the top vote getter in Cecil County. The other three county central committees have not announced their results. Read further in the story for Smigiel’s speculation of outside interference.

(MarylandReporter.com will have an update later today in this fluid situation. Kent County GOP committee last night switched its vote to Del. Steve Hershey.)

Maryland Food Bank leaderboard

DWYER’S FUTURE: The editorial board for the Sun is joining Del. Don. Dwyer’s colleagues from both sides of the General Assembly aisle in asking that he seek help in some appropriate residential treatment program. He should also resign from office. It’s clear enough that the burden of public life is too much of a distraction for the delegate and may well be what’s preventing him from fully appreciating his grave circumstances.

Allison Bourg and Alex Jackson of the Capital-Gazette write that state laws also don’t allow House of Delegates Speaker Michael Busch or Gov. Martin O’Malley to oust Del. Dwyer, a three-term delegate known as one of the legislature’s most outspoken conservatives. Colleagues and followers on social media called for Dwyer’s resignation.

GOP RESIGNATION: David Ferguson, the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, resigned unexpectedly partway through a Monday evening meeting, according to party chair Diana Waterman. Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports that Waterman said Ferguson stood up about an hour into the party’s monthly leadership meeting in Annapolis, collected his belongings from his office and made his exit. No argument led up to the departure, and Ferguson left without making a scene, Waterman said.

The Gazette’s Kate Alexander provides more details on the departure of David Ferguson as executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.

DUTCH ON EGYPT ETC: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, ranking member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence, speaks with Dan Rodricks on WYPR-FM about the crisis in Egypt, the rising terrorist threats in Yemen and Syria, and Edward Snowden and the NSA.

DUNCAN KEEPS CONSULTING: Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan says he will continue to work as a consultant to the Lerner family, one of the Washington region’s largest real estate developers, while he campaigns to reclaim his old job next year, Bill Turque is reporting in the Post.

BOOST FOR HOWARD INVENTORS: If RoboSally, a bomb-defusing robot with humanlike hands, is any indication, the future may be coming a little faster to Howard County, writes Amanda Yeager in the Sun. County Executive Ken Ulman announced Thursday a new partnership between the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Howard County Economic Development Authority designed to accelerate the commercialization of new technology developed by the county’s scientists.

TRANSPORTATION MONEY: By the time Maryland finishes handing out $4.4 billion in new transportation funding, the money should spread evenly among road and transit priorities, according to the state, Kate Alexander writes in the Gazette.

TAX-EXEMPT STATUS AND CAMPAIGNS: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-8th, has joined with political watchdog groups to challenge in federal court a tax loophole that allows nonprofits to make undisclosed political contributions in federal elections, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette. together with Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and Public Citizen, filed suit Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the IRS regulations that govern eligibility for tax-exempt status as a section 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organization.

SWISS FRANCHOT: Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot says he won’t endorse a candidate in the state’s 2014 Democratic primary for governor, Ryan Marshall reports in the Gazette. Franchot said he has worked with and likes Democratic candidates Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Del. Heather Mizeur, Attorney General Doug Gansler, and doesn’t plan to pick a favorite in the June 2014 primary. “I’m going to be like Switzerland,” he said.

TAX MIGRATION: Gazette columnist Blair Lee has more detailed explanation of this week’s Tax Foundation data on taxpayer migration out of Maryland.

MoCo TEACHERS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: With local elections around the corner, Lindsay Powers in the Gazette reports that Montgomery County’s teachers union has a new leader spearheading its political efforts who only a few months ago was teaching high school students.

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