September 4, 2013

State Roundup, September 4, 2013

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MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: Momentum appears to be building to raise the minimum wage in Maryland, with key politicians recently announcing support to increase hourly pay to at least $10 an hour, write Eileen Ambrose and Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun. But whether that vocal support translates into an actual raise is unclear. Maryland’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, the same as the federal minimum wage. The last time Marylanders saw a minimum wage increase was in 2009.

Bills to raise the minimum wage went nowhere during the most recent 90-day legislative session in Annapolis, in part because of staunch resistance from retailers and other employers. But supporters — including the state’s labor unions — hope the dynamic will be different when lawmakers return in January, particularly if Gov. Martin O’Malley puts his legislative muscle behind a proposal, writes the Post’s John Wagner. Check out the nifty map that shows what the minimum wages are state to state.

In July, the D.C. City Council passed a bill that would require some large retailers to give their employees a 50% premium over the city’s minimum wage despite the objections of Walmart, Mike DeBonis reported for the Post. City Mayor Vincent Gray is pondering whether to sign the bill.

O’MALLEY ARROGANCE: In an op-ed for the Capital-Gazette, Dels. Nic Kipke and Kathy Szeliga question Gov. Martin O’Malley’s recent assessment of the state’s unemployment numbers, calling it the worst kind of arrogance to tell people who have lost their jobs and families who are fighting to keep the wolves from the door that they should take comfort in the knowledge that their state has a great Triple A bond rating.

BALTIMORE RED LINE: Gov. O’Malley today plans to announce $1.5 billion in new state funding for the Baltimore Red Line and more than a dozen other area transportation projects, officials said, outlining for the first time how the state’s gas tax increase will be tapped to improve local infrastructure and mass transit in Baltimore City, Kevin Rector and Erin Cox report in the Sun.

WIND TURBINE LAW: A portion of Senate Bill 370, which deals with setback requirements for wind turbines, was deemed unconstitutional by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler because it would have given adjacent neighbors zoning authority, reports Elaine Blaisdell for the Cumberland Times News.

COAL PLANT SUIT: Maryland hopes to settle with the operator of a coal power plant in Dickerson that it sued for polluting local waterways. The Maryland Department of the Environment sued the Delaware-based company in U.S. District Court in June, claiming the Dickerson Electric Generating Station and Chalk Point Electric Generating Station in Prince George’s County pumped higher-than-allowed levels of chemicals into local bodies of water, reports Kate Alexander in the Gazette.

ACTION ON DOWN SYNDROME MAN’S DEATH: Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post reports that the case involving a New Market man with Down syndrome who died while in the custody of off-duty deputies has prompted local advocates, a state delegate and thousands from around the world to call for action. As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 338,000 people had signed an online petition pushing for an independent investigation into Robert Ethan Saylor’s death, and groups are planning to deliver the names to Gov. O’Malley’s office Thursday.

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WATERKEEPER-HUDSON FARM: Marc Steiner of WYPR-FM takes a look at the latest news on Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc. v. Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm and Perdue Farms, Inc.— a case that could have deep and long-term effects since it addressed the question of who is held responsible for polluting waterways under the Federal Clean Water Act.

GOP RISING: In a commentary for MarylandReporter.com, Republican Del. Tony O’Donnell disagrees with a recent assessment by opinionator Barry Rascovar that the Maryland Republican Party is in dire straits. He writes that when former Gov. Bob Ehrlich was first elected to the House of Delegates in 1986, the number of Republicans in the House was only 16 out of 141. Today, House Republicans number 43.  In just the last election in 2010, the House picked up six Republican seats and had a significant number of near misses.

HERSHEY WOOS COMMISSIONERS: Del. Steve Hershey has lobbied county commissioners in Kent, Queen Anne’s, Caroline and Cecil for letters of support in his bid to fill the seat vacated by Sen. E.J. Pipkin in District 36 – but he has done so using his official legislative letterhead — prohibited under ethics rules established by the legislature, writes Dan Menefee for MarylandReporter.com and the Chestertown Spy.

IN THE RUNNING: MarylandReporter.com publishes its monthly updates on who’s in and who’s out of the running, as well as who’s considering running for the General Assembly.

LOLLAR KICKS OFF GOV. RUN: Charles Lollar, a businessman and Marine Corps Reserve officer from Charles County, launched his bid for the Republican nomination for governor of Maryland on Tuesday with an appeal to Democrats and independents to support a campaign that he pledged will not focus on partisan politics, reports John Wagner for the Post.

Lollar, 42, describes himself as a fiscal conservative and social libertarian who believes the state’s top job is about managing taxpayer money, reports the Sun’s Erin Cox. “I’m running for governor, I’m not running to be a priest. There’s a big difference,” Lollar said. “It’s not my job as governor to go into your house and tell you how to live your life.”

HADDAWAY ON RURAL V. URBAN: In Part II of Center Maryland’s interview with Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio – who is running for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor on a ticket with Harford County Executive David Craig – she talks with about advocating for both urban and rural areas of the states.

L.A. CITY COUNCIL RUN: Teddy Davis, who until Friday was employed by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in a top communications job, filed Tuesday as a candidate for the city council in Los Angeles, John Wagner reports in the Post.

HARRIS, CARDIN ON SYRIA INVOLVEMENT: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, the only Republican member of Maryland’s congressional delegation — and the only veteran — said Tuesday he currently does not support U.S. military intervention in Syria, writes the Sun’s John Fritze. “The decision to engage militarily is one of the most serious a member of Congress can make, and, although at this point I would not vote for military intervention, I plan to examine all of the evidence before making a decision,” Harris said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, meanwhile, said he would like to see the resolution on intervention narrowed, write Nicole Gaudiano and Jennifer Shutt in the Salisbury Daily Times.

UB PRES STEPS DOWN: Robert Bogomolny, who led efforts to revive the University of Baltimore’s four-year undergraduate program and to transform the campus and surrounding neighborhood, announced Tuesday that he will step down as president after this academic year, Liz Bowie reports in the Sun.