September 9, 2013

State Roundup, September 9, 2013

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LOU PANOS DIES: Our friend, mentor and former Patuxent Publishing colleague Lou Panos, a longtime reporter and political columnist, died over the weekend. We will miss him. Len Lazarick has this remembrance. Here the Sun’s obituary updated by Jonathan Pitts. Here’s a nice piece written last year by Bob Allen for Patuxent Publishing after Panos was inducted into the MDDC Hall of Fame.

ENROLLING THE UNINSURED: As Maryland health officials prepare for nationwide health reform, the goal is clear: enrolling the state’s estimated 800,000 uninsured residents. But finding them is a challenge, writes Scott Dance in the Sun. There is no master list or map of the uninsured, who make up 14% of the state’s population.

SECESSION: A 49-year-old information technology consultant wants to apply the knife to Maryland’s five western counties, cutting ties with Annapolis’ liberal majority, reports Michael Rosenwald for the Post. Historians, political scientists and the leaders of the movements say secession efforts are being fueled by irreconcilable differences on issues such as gun control, taxes, energy policy, gay marriage and immigration — all subjects of recent legislative efforts at state and federal levels.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE; NO CORPORATE TAX CUT: Many Democrats have come out for hiking the state’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage, but any bill introduced to do so in the next General Assembly session must overcome staunch opposition from an unconvinced committee and the small-business community, writes Alex Jackson of the Capital Gazette.

Gov. Martin O’Malley told a group of more than 100 state business leaders Friday that he was disinclined to cut the corporate income tax rate, but he wanted raise the state’s minimum wage, Erin Cox reports in the Sun. “It is a fact that wages have been declining in our country for the first time since the second World War. There is a growing gulf between our middle class and between the wealthy in our country,” O’Malley said during a summit organized by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Barry Rascovar, writing for MarylandReporter.com, says O’Malley has joined the Democratic stampede to support a major jump in the state’s minimum wage. He has also made it clear he won’t be sponsoring any bills to lower Maryland’s corporate income tax as a sop to the business community. Neither move is unexpected.

In referencing an article from MarylandReporter.com about a report by the Greater Baltimore Committee regarding Maryland’s business climate and regional competitiveness, the HoCo Rising blog notes that the report fails to request a single tax cut. Instead, GBC members emphasize the need for “strategic, but not-fiscally debilitating, revenue-neutral adjustments to Maryland’s tax structure, coupled with strengthened efficiency in government spending.”

GUN VIOLENCE: A bus tour that began in Newtown, Conn., on the six-month anniversary of the school shooting there came to Baltimore on Saturday where a small group of ministers, legislators and activists gathered to call on Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence, reports Liz Bowie in the Sun. “A child killed every three hours and 15 minutes is enough for me. And it is enough for many men and women across the country. When will it be enough for Congress?” said Jenifer Pauliukonis, the Maryland head of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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NEW DRIVING LAWS: A series of new driving and vehicle laws will become effective Oct. 1. The change likely to have the broadest impact could be that police can now pull over drivers for talking on a cellphone, writes Kelsi Loos for the Frederick News Post.

ARUNDEL STORMWATER FEE: When the Anne Arundel County Council passed the stormwater bill last spring, councilmen set the fee for churches and other religious organizations at $1 a year. Other nonprofits’ fees were cut to around $600 an acre, roughly a third of the rate for commercial properties. Now there is talk of making all nonprofits at $1, after the ACLU raised concerns over the religion preference, reports Allison Bourg in the Capital-Gazette. Here’s a pdf of the ACLU letter.

DELEGATE ASSAULTED: Lynh Bui of the Post reports that a Prince George’s County man is facing robbery, theft and assault charges for allegedly beating and carjacking Del. Darren Swain, who has been in office since January, when he was named by the governor to fill the seat of Tiffany Alston.

DISTRICT 47 DELEGATE TO RUN FOR PG COUNCIL: Maryland Juice is reporting that Del. Doyle Niemann of District 47 has sent out an email indicating he is retiring from the House of Delegates to run for the Prince George’s County Council in the June 2014 Democratic Primary.

BAKER IV RUNS FOR DELEGATE: For years Rushern Baker IV expressed his political views through his art. Now he’s seeking a much more direct approach. He wants voters to send him to Annapolis, writes Gale Horton Gay for the Washington Informer. Baker, 25, said he’s a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 22, and he used Greenbelt’s Labor Day parade on Monday, Sept. 2 as his first campaign event to shake hands and make his candidacy known.

LOLLAR FIRED UP: In Republican race for governor, Charles Lollar shows fire, and David Craig needs some spark, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

HOW GOP COULD WIN: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Todd Eberly of St. Mary’s College and The FreeStater blog talk about why Republican Theodore McKeldin won the Maryland governorship twice and how the right GOP candidate could exploit a potentially bruising Democratic primary.

NAACP HEAD STEPS DOWN: Carrie Wells of the Sun reports that NAACP President Benjamin Jealous, credited with re-energizing and modernizing the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, announced Sunday he will step down from his position at the end of the year. WMAR-TV is reporting that Gov. O’Malley issued a statement on hearing the news, saying, Jealous “has served as a voice for those whose voices have been silenced, and is a remarkable example of what we can do together for justice and opportunity.”

VAN HOLLEN, SYRIA & THE KURDS: Post columnist Robert McCartney writes about U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who, as the debate over Syria heats up in Congress, remembers that he witnessed the horrific impact the last time a Middle Eastern country used poison gas to massacre its own citizens. In 1988, Van Hollen spent four days trekking through Kurdish refugee camps along the Turkish-Iraqi border collecting hundreds of eyewitness accounts of the murderous effect of Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons.

DELANEY STUMPS IN IOWA: It turns out Gov. O’Malley isn’t the only Maryland politician occasionally stepping into Iowa, writes John Fritze for the Sun. He writes that according to the Sioux City Journal, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, the first-term congressman from Potomac, visited the early presidential primary state Thursday on behalf of Jim Mowrer, a Democrat looking to unseat six-term incumbent Republican Rep. Steve King in the state’s 4th Congressional District.

HARBOR POINT SHOO-IN: In a profile on Harbor Point developer Michael Beatty, Jean Marbella of the Sun writes that the strong support he enjoys at City Hall virtually assures that Beatty will walk away Monday evening with the Tax Increment Financing followed eventually by other public assistance, including that $88 million tax credit for building in an Enterprise Zone.

Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports that, amid continued protests, the Baltimore City Council is set to give final approval Monday to more than $100 million in taxpayer assistance for the massive Harbor Point development that the mayor calls a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”