September 27, 2013

State Roundup, September 27, 2013

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FED SHUTDOWN & MARYLAND: Maryland’s economy would take a $15 million hit each day of a federal government shut down — and the state would lose $5 million a day in revenue — according to a memo drafted by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, Erin Cox and John Fritze write in the Sun.

SUIT TO BLOCK GUN LAW: Gun rights advocates said Thursday that they had filed a federal lawsuit to block Maryland’s new gun control laws from going into effect next week, arguing that restrictions on assault weapons and large magazines infringe on their constitutional rights, reports Erin Cox and Carrie Wells for the Sun.

Alex Jackson of the Capital Gazette writes that the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Maryland, argues the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 was passed in “flagrant disregard” of the Second Amendment. The suit requests emergency injunctive relief to stop the law from taking effect on Oct. 1.

STORMWATER FEE FIGHT EXPECTED: A leading legislator expects a “very strong push” to repeal Maryland’s stormwater fee law when lawmakers return to Annapolis in January, but vows to fight any rollback, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

RIGHT TO LAWYER: In a 4-3 decision issued Wednesday, Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that poor suspects should have access to counsel at all bail hearings, overturning the General Assembly’s attempt to spare already-stretched public defenders from attending hundreds of thousands of proceedings each year, Tricia Bishop reports in the Sun. The court found that indigent defendants should have access to public defenders when court commissioners set their bail. The ruling said suspects have that right “in any proceeding that may result in the defendant’s incarceration.”

DOWNLOADABLE BALLOTS: A new Maryland law allowing voting by mail with a ballot downloaded online has some voter advocacy groups alarmed that adequate security measures will not be in place for the 2014 elections, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.

STATE AUDITS LEWIS MUSEUM: A state audit of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture released Thursday uncovered slipshod accounting practices, among them failing to fully inventory its collection and neglecting to file annual reports, in violation of state law, writes Mary Carole McCauley for the Sun.

A FAIR RETURN: Some Maryland residents who attended state and local fairs this summer walked away with more than cotton candy and corndogs. The comptroller’s office said that officials have returned almost $330,000 to 278 residents who discovered the money with the help of unclaimed property units set up at fairs and festivals, according to an AP story in the Carroll County Times.

COMPETITIVENESS & JOB GROWTH: Maryland has an abundance of strengths that position it for robust business growth, but it needs to work on policy and “cultural” issues relating to competitiveness that dampen the state’s ability to realize its potential for job creation. That was the message from CEO-turned U.S. Rep. John Delaney and two innovation economy experts speaking to 300 business executives who attended the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Economic Outlook Conference, writes Donald Frye for Center Maryland. Between them, presenters articulated a substantive policy “To Do” list for Maryland.

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PREZ TOUTS HEALTH CARE: President Barack Obama used a visit to Maryland on Thursday to push back against congressional Republicans who are working to delay provisions of his health care law set to take effect next week. The president vowed that his signature domestic initiative is “here to stay,” despite an effort unfolding on Capitol Hill to cut funding for it, writes John Fritze for the Sun. There’s a WJZ-TV report from Pat Warren on top of the article.

HEALTH COVERAGE: A 2007 Maryland law expanding the state’s Medicaid program, along with job losses during the recession, has put Maryland near the front of a national trend where the number of people on public health care coverage has increased while the number on private health insurance has declined, CNS’s Jason Ruiter writes in the Cecil Whig.

GANSLER PROMISES: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler’s statewide tour to launch his campaign for governor entered its third day Thursday as the Democrat took his stump speech to Western Maryland, writes Erin Cox for the Sun. Gansler has slightly different remarks – and campaign promises – for each of the 17 stops.

UNION ENDORSEMENTS: The AFL-CIO has reversed course and opened its endorsement process to two candidates for governor of Maryland who appeared ineligible for consideration a week ago, reports John Wagner for the Post.

Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes that two sources told Center Maryland that the Maryland/D.C. State Council of the Service Employees International Union — the largest health care union in the country — has decided to cast its lot with Anthony Brown for governor. But in a rare development, these same sources said that the union’s biggest local in Maryland, Local 500, is splitting with the state council and will endorse Attorney General Doug Gansler.

POLITICAL ROUNDUPS: Allison Bourg in her Political Notes column for the Capital-Gazette writes that a longtime supporter of Republican Charles Lollar, 2014 gubernatorial candidate, has left his campaign; Del. Heather Mizeur, a Democrat running for governor in 2014, will speak at a Democratic Club meeting on Wednesday; and delegates and senators from Anne Arundel County will hold a hearing Nov. 19 to discuss legislative priorities with community groups.

Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post writes that two former members of the board of two Frederick County-owned care facilities that are slated for privatization publicly returned certificates of appreciation to the County Commissioners; FreedomWorks PAC endorses Dan Bongino for Congress and Del. Kathy Afzali wrote to Gov. Martin O’Malley thanking him for creating a commission earlier this month to study first-responder training about interacting with intellectually or developmentally disabled individuals.

FRACKING-HEALTH STUDY: If the state allows drilling for natural gas in Marcellus shale, the health of residents, and the health care system, are bound to see changes, and Garrett County residents are being asked to contribute their thoughts and ideas to a study, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times News.

SALT IN PRINCE G’S: In Prince George’s County, where many of the nearly 1 million residents suffer disproportionately from diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity, County Council member Eric Olson wants fast-food restaurants to display the amount of sodium in their food. If approved, the measure would affect restaurants with at least five sites in Prince George’s, or about 300 of the county’s 3,025 restaurants, reports Miranda Spivack for the Post. Olson hopes other restaurants not covered by his plan would volunteer the information.

COMMON CORE TOWN HALL: Opinionators at the Carroll County Times suggest that the Carroll County Board of Education should rethink its decision to decline working with the Board of County Commissioners to host a meeting on new Common Core school requirements.

POLITICAL DEMOGRAPHICS: Kate Alexander in the Gazette writes about the political demographics of race and gender that will be affecting the 2014 statewide elections.

OBAMACARE: Health care providers and insurers have been preparing for the start of shopping on Tuesday for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Kevin James Shay writes in the Gazette.

ARORA NOT ON SLATE: Three District 19 state lawmakers — Dels. Bonnie L. Cullison and Benjamin F. Kramer, and Sen. Roger Manno — have confirmed they will campaign as a group for the upcoming election, excluding Del. Sam Arora, reports Kate Alexander in the Gazette.

BALTIMORE FINANCES: There was considerable rejoicing in Baltimore city this week when George Mason University released a study saying that, compared to Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Providence and San Bernardino, Baltimore is on “reasonably solid financial footing” and is demonstrating “financial resiliency,” writes Gazette columnist Blair Lee. But according to the George Mason report, what’s really keeping Baltimore afloat is the billions of dollars the state of Maryland pours into the city every year.