October 21, 2013

State Roundup, Monday, October 21, 2013

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TAX LOSSES: Tom Marquardt, in an article for the Capital-Gazette, writes about the recent Tax Foundation study that found that some wealthier Marylanders are leaving the state to save money. The nonpartisan tax research organization based in Washington, D.C. found that only seven states lost more taxable income than Maryland between 2000 and 2010.

Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times News writes that Maryland’s ranking doesn’t surprise Del. Kevin Kelly, who says changes in the way things are done in Annapolis, along with a power-shift to metropolitan jurisdictions, have led to negative changes in tax policy.

PROPERTY TAX: Kelcie Pegher of the Carroll County Times reports that Carroll County has the sixth-highest county-level business personal property tax, according to 2013 to 2014 tax rates from the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. Personal property taxes are solely for businesses, and the rates are set by the county and municipal governments. While the state does not collect a personal property tax, it does assess businesses annually.

UNEMPLOYMENT TAX RATE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Bryan Sears of the Daily Record talk about the state’s upcoming reduction in the unemployment tax and why some disagree with the change.

GUARANTEED LAWYER: Top officials in Frederick County’s public defender and state’s attorney’s offices are preparing for a mandate from Maryland’s highest court that could lead to 24-hour guaranteed representation for some arrestees, reports Danielle Gaines for the Frederick News Post. The Maryland Court of Appeals — which decided in September that indigent defendants have the right to a defense attorney when their bail is set at the county jail — has stayed the mandate indefinitely as groups work to create rules for dealing with the change.

FOCUS ON PSYCHOSIS: Some states, including Maryland, have responded to violent crime brought on by mental illness by tightening gun-control laws and augmenting programs to help the mentally ill. But Maryland also has decided to focus specifically on psychosis, reports Jonathan Pitts in the Sun. Founded using a $1.2 million state appropriation approved this year, the Center for Excellence on Early Intervention for Serious Mental Illness has a goal of identifying psychosis in a fresh way: by taking notice in the earliest stages and providing support before symptoms spiral out of control.

FRACKING PROTEST: Activists opposed to hydraulic fracturing projected their message on the side of a Fells Point building Saturday night and invited passers-by to play a so-called Wheel of Misfortune to highlight what they say are the risks of the gas drilling technique, Ian Duncan of the Sun reports.

Activists urged Gov. Martin O’Malley to ban fracking as the only way to protect Maryland’s climate, property values and quality of life, Bill Hughes writes in the Baltimore Post-Examiner.

PIPE CHARGE: Dozens of homeowners, mostly in Prince George’s County, have discovered they owe for the installation of pipes that connect new homes to the public water and sewer system. In 1998, the Maryland General Assembly changed the law for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties to allow developers, rather than the public water and sewer commission, to lay the pipes, and then charge homeowners for the work. But there is no rhyme to the amount owed by homeowners within any one community, Miranda Spivack reports in the Post.

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TIRE COLLECTION: The state of Maryland is pumping more money into scrap tire collection, according to an AP story in the Daily Record. The Board of Public Works on Thursday added $1.5 million to the $500,000 it approved for the project in May.

UM PROJECT OPPOSED: The college newspaper is opposed. Former Gov. Parris Glendening calls it “a disaster of the first magnitude.” A local business leader says it would be “counterproductive and a travesty.” The Post’s Miranda Spivack reports that that’s the type of feedback that is pouring in to the University of Maryland president’s office about a proposal to build a shopping center, faculty housing and a Beltway access road on a third of the university’s 150-acre golf course.

BIKE SAFETY: The recent number of bicycle-motor vehicle accidents in Anne Arundel County has made bicyclists a lot more cautious, writes Sarah Blumberg for the Capital-Gazette. Yet Michael Jackson, director of bicycle and pedestrian access for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said the most common cycling injuries statewide result from people falling off their bikes. Most of those injured are men above age 40, Jackson said.

PORT STRIKE: The three-day strike that paralyzed the Port of Baltimore is over — for now, reports Kevin Rector for the Sun. Striking longshoremen agreed late Friday to resume working on the docks during a 90-day “cooling-off period” while negotiations continue on a new local contract.

PROGRESSIVE SURVEY: Maryland Juice writes about a survey of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates by Progressive Neighbors on a range of hot-button issues including fracking, marijuana decriminalization, special elections, public financing of campaigns, affordable housing and the minimum wage.

TEACHERS BACK BROWN: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Anthony Brown won the endorsement Saturday of the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ lobby, after pledging that the group would be “a full partner” with his administration on education issues, reports John Wagner for the Post.

Delegates to the MSEA convention in Ocean City voted to ratify the decision of its Endorsement Council, which backed Brown on Friday after hearing presentations from four of the six announced major candidates to succeed Gov. Martin O’Malley. Brown needed the vote of 58% of the delegates to win the endorsement and received 71%, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

Brown even overcame understandable grumbling over the O’Malley-Brown administration moves on teachers pension that produced the largest State House rally in recent memory, or even the partial shift of teacher pension costs to the counties. Brown’s running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, had opposed that move, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

CRAIG, GANSLER STUMBLE: Early stumbles in Maryland governor’s race are expected. Sometimes, though, those slips have lasting consequences. Already, both Attorney General Doug Gansler and Harford County Executive David Craig have shot themselves in their political feet — wounds that might prove fatal, blogs Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. 

TROOPERS’ ROLE: Carries Wells of the Sun gives a quick breakdown on the recent history of executive protection by state troopers of elected officials in light of the Doug Gansler speedgate complaints.

HADDAWAY INTERVIEW: Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times interviews Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, the running mate of Republican candidate for governor David Craig, about the campaign and what Maryland might look like with a Craig-Haddaway administration.

O’MALLEY RISING: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that Gov. O’Malley has risen to national prominence largely by campaigning on behalf of fellow Democrats across the country, bringing his sharp-tongued criticism of Republicans and a liberal pedigree. Friday’s visit to New Jersey was one stop in a seven-state fall itinerary that puts term-limited O’Malley face to face with party activists who could become supporters if he decides to run for president in 2016.

HARRIS UNAFRAID:John Fritze of the Sun reports that, while many of U.S. Rep. Andy Harris’ colleagues — damaged politically by the budget impasse — were hesitant to share their position, Maryland’s only Republican in Congress knew he wouldn’t be supporting the legislation that his own party leadership was recommending. And he wasn’t afraid to say so. “Yeah, I’m not voting for the bill,” said Harris, who stands with the Tea Party.

Rep. Harris doesn’t have high hopes for the next round of budget battles this winter, Nicole Gaudiano writes in the Salisbury Daily Times. The 1st Congressional District Republican said he expects Congress to pass another stopgap spending bill in January that maintains current spending levels and “keeps kicking the can down the road because the president and Senate made clear they are unwilling to negotiate.”