November 6, 2013

State Roundup, November 6, 2013

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RAIN TAX FINES THREATENED: Turning up the heat on local politicians over a contentious stormwater fee, Maryland officials warned Carroll County that it faces fines of up to $10,000 per day for refusing to impose the mandatory pollution cleanup charge, and cautioned Frederick and Harford counties that they could be next, writes Tim Wheeler for the Sun.

EDITORIAL RESPONSES: The editorial board of the Carroll County Times calls the threat of a fine is a bit of heavy-handedness that is both unnecessary and unjustified. While the money collected is supposed to be used to clean up the bay, the state erred when it implemented the law without defining how much each jurisdiction should collect or how much it would need to spend on stormwater projects.

The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that Frederick County is destined to have a “rain tax.” Just what that permit’s requirements will cost county property taxpayers is still to be determined. But it won’t be the 1 cent per eligible property taxpayer that the Board of County Commissioners set earlier this year and we hope it won’t be $524 per eligible property taxpayer — the cost estimated by county staff.

RAIN TAX SURPRISE: Sara Blumberg of the Capital-Gazette reports that Joan McDuffie thought her home in historic Odenton was zoned residential. But when she got her tax bill, her home was classified “ ‘nonresidential’ for rainwater tax purposes,” she said. Her zoning was changed without her knowledge and she now must pay $181 for stormwater remediation, three times the $65 most homeowners around Anne Arundel County will see this year. And she’s not alone.

DROPPED HEALTH PLANS: Raymond Liu remembers President Barack Obama’s promise that people would be able to keep their insurance if they liked it. He liked his, but he won’t be able to keep it. Liu is one of 73,000 Marylanders insured by nine insurance companies who will not be able to keep their policies because they were not grandfathered under the new health law. Only policies created before March 23, 2010, when the health law passed, can be grandfathered in, reports Meredith Cohn in the Sun.

IMMIGRANT SERVICE GETS HEALTH GRANT: Casa de Maryland applied for and received a $951,000 contract from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to participate in the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange’s Connector Program.  The contract is one piece of an overall $7 million grant award from the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to Montgomery County, writes Mark Newgent of Watchdogwire.com.

RATE HIKE HEARING NO SHOWS: Not one member of the public showed up to speak at the first of five hearings scheduled this week to discuss two pending requests by Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., including one to raise a typical gas and electric customers’ bill by $5, reports Alex Jackson in the Capital-Gazette.

GUB HOPEFULS ON ENVIRONMENT: A forum Tuesday on the environment drew five Maryland gubernatorial hopefuls from both political parties — as well as the running mate of a sixth — underscoring the importance of the issue in next year’s election, writes John Wagner for the Post.

The AP’s Brian Witte also attended the forum and outlines what each candidate had to say about his environmental record. The story appears in the Cumberland Times News.

Prior to the forum, the editorial board of the Sun suggested that voters would be wise to pay attention to what the candidates have to say on the rain tax since it may prove the best way to sort those who claim to care about clean water from those who are willing to do something about it.

Campaign On leaderboard 11-1-2013

KAL ON GANSLER: The Sun’s KAL draws a bead on gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler and his recent public relations problems.

LICENSE PROBE: The veteran state police lieutenant who documented allegations that Attorney General Doug Gansler ordered troopers assigned to him to drive recklessly is himself being investigated concerning accusations that he worked as an armed security guard in the District and Virginia without proper licenses, reports Peter Hermann for the Post.

MAYORAL RACES: WYPR’s Karen Hosler and Joel McCord report on mayoral elections in Annapolis and Frederick.

COHEN DOWN IN CLOSE RACE: The Annapolis mayoral election was too close to call Tuesday night, with neither candidate declaring victory or conceding defeat. With 15 of 16 precincts unofficially reporting at 9:45 p.m., incumbent Democratic Mayor Josh Cohen had 3,468 votes to 3,518 votes for Republican challenger Mike Pantelides, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. (Capital has later figures below.)

With 16 of 16 precincts now reporting, here’s the Capital-Gazette’s breakdown. With Pantelides leading Cohen by 84 votes, absentee votes will need to be tallied on Thursday, reports Jack Lambert for the Capital-Gazette.

FREDERICK MAYOR REELECTED: Mayor Randy McClement will lead Frederick for four more years, reports Jen Bondeson for the Frederick News Post.

LOW BRIDGE: The State Highway Administration will once again look to add signs to Md. 75 to keep tractor-trailers from getting stuck at a low-clearance bridge – with a 12-foot 6-inch height restriction – near Monrovia, writes Daniel Gross for the Frederick News Post. SHA personnel have responded 43 times so far this year to the CSX overpass after tractor-trailers either became stuck underneath the bridge or had to turn around at the site.