November 19, 2013

State Roundup, November 19, 2013

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HEALTH CARE WORKAROUNDS: Beginning today, radio and TV ads will encourage residents to call 211 and get health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, reports the Sun’s Meredith Cohn. With technical difficulties still frustrating efforts to enroll in health plans through online exchanges — and deadlines looming to enroll — health care advocates and state officials are looking for ways to work around the malfunctioning websites.

YOU’VE BEEN CANCELED RENEWED: The more than 73,000 Marylanders who were told their insurance policies were being canceled can rest a little easier, according to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record humorously writes that, in a moment reminiscent of Obi-Wan Kenobi using a Jedi mind trick on Imperial Stormtroopers on the prowl for a couple of droids, Brown told WBAL’s Lisa Robinson Sunday that what was once called a cancellation is, in fact, a renewal notice.

OPEN GOVERNMENT: Upgrading the state’s Public Information Act to meet the needs and the technology of today’s Maryland is no easy undertaking.  On Nov. 6, state Sen. Bill Ferguson and Del. Kumar Barve convened the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government in Annapolis to publicly examine the PIA, discuss current compliance costs and procedures, and identify potential ways to make the PIA work better for both citizens seeking state information and public servants tasked with providing it. If you missed the meeting, OpenGov has it covered, with meeting documents and videos, hearing highlights and initial OpenGov thoughts on current PIA challenges and possible solutions.

WESTERN SECESSION: A town hall style meeting to discuss a proposal that the five westernmost counties in Maryland exit the state is planned for Friday evening at Allegany College of Maryland, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News. The meeting is sponsored by the Western Maryland: A New State Initiative, which advocates secession.

CURBING LOCAL POLICE: The American Civil Liberties Union says a state senator is seeking to limit local police involvement in immigration enforcement, according to an AP story in the Frederick News Post The ACLU says Democrat Victor Ramirez of Prince George’s County is announcing the legislation today in Hyattsville. A Ramirez staff member said Monday that details of the bill were still being ironed out.

SHA POLLUTION DIET: The Sun editorial board writes that local governments aren’t the only ones that have to worry about meeting the stormwater pollution reduction targets as part of the Chespaeake Bay pollution diet. The State Highway Administration has a massive infrastructure of outmoded stormwater management systems that need upgrading, not to mention thousands of lane-miles of impervious surfaces that contribute to the flow of polluted water into the bay. Achieving that is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars during the next five years.

PHOSPHORUS REGS: The fight isn’t over, Maryland’s leading agricultural lobbying group said Monday in the wake of the state’s postponement of new phosphorus regulations. The Maryland Farm Bureau says that the scientific evidence is lacking and “the cost-benefit analysis has not been conducted.” And the Maryland Department of Agriculture says it would continue to meet with farmers, environmental advocates and other affected groups to revise the regulation, Jeremy Cox reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

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JUDGE OF FIRSTS: Key players from Harford County and the Maryland legal world gathered at the Harford County Circuit Courthouse Friday afternoon to celebrate the investiture of Yolanda Curtin. Curtin sets many firsts in Harford County: A native of Cuba, Curtin became the first Latino judge to sit on the Harford County Circuit Court and she also tips the scale in favor of women for the first time in the county circuit court’s history, making the bench a 3-2 female majority, Krishana Davis reports in the Sun.

GOOGLE PAYS $1M: Google Inc. will pay $1 million to the state of Maryland, $17 million total to 37 states and the District of Columbia, for circumventing privacy settings on Safari and other practices over a one-year period ending in 2012, Attorney General Doug Gansler announced. An article in the Easton Star Democrat also says that Google will change its privacy practices as part of the settlement concerning the company setting cookies on certain Safari web browsers during 2011 and 2012.

MASS TRANSIT PROJECTS: Maryland needs to continue to invest more in public transportation as it sees a boost in funding from the rising state gas tax, transportation experts said Monday at annual transportation summit of the Greater Baltimore Committee, Becca Heller writes in MarylandReporter.com.

GOP’S TOUGH ROW IN MO CO: If one place symbolizes the futility Republicans are facing in statewide elections, it’s Montgomery County. Mildly competitive there not so long ago, with a small complement of elected officials and a decent bench of challengers even in heavily Democratic districts, Republicans have bottomed out in Montgomery, writes Josh Kurtz for Center Maryland.

MIZEUR SAYS LEGALIZE POT: Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather Mizeur today will propose legalizing marijuana and using the tax revenue it generates to fund pre-kindergarten education, writes John Wagner in the Sun.

Michael Dresser of the Sun quotes Mizeur as saying, “Marijuana is safer than alcohol and tobacco. It has been a failed policy for us as a nation to criminalize the use of this substance.

CRAIG BLASTS BROWN ON TRACKER: Republican gubernatorial candidate David Craig on Monday criticized Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s use of a “tracker” to videotape Attorney General Doug Gansler’s public appearances, calling the practice a way for Brown to “trash his opponent” in the Democratic race, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

MUM ON PLEDGE: Attorney General Doug Gansler has not been able to get a definitive answer from either of his fellow Democrats running for governor in the week since he asked them to join him in a pledge to curb outside spending on the race, John Wagner of the Post is reporting.

CARE PRIVATIZATION: Frederick County commissioners could be forced to take a step backward in their mission to privatize Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and Montevue Assisted Living facility, reports Jen Bondeson for the Frederick News Post. The city of Frederick’s Zoning Board of Appeals is to make a final decision Nov. 26 on whether the city’s Planning Commission was justified in May when it approved the county’s request to subdivide the centers’ land.