November 21, 2013

State Roundup, November 21, 2013

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INSURANCE EXTENSION: The Easton Star Democrat writes that Maryland Insurance Commissioner Therese Goldsmith issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Maryland law permits early renewal of existing health benefit plans. This allows existing policy holders to keep their current plans through the end of 2014, even though the plans might not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield said Wednesday that it would offer more than 55,500 customers the chance to extend their healthcare plans for another year, even though the policies don’t comply with the federal Affordable Care Act, report Meredith Cohn and Erin Cox in the Sun. Maryland’s insurance commissioner had told insurers a day earlier that such a move would be legal.

SMALL BIZ TAX RELIEF: State Senate leaders told a business group Wednesday that they expected to see some sort of small business tax relief in the coming legislative session, possibly coupled with an increase in the minimum wage, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

STORMWATER FEES: Environmental groups on Tuesday urged Anne Arundel County’s legislative delegation to keep stormwater fees intact, reports Alex Jackson in the Capital Gazette. At a pre-session public hearing held in Annapolis by the county delegation, around 25 organizations got the opportunity to ask their representatives for help.

CHICKEN POLLUTION: Bill Hughes of the Baltimore Examiner videotaped a public meeting in which the group Food and Water Watch talks about plans to introduce a bill  in the next session of the Maryland General Assembly to address chicken industry pollution issue in the Chesapeake Bay.

PHOSPORUS POLLUTION: Marc Steiner and guests at WEAA-FM follow up on the recent announcement that the Maryland Department of Agriculture has withdrawn proposed phosphorus management regulations. Phosphorus is a major contributor to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

NITROGEN POLLUTION: A Maryland land use planner for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says that for the Chesapeake Bay to meet the 2025 goal set forth in the Maryland Clean Water Blueprint, Maryland needs to have a decrease of 11 million pounds of nitrogen in its annual output. Of that 11 million pounds, septic systems alone need to decrease nitrogen pollution by 1.2 million pounds, Henley Moore writes in the Easton Star Democrat.

DERECHO REPORTS: Nearly 18 months after a derecho struck Maryland and left hundreds of thousands in the dark, follow-up reports by BGE and other power companies are still being scrutinized. Maryland’s Public Service Commission says those complex reports require extra scrutiny from two private consulting firms. But at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting, State Comptroller Peter Franchot questioned the need for outside consultants, reports John Rydell for WBFF-TV.

REVENGE PORN: In an op-ed for the Sun, Del. Jon Cardin, who is also running for attorney general, explains why he wants to see felony penalties for revenge porn.

CHALLENGE GLITCH: Gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler’s challenge to keep outside campaign money out of the race has run into a glitch. He had asked the Democratic candidates who benefited from such largesse to pay a penalty by donating campaign money to charity. However, reports John Wagner in the Post, a state election official said there was a hitch: Maryland election law bans most charitable contributions by active campaigns.

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CRAIG SEEKS STOP FOR COMMON CORE: Maryland Republican gubernatorial hopeful David Craig is calling for the state to withdraw its participation from a national education test that is part of the Common Core State Standards initiative, reports John Wagner in the Post.

POT LEGALIZATION: Del. Heather Mizeur says marijuana should be legalized and regulated, and she would use the tax revenues from its sale to pay for an expansion of pre-kindergarten education.The editorial board of the Sun opines that it supports the expansion of pre-kindergarten education, and it has real questions about the value and fairness of the state’s current enforcement of marijuana laws. But full legalization isn’t something the state should jump into without careful consideration or before seeing the effects of legalization in other states.

O’MALLEY STAFFER DEPARTS: Catherine Motz, a deputy chief of staff to Gov. Martin O’Malley, on Wednesday was named the new executive director of the CollegeBound Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase the number of students in Baltimore going to college, John Wagner of the Post writes. Her departure at the end of the year will be the latest by a senior staff member as the end of O’Malley’s tenure in Annapolis nears.

DISTRICT 9B: The Democratic primary race is on in District 9B, where the two candidates for a newly drawn state delegate seat both held Ellicott City-based fundraisers within a week of each other earlier this month, writes Amanda Yeager in the Sun. Tom Coale, an attorney, blogger and former Columbia Association board member, announced his candidacy in June. Rich Corkran, a retired Howard County math and computer science teacher, followed suit in October, saying he wanted to give Democrats in the district a choice.

PORT FACILITY PROTEST: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew reports that residents of Morrell Park, saying that a proposed CSX rail facility will harm their southwest community, are holding a Dec.16 community meeting and have invited two of the project’s biggest backers – Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and now Vice President Joe Biden – to attend.

CHARITY IN FREDERICK: Robert McCartney of the Post weighs in on the Frederick County commissioners’ proposed sale and privatization of the Montevue facilities for the elderly, writing that for 185 years the county has proudly maintained the mission to assist the poor but tea party values may be putting that tradition to an end.

BEST POLITICS BLOG: MarylandReporter.com won as the Best Politics Blog and came in fourth as the Best News Blog for the Baltimore Sun’s Fifth Annual Mobbies award.

Del. Steven Arenz is sworn in by House Speaker Michael Busch. A Queen's Anne County Commissioner, Arentz was appointed to fill the seat of Del. Steve Hershey, who became a state senator.

Del. Steven Arenz is sworn in by House Speaker Michael Busch. A Queen’s Anne County Commissioner, Arentz was appointed to fill the seat of Del. Steve Hershey, who became a state senator.