December 2, 2013

State Roundup, December 2, 2013

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Roundup of state news since last Wednesday.

ICC TOLLS: Toll revenues on the Intercounty Connector in Montgomery County are falling below earlier projections after the Maryland Transportation Authority lowered them, Katherine Shaver reports in the Washington Post.

HIKING MINIMUM WAGE: Passage this week of minimum-wage increases in Maryland’s two largest jurisdictions could either give momentum to statewide legislation or put it at risk, depending on who you ask, writes John Wagner in the Post.

Prince George’s County voted on Wednesday to join Montgomery County in dramatically raising the minimum wage, approving a measure that would increase the hourly rate to $11.50 by 2017 from the current $7.25, reports Luz Lazo for the Post.

Mike DeBonis and Reid Wilson of the Post report that states and municipalities across the country are leading a localized push to raise the minimum wage, driven largely by Democrats, who see an opening to appeal to working-class Americans at a time of growing inequity.

BOOST TO WINE INDUSTRY: Kevin James Shay of the Gazette writes about new state laws on farmers markets and tax credits that have helped boost Maryland’s wine industry.

HEALTH CARE EXCHANGE: Gov. Martin O’Malley said the state knew it was taking a risk by launching its health care exchange the same day as the federal government’s, but defended the move by stressing the improvements made since it opened on Oct. 1, reports Alex Jackson for the Capital-Gazette.

A day after state health officials gave lawmakers modest estimates for the number of people who would buy health insurance on its troubled online exchange by the new year, representatives from the marketplace said about 770 more people had signed up – boosting the lackluster enrollment numbers by more than a third, reports Meredith Cohn in the Sun.

The prime contractor for Maryland’s struggling health insurance exchange says a former key subcontractor is hindering its work by refusing to turn over important documents, Ben Fischer reports in the Baltimore Business Journal.

GUN BUYING: Meredith Somers of the Washington Times writes that the reasons why people buy guns are varied, but in Maryland new owners are all required to be on the same page when it comes to fulfilling purchasing requirements. As of Oct. 1, anyone looking to buy a handgun must obtain a qualifying license, a process that includes four hours of training taught by a certified instructor and time spent firing at a range.

REVIVING THE WHIG PARTY: The Whigs, the 19th century political party that disbanded before the Civil War over the question of slavery, is trying to make a comeback as the voice of reason between embittered modern day Republicans and Democrats, reports CNS’s Lucy Westcott for the Cecil Whig. In Maryland, where the Whigs held four of their national conventions in the mid-19th century, the hub of the renaissance is in Cecil County. Tim Zane of Rising Sun is in talks to be in charge of the Maryland branch of the new and improved Modern Whig Party.

O’MALLEY HEADS SOUTH: Gov. Martin O’Malley will lead a nine-day trade mission to Brazil and El Salvador, writes John Wagner in the Post. A delegation traveling with the governor is expected to include more than 30 companies and representatives of several Maryland-based universities, as well as Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker.

HONORING SEN. BRITT: The late state Sen. Gwendolyn Britt was a champion for civil rights, fighting on behalf of equal rights for all citizens, according to members of Equality Maryland Foundation, a nonprofit now championing to honor Britt’s legacy. The group is working with Britt’s husband, Travis Britt, to have a portrait of Britt featured in the Maryland Senate, reports Sara X. Mosqueda-Fernandez for the Gazette.

FORMER DEL. MCNEAL DIES: Edward Joseph “Ned” McNeal Sr., who served in the General Assembly and who later headed the Credit Bureau of Baltimore, died at Sinai Hospital on Wednesday after suffering a fall at his home. The Timonium resident was 86. Del. McNeal represented Northeast Baltimore in the House of Delegates from 1955 to 1963. He voted for the establishment of the Maryland Port Administration, reports Jacques Kelly for the Sun.

POLITICAL NOTES: Rema Rahman, in the Capital-Gazette’s Political Notes column, wraps up a week of Anne Arundel news including that Democrats Tonja McCoy of Hanover and Steven Wyatt of Linthicum have joined the increasingly crowded race for the House of Delegates from District 32.

Campaign On leaderboard 11-1-2013

***MarylandReporter.com editor Len Lazarick will be on a panel at the annual luncheon of the Maryland Government Relations Association Tuesday, Dec. 3 along with Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland and Dan Furmansky of Maryland Juice to discuss “Electronic Media and Free State Politics.” Click for details.***

MIZEUR RUNS ON POLICY: If her dark-horse campaign is successful, Democrat Heather Mizeur would become the first woman and first openly gay governor of Maryland. But Mizeur, a two-term state delegate, isn’t running on those credentials, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. The unabashed liberal says she wants to make a vast difference in how the state deals with such issues as wage inequality, tax policy and criminal justice.

BROWN RUNS ON SERVICE: Kate Alexander of the Gazette writes that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown intends to continue his long record of service to communities and the state should he win the governorship.

HOGAN RUNS: What do we make of another Republican jumping into the governor’s race? Larry Hogan is the latest addition to the lineup. Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler discuss his past and his potential for the Republican nomination and beyond on WYPR-FM.

BENTLEY’S LEGACY: Barry Rascovar of politicalmaryland.com honors former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley on her 90th birthday, which was Nov. 28, recalling her long list of accomplishments.

BONGINO IN SPOTLIGHT: Dan Bongino launched his first campaign for office on a laptop computer in his dining room. His wife, alone at his side, was the only other person he was sure would vote for him. Two years later, as the Severna Park man runs for the House of Representatives in Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, he has taken on something of a celebrity status, writes John Fritze for the Sun. Now, when he knocks on voters’ doors, he’s often recognized from his appearances on Fox News or national talk radio programs.

UGLY LAWS: Lauren Young of the Maryland Disability Law Center, in an op-ed for the Sun, derides “ugly laws” around the state, those laws that seek to push people with disabilities into the background of society.

MAYOR DEFENDS OBAMACARE: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake defended President Obama’s health care program Sunday as a panelist on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Jacques Kelly reports in the Sun.

ANNAPOLIS MAYOR LOOKS TO FUTURE: As Annapolis Mayor Josh Cohen’s successor is sworn in Monday, Cohen looks ahead at a future out of public office after 12 years, Pam Wood writes in the Sun.

PANTALIDES FIRST APPOINTMENTS: Incoming Mayor Mike Pantelides said he will appoint Timothy Murnane as the new city attorney, but keep on public information officer Rhonda Wardlaw, who has worked for the last two Democratic mayors, Sara Blumberg reports in the Capital-Gazette.

TEST SCORES: Acknowledging that scores on a national reading test may have been inflated, Maryland education officials changed course this week, saying they will work harder to reduce the number of special education students excluded from taking the test, Liz Bowie reports in the Sun. State school Superintendent Lillian Lowery said she would discuss the issue with local superintendents, testing directors and special education supervisors across the state in the coming year, putting more pressure on the local school districts to limit the practice.

WASH. COUNTY DELEGATION: State lawmakers will be in Hagerstown to meet with local officials Tuesday in advance of the 2014 General Assembly session in Annapolis, writes CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

HoCo ZONING REFERENDUM: A Howard County citizens’ petition to bring certain decisions in the county’s recently passed comprehensive zoning bill to referendum will not move on to the ballot next November, according to county Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley.

SOSSI RESIGNS: Former Delegate Richard Sossi has resigned his job as a constituent liaison for U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, reports Daniel Devilio from the Kent County News. He said he will announce his political plans later, but he is driving around in a van with his photo and the words “State Senate,” as a picture clearly shows.

CSX INTERMODAL: Apparently backpedaling from her administration’s strong support of a CSX intermodal terminal in Morrell Park, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said that “everything is on the table” regarding the facility and its location, according to Mark Reutter in Baltimore Brew. The original site was in Howard County, but was moved after residents protested.