December 16, 2013

State Roundup, December 16, 2013

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MINIMUM WAGE: Legislative leaders said Friday raising Maryland’s minimum wage could involve boosting the rate statewide and letting prosperous counties increase it even further, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch told county officials gathered for a conference on the Eastern Shore they expected the legislature to consider raising the minimum wage. But, they said, it did not make sense for every jurisdiction to match rates set by counties where the cost of living is higher.

BAIL HEARINGS: Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to meet today with the two top leaders of the Maryland legislature to discuss an emerging issue in the upcoming 90-day session: how to comply with a court ruling that defendants have a constitutional right to counsel at initial bail hearings, writes John Wagner for the Post.

Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM begins his series “Countdown to the Annapolis Summit” by discussing a recent legal decision that would require that lawyers be present at bail hearings. The Annapolis Summit will be held on opening day of the General Assembly session.

STATE BUDGET: Josh Bollinger of the Easton Star-Democrat reports that three state legislative leaders and Gov. Martin O’Malley’s chief legislative officer spoke in front of state representatives on Friday, Dec. 13, at a Maryland Association of Counties Winter Conference session about the upcoming 2014 legislative session. Among the biggest issues is the state budget.

HEALTH EXCHANGE REPAIRS: The state has resolved the nine “major issues” preventing its glitch-ridden health exchange from working, officials said Saturday, a milestone Gov. Martin O’Malley has framed as key to boosting the low enrollment in insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act, report Erin Cox, John Fritze and Andrea Walker in the Sun.

O’Malley said the state would now begin in earnest a marketing campaign to direct more people without health insurance to the online exchange. Many of the promotional efforts have been delayed because the site was unreliable.

Del. Emmett Burns, a Lochearn preacher, dedicated his Sunday service at Rising Sun First Baptist Church to memorializing Nelson Mandela and encouraging people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which Burns sees as a crucial initiative, especially for the poor and uninsured, writes Colin Campbell for the Sun.

EXCHANGE PROBE: Del. Kathy Szeliga, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Delegates, said Friday that delegates in her party agree with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on the need for a legislative investigation into the failures of the state health insurance exchange, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

DELANEY’S SOLUTION: U.S. Rep. John Delaney, frustrated with the state’s troubled health insurance exchange, said Friday that officials should consider abandoning the state website and using the federal government’s, Andrea Walker and John Fritze write in the Sun.

CROSS BORDER POLLUTION: The editorial board of the Frederick News Post is supporting a petition of eight northeast and mid-Atlantic states – including Maryland – to be sent to the EPA asking nine upwind states to curb the air pollution they send our way — Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Md CAN (Citizen Action network) ad

TOLL COLLECTION: A new law in Maryland has been put in place to better help collect delinquent tolls, but officials are having trouble enforcing it, according to WMAR-TV.

KIPKE SEEKS DWYER RESIGNATION: House Minority Leader Nic Kipke is suggesting that Del. Don Dwyer resign from the General Assembly since he will be serving several days each week in jail during the session as he continues his drunken driving sentence, reports Robert Lang for WBAL-AM. This follows a Friday story by Alex Jackson in the Capital in which House Speaker Busch agreed with Kipke about Dwyer during a meeting with the newspaper’s editorial board.

BGE RATE HIKE: Customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. will see their bills increase an estimated $2.86 a month following a Friday order by the state, reports Tim Prudente for the Capital-Gazette. That order, however, approves less than half the rate increase requested by BGE. The company sought about $107 million in additional revenue next year.

MAYNARD’S MOVE: Barry Rascovar, writing for MarylandReporter, says that in 2011, Corrections Secretary Gary Maynard’s department uncovered massive drug smuggling, sex and gang activity at the city jail that involved guards. At that time, he could have arrested a few people, called a press conference so the governor could gloat about the crackdown and ignored the deeper, more troubling problem — an out-of-control Detention Center filled with guards who were aiding inmate gang members. But the veteran prison  manager — and retired brigadier general —  insisted on getting to the bottom of this problem. So he reached out to the FBI for assistance. He got help, all right. What he didn’t expect was grandstanding.

The editorial board of the Capital-Gazette, on the other hand, lays the blame for the city Detention Center problems squarely at the feet of state officials, which took over running the jail and made the situation worse.

2014 Calendar AD PHOTOTEAMSTERS BACK FROSH FOR AG: Teamsters Joint Council 55, which has about 12,000 members in Maryland, has endorsed state Sen. Brian Frosh for the Democratic primaries in 2014, in his bid to become the state’s next attorney general, writes Kaustuv Basu in his Political Notebook for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

BONGINO ‘DIVORCES’ GOP: Republican Congressional candidate Dan Bongino has served his party “with divorce papers,” blogs Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. In a open message to the party posted on Facebook, Bongino criticizes establishment Republicans for selling out party principles.

EMILY’S LIST AIDS MIZEUR: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather Mizeur got a boost Friday from EMILY’s List, which announced it would use its national network to steer financial contributions to the campaign of the Montgomery County delegate, writes John Wagner in the Post.

DANCE QUITS CONSULTING: Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance quit a consulting job Saturday amid questions over the propriety of his work for a company that does business with the Baltimore County school system, Liz Bowie and Erin Cox report in the Sun.

CUTTING BENEFITS IN ARUNDEL: In an op-ed in the Capital-Gazette, retired police officer Robert Tucker writes that the Anne Arundel County Council and County Executive Laura Neuman are attempting to strip away the health care benefits of county retirees and their dependents. For more than 20 years the political masters of Anne Arundel County have known that health care costs for retirees would eventually become an issue the county could not ignore. For all that time, these same politicians were supposed to be putting away money to prevent that issue from becoming uncontrollable.

SMITH ISLAND: Jeremy Cox of the Salisbury Daily Times writes about Smith Island in this special report on how residents cope with the encroaching seas.