December 18, 2013

State Roundup, December 18, 2013

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HEALTH EXTENSION: All insurers selling policies on the state’s health care exchange have agreed to extend the enrollment deadline for coverage that begins Jan. 1, report Meredith Cohn and Erin Cox for the Sun. Kaiser Permanente, United Healthcare and Evergreen Health Co-op on Tuesday joined CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the state’s largest insurer, in agreeing to extend the deadline four days to Dec. 27 from Dec. 23.

John Wagner of the Post quotes Gov. Martin O’Malley: “We know the improvements to MarylandHealthConnection.gov are making a difference because we are seeing more and more people successfully completing the process every day. We will continue making improvements to the site, and we are pleased that all carriers have agreed to extend the deadline for coverage.”

THE FIX: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about the O’Malley administration’s decision to bring in another contractor to fix the state’s health care exchange website, and the governor’s reaction to U.S. Rep. John Delaney’s idea to join the federal exchange.

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: The editorial board for the Sun opines that the pace of enrollments for Maryland healthcare is still far too low. If the exchange is able to replicate its best weekday and weekend performance during every one of the 104 days between now and the end of the open enrollment period on March 31, Maryland will still only achieve about three-quarters of its goal of signing up 150,000 people with private coverage. The site may be better, but better isn’t good enough.

NO TO PAY RAISE: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post is urging state lawmakers to say “Thanks, but no thanks” to the recent pay raise proposal. While the state’s economy has improved in the last few years, things are still a bit tenuous, and many Marylanders either remain out of work or underemployed.

SEWAGE POLLUTION FINES: Two lawmakers representing Anne Arundel County will propose legislation next month to double fines for sewage and sediment pollution. The proposal by state Sen. Bryan Simonaire and Del. Barbara Frush, whose district crosses Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties, would increase the fines for spilling raw sewage or sediment pollution into Maryland’s waterways to a minimum of $10,000 and a maximum of $100,000. Zoe Read of the Capital-Gazette reports the story.

WIND RIGHTS: Federal officials announced plans Tuesday to auction the rights to build industrial wind turbines off Maryland’s Atlantic coast — a move hailed by many environmentalists and some businesses as the first step toward a new green industry but criticized as a drain on household budgets by the state’s lone Republican congressman, writes Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

A video report from Pat Warren at WJZ-TV tops the article.

NEUMAN ON RAIN TAX: Rema Rahman of the Capital-Gazette reports that Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman told a Fox Business Network program that the state law that requires residents to pay stormwater fees is “a mess.” Neuman made the comment during a four-minute appearance on the show Monday night. Neuman’s office said she was invited to discuss the fee, dubbed the “rain tax” by critics, because of her opposition to it.

Md CAN (Citizen Action network) ad

PG MINIMUM WAGE: Luz Lazo of the Post reports that Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker on Tuesday signed into law a bill raising the county’s minimum wage to $11.50 by 2017. He was joined by members of the Prince George’s County Council. Baker said increasing the hourly rate was “the right thing to do” and “essential to meeting basic needs.”

GAMBLING FUNDRAISERS: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times reports that Carroll County nonprofits that want to raise money by sponsoring card games and casino nights are hoping that their sixth attempt to get a gaming bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly will be their lucky one.

NO BREAK FOR DWYER: Del. Don Dwyer must complete his 60-day jail sentence for a drunken boating accident and a drunken driving arrest, reports the Capital-Gazette’s Zoe Read. Circuit Court Judge Emory Plitt denied a request for a modification of Dwyer’s sentence filed last month by his lawyer.

BLAMING O’MALLEY: A group headed by a Republican who plans to run in next year’s gubernatorial election is blaming Gov. Martin O’Malley for rising utility costs, echoing one of O’Malley’s campaign tactics against his predecessor, writes Jamie Smith Hopkins for the Sun. O’Malley beat then-Gov. Bob Ehrlich in 2006 on a platform that included criticism of that administration’s handling of an impending spike in Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. rates.2014 Calendar AD PHOTO

MIZEUR FILES: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Heather Mizeur and her running mate, Delman Coates, officially became 2014 candidates late Tuesday afternoon as they filed their paperwork with the State Board of Elections in Annapolis, the Post’s John Wagner writes.

CANDIDATES FORUM: Maryland Juice writes about Monday’s gubernatorial candidates forum in Montgomery County, in which six candidates traded barbs and offered some insights.

DANCE CRITICIZED: Liz Bowie of the Sun reports that Baltimore County School Board President Lawrence Schmidt said Tuesday night that Superintendent Dallas Dance should have sought the school board’s approval before taking a consulting job with a company that had a contract with the system.

NEW GOVERNMENT IN CALVERT? Calvert County Commissioner Susan Shaw is suggesting that the commission explore a new form of government for the county, known as “code home rule,” reports Amanda Scott for the Gazette. Currently, Calvert is governed under a commissioner form of government, which dictates that the Maryland General Assembly legislates for the county.

DNR DELAYS: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has missed the date by which it had to reply to interrogatories (written questions from one party in a case) after being served discovery requests in Dorchester County Circuit Court over the 2013 menhaden regulations, writes Josh Bollinger for the Easton Star Democrat. “We’ve been working steadily on it,” said Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Wazenski, who is handling the case for DNR. “It’s a significant amount of information that has to be reviewed and prepared for production. We’ve given them a date by which we will respond and are preparing to do that.”