January 2, 2014

State Roundup, January 2, 2014

Print More

ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS DRIVE: A new law that will expand the ability of illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses in Maryland was set to take effect yesterday, writes John Wagner in the Post.

Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that thousands of immigrants living here without legal permission will start the new year demonstrating skills in parallel parking and two-point turns in hopes of becoming licensed drivers in Maryland.

TAX CREDIT FOR CYBERSECURITY: Maryland lawmakers will look at the possibility of expanding a tax credit aimed at boosting jobs in the growing cybersecurity industry around the nation’s capital, House Speaker Michael Busch told the Associated Press. The article appears in the Washington Examiner. Busch said that a work group is due to submit recommendations soon on how to meet the growing demand for jobs in the field.

MINIMUM WAGE: Increasing the minimum wage would allow the state a modest role in addressing income inequality, says Fraser Smith of WYPR-FM. It’s not just wealth we are talking about. The 99-1 ratio means uneven distribution of political power. The job market for well-educated young people tightens. Workers across the board are squeezed wages; fall in a struggling economy. There may be little a state General Assembly can do.  But the minimum wage represents an important gesture.

CORPORATE TAX RATE: Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM hosted several Countdowns to the Annapolis Summit in which he discussed issues of high importance in Annapolis this year. He discusses the corporate tax rate in Maryland with Dels. Jeff Waldstreicher, a Democrat from Montgomery County, and Kathy Szeliga, a Republican representing Baltimore and Harford counties.

STATE OF MARIJUANA: Steiner also discussed marijuana policy in Maryland. Should marijuana be decriminalized, legalized or remain illegal? He speaks with attorney Greg Kline of Red Maryland and state Sens. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County and Bobby Zirkin of  Baltimore County.

IMAGINATIVE REHABILITATION: Youth development advocate Greg Couturier writes in an op-ed in the Sun that studies have shown that incarcerating youth is not only incredibly costly — about $80,000 per child per year, is actually detrimental to their rehabilitation. Researchers are now calling for a push toward evidence-based, family-centered and community-based interventions, such as multi-systemic therapy, functional family therapy and various types of social education programs.

HIGHEST EARNERS: Much has been made recently about proposed pay increases for some Maryland’s politicians, but even the highest-earning elected officials don’t come close to the top of the state-employee income scale, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports as she outlines the salaries of state workers.

TERM LIMITS: The Sun editorial board writes that Del. Michael Hough recently announced plans to introduce legislation that would restrict delegates and senators to no more than three four-year terms in office. But, the board opines, learning the ins and outs of government and of fellow lawmakers is a difficult business that takes time to learn and even longer to master.

STATE RACES: In about six months, Maryland primary voters will hit the polls to narrow the fields for all state- and county-elected offices in the 2014 gubernatorial election. Kate Alexander of the Gazette previews the state races as well as Montgomery County’s races.

Md CAN (Citizen Action network) ad

GEORGE CONSIDERS PUBLIC FINANCING: Del. Ron George, a Republican hopeful for governor of Maryland, said Tuesday that he is “seriously considering” participating in the state’s public financing system and will make a final decision in coming weeks, reports John Wagner for the Post.

NUNS HOPEFUL: A Roman Catholic order of nuns from Catonsville who care for the elderly poor was hopeful Wednesday after the Supreme Court temporarily blocked an Obamacare provision that would have required it to cover birth control for employees starting with the new year, Matthew Hay Brown reports in the Sun.

POLITICAL PROGNOSTICATING: Robert McCartney of the Post speculates on the area’s political future in this multiple choice quiz. Make your picks, then read McCartney’s at the bottom of the article.

MONTGOMERY BUDGET: As governments begin crafting their fiscal 2015 budgets, a number of factors still have to fall into place, writes Ryan Marshall for the Gazette. While the financial outlooks for Montgomery County and Maryland have improved somewhat from earlier projections, uncertainty in the county’s budget stems from several variables, including the federal government’s decisions on the budget debt ceiling and a possible Supreme Court decision originating in Maryland involving payment of county income taxes.

PASSING SCHOOL BUSES: The AP reports at WBFF-TV that new cameras are keeping watch for motorists who pass stopped school buses in Montgomery County. The new enforcement program starts today, when students return to classes.

2014 Calendar AD PHOTOARUNDEL IN 2014: The Annapolis Capital writes that in 2013, we got a new mayor, county executive — and tax. What happens next? Looking into its crystal ball, the Capital writes, expect in 2014 that the stormwater fee — “rain tax” — will remain under the microscope. But new story lines will emerge.

RACE FOR ARUNDEL EXEC: If there is one thing keeping Anne Arundel buzzing in 2014, it’s the county executive’s job, writes Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital. In June, the Republican primary pits incumbent Laura Neuman against Del. Steve Schuh. Neuman, who had never held public office before she was appointed in February following the resignation of John Leopold after misconduct convictions, faces a traditional politico in Schuh, a two-term state delegate who has picked up hundreds of endorsements.

Columnist Rick Hutzell of the Annapolis Capital speculates on the various elections that will affect Anne Arundel County, including the county executive’s (Will Laura Neuman drop out of the primary because of the Steve Schuh’s fund-raising ability?) and the gubernatorial races.

CARROLL PRIORITIES: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times reports that tax breaks, education funding and property rights top the list of priorities for members of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners as they enter the last year of their first term together. The first-ever five-member board will have less than a year to pass a budget, change policy, get legislation passed and implement initiatives before Carroll voters head to the polls to elect their county representatives in November.

PIPELINE CONCERNS: Environmental activists warn that construction of a 21-mile natural gas pipeline through northern Baltimore and Harford counties could affect the region’s drinking-water system, as the $180 million project cuts across more than three dozen streams feeding into Loch Raven Reservoir. The group Gunpowder Riverkeeper has petitioned the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reconsider its approval of the pipeline last month and order a more detailed review of the project’s environmental effects, reports Tim Wheeler for the Sun.

SWEARING IN: Appointed Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Brenda Sexton is scheduled to take her oath on Friday during a ceremony that will include the first donning of her black robe, Carl Hamilton reports in the Cecil Whig.