January 3, 2014

State Roundup, January 3, 2014

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LEGAL POT: With Colorado legalizing pot, Del. Curt Anderson hopes to restart the debate on legalizing marijuana, reports Dave Collins for WBAL-TV.

RUNOFF OVERSIGHT: Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports that local governments are charged with enforcing state regulations limiting polluted runoff from new development, and the state is supposed to check on them. But state officials acknowledge they aren’t doing it, which, environmental advocates say, could lead to lax enforcement on the local level — and put efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay at risk.

FARM LEGISLATION: Farm lobbyists said Thursday they are hoping for a quiet state legislative session this year with little that will significantly affect the agricultural community, reports Timothy Sandoval of the Carroll County Times. They said they also plan to work on issues farmers have complained about concerning hauling restrictions and environmental regulations.

ANNAPOLIS PREDICTIONS: Members of Howard County’s legislative delegation to Annapolis predict tough spending decisions, election-year grandstanding and progress on hot-button statewide issues with local implications when the General Assembly’s session starts next week, writes Amanda Yeager for the Sun.

DON FRY & MGM: Mark Newgent, writing for Watchdog Wire, says that Donald Fry, head of the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Gaming Commission that awarded MGM Resorts the license to build and operate a casino in Prince George’s County, should have recused himself from the decision making process considering his involvement with a public affairs firm used by MGM to push for expanded gambling in Maryland.

ENOUGH SPENDING: Gregory Kline of Red Maryland writes in an op-ed in the Sun that since Gov. Martin O’Malley entered office, the legislature has passed higher income taxes, sales taxes and gas taxes; increased fees and tolls throughout the state; mandated localities pass a “rain tax” to pay for stormwater management projects, and increased taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. Even these measures were not enough to support state spending, so state Democrats supported legalizing gambling, which the voters approved.

O’MALLEY’S FUND-RAISING PRECEDENT: In the fight over who can raise money during Maryland’s legislative session, Gov. Martin O’Malley might be Exhibit A for the defense, reports John Wagner in the Post. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown pointed to O’Malley’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign when asked about the controversy last week. O’Malley, who was mayor of Baltimore in 2006, raised more than $1 million for his gubernatorial campaign during that year’s 90-day legislative session, and nobody objected.

GUBERNATORIAL RACE: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Herb Smith of McDaniel College talk about this year’s governor’s race and why several candidates often considered unlikely might have a significant chance to win.

FOREHAND WILL RETIRE: Sen. Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery) said Thursday night that she plans to retire when her term ends next year, ending a career in the Maryland legislature that began in 1978, reports John Wagner of the Post.

Md CAN (Citizen Action network) ad

COLBURN DIVORCE: Sen. Richard Colburn’s wife is seeking divorce from the 64-year-old legislator, accusing him in court papers of having an affair with a 26-year-old former aide, writes Jennifer Shutt in the Salisbury Daily Times. Alma Fitzgerald Colburn filed for divorce last Friday after 14 years of marriage.

GOOD IDEA, BAD BILL: Joanna Conti, a Democratic candidate for Anne Arundel county executive in 2014, writes in an op-ed in the Annapolis Capital that an Arundel County bill that would reduce unfunded retiree health care costs and require the county to start setting aside money to pay them, includes so many elements that strip employees of protections and shift costs from the county to employees will drive a lot of employees to leave.

FREDERICK SHORTFALL: Although Frederick County officials are gearing up to haul next year’s budget out of a $5.5 million hole, Commission President Blaine Young says layoffs and program cancellations are not on his agenda, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. Young said department heads across county government are searching for savings to help sew up the deficit in the preliminary plan for fiscal 2015.

HOMESTEAD CREDIT: With Washington County home values dropping in recent years, the benefits of the state’s Homestead Tax Credit, which protects homeowners from major increases in assessed property value, have largely fallen by the wayside, writes CJ Lovelace for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

2014 Calendar AD PHOTOCECIL TOWN MEETING: Cecil County Executive Tari Moore is ready for her first town hall meeting of 2014, which is set for Monday at 7 p.m. in the Elk Room of the County Administration Building in Elkton, writes Cheryl Mattix for the Cecil Whig.

MoCoCOUNCIL RACES: The soon-to-be-open County Council seats in two Montgomery County districts continue to draw interest from a number of potential candidates as the races take shape before the February filing deadline, reports Jenn Davis and Ryan Marshall in the Gazette.

CAMPAIGN CASH: Gazette columnist Blair Lee examines the ins and outs of Maryland’s campaign finance laws and its affect on the current races.

***Happy Birthday tomorrow Jan. 4 to House Speaker Mike Busch and Del. Frank Conaway Jr. Get the birthdays of all your favorite legislators (and even in you unfavorite ones) in MarylandReporter.com’s new State House Birthday Calendar with scenes from Naptown.***

MINIMUM WAGE: The majority of Montgomery County’s state delegation is expected to back a bill raising the statewide minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by 2016, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette. Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Anne Kaiser are scheduled to announce Friday morning the names of those who signed a letter of support for the bill.

REDISTRICTING CHALLENGE: Yet another challenge to Maryland’s latest congressional redistricting is pending in federal court, Kate Alexander writes in the Gazette.

BALTIMORE FIRE CHIEF: Columnist Barry Rascovar at Political Maryland ponders why Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake chooses to go with outsiders who know little of Baltimore for top jobs, like this week’s appointment of the new fire chief.