January 6, 2014

State Roundup, January 6, 2014

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LEGAL POT ALLY: The move to legalize marijuana in Maryland has a powerful ally: Senate President Mike Miller, reports John Wagner for the Post.

MINIMUM WAGE AT FOREFRONT: Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital writes that there are five storylines to pay attention to as the 2014 legislative session gets under way: the minimum wage and a possible hike it in and the stormwater fee repeal top his list.

Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that members of the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly said efforts to raise the minimum wage in the state will be among the issues that will dominate the 2014 session, which begins Wednesday in Annapolis.

Kelcie Pegher of the Carroll County Times writes that politicians and businesses find themselves in an uncomfortable position: They may want a livable wage, but they aren’t sure of the way to get there. Del. Susan Krebs said “artificially” raising wages, meaning raising the minimum wage, can cost jobs. Low-paying jobs move toward more automated technology, she said, using gas attendants as an example.

Former Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, now of the Center for Working Families, writes in an op-ed in the Sun, that when lawmakers return to Annapolis, they might reflect on the opportunity that Maryland missed by failing to pass a minimum wage increase last year. Had they enacted an increase, almost 500,000 of Maryland’s low-wage workers would have gotten a raise, pumping millions in new spending into the state’s economy.

Harold Meyerson of The American Prospect writes, in a op-ed in the Carroll County Times, that with the decline of unions bargaining for liveable wages for workers, it will largely be up to Democrats in Congress, state legislatures and city halls to provide the wage boosts.

EMERGENCY BILL ON HEALTH COVERAGE: The O’Malley administration will propose emergency legislation to provide retroactive health coverage to people who tried to sign up by the end of the year but were stymied by the technical problems that have plagued Maryland’s online insurance exchange, report Michael Dresser and Meredith Cohn for the Sun.

State officials said they did not know how many people were unable to sign up on the exchange’s website, Maryland Health Connection, but estimated that it could be anywhere from a few hundred to as many as 5,000, Jenna Johnson and Aaron Davis report in the Post.

Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital reports that as emergency legislation, the bill could become law immediately after it earns the approval of the General Assembly and O’Malley’s signature. But it probably won’t have unanimous support. House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, said if he had to vote on such a proposal today — he’d vote no.

SAFER ROADS: Last week, Maryland joined a handful of other states that allow undocumented immigrants to drive legally on state roads, to register vehicles and to buy auto insurance. That’s good public policy, opines the Sun’s editorial board, because it not only will make the state’s roads safer for everyone who uses them but also help those living in the country without legal permission achieve a measure of self-sufficiency.

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DRUG SHORTAGE: Del. Dan Morhaim, who is also a doctor, writes in an op-ed in the Sun about a deadly shortage in some medicines and what the Federal Drug Administration and state lawmakers can do about it.

BUDGET BRIGHT SPOT, BUT: The New Year starts on a positive note for Gov. Martin O’Malley, writes columnist Barry Rascover for MarylandReporter.com. After years of depressing budget shortfalls and an achingly slow economic recovery, the governor received good news from the Board of Revenue Estimates and the state’s Spending Affordability Committee. But there are cautionary notes attached to those reports warning of risks ahead,

HOUSE ADMINISTRATOR RETIRES: When the Maryland House of Delegates convenes Wednesday for the start of the General Assembly session, there will be the usual problems: broken copiers, confusion over parking spaces, meeting rooms that are too hot or too cold. But this time, writes Diane Rey of the Annapolis Capital, Barbara Oakes won’t be there to fix them. After 22 years as House administrator, Oakes had her last day on Dec. 31.

LAST SESSION, BACK TO BASICS: For his final General Assembly session, Bob Costa is getting back to basics, Sara Blumberg reports in the Annapolis Capital. The only delegate from south Anne Arundel County, the Republican from Deale has been busy drafting legislation on everything from health care to hunting.

ELECTION YEAR POLITICS: John Wagner of the Post writes that Maryland lawmakers will return to Annapolis on Wednesday primed for debates on raising the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and dozens of other divisive issues. But in an election year in which most of them are also candidates, politics is already overshadowing much of the policy, and any legislation that passes during the 90-day session could be less memorable than who gets credit for leading the fight.

2014 Calendar AD PHOTOATTY GEN CANDIDATES & LEGISLATORS: The senator and three delegates who are running for attorney general are poised to be among the busiest when Maryland lawmakers return to Annapolis this week, writes John Wagner in the Post. Sen. Brian Frosh (Montgomery) and Dels. Aisha Braveboy (Prince George’s), Jon Cardin (Baltimore County) and William Frick (Montgomery) — all Democrats — will each be starting the election-year session with a full legislative agenda.

POLITICAL TIGHTROPE: Many legislators are worried about the chronic structural deficit, which in spite of all the revenue-boosting has manifested itself as a budget shortfall exceeding $400 million. But, opines the editorial board for the Annapolis Capital, they are also worried about not imperiling their reelection (or, in the case of a few legislators, like this county’s Dels. Ron George and Steve Schuh, their attempts to gain other offices).

FUNDRAISING HOT WATER: The board of Leadership Anne Arundel is concerned about maintaining its nonprofit status after a political fundraising email was distributed by the organization’s head from the its email address, reports Jack Lambert for the Annapolis Capital. Eric Edstrom, executive director of LAA, sent an email to multiple recipients on Dec. 24 announcing Chuck Ferrar’s candidacy for the House of Delegates.

ANDERSON UNDER FIRE: Bryan Sears of the Daily Record blogs that Del. Curt Anderson is coming under fire by a conservative blogger for comments made about the race of workers at a city school he recently toured. “I was amazed at how many Mexicans they have working on that school,” Anderson said. “Should be more African-American and minority contractors but still.”

CANDIDATE ARRESTED: Last month, 41st District state Senate candidate Will Hanna was arrested and detained on an open warrant for failure to appear on charges stemming from traffic violations. The 42-year-old, who announced his candidacy in November to challenge third-term incumbent Sen. Lisa Gladden, was placed under arrest and held for approximately 20 hours at the downtown Central Booking and Intake facility, DMV Daily reports. But, according to the blog, this is only the beginning of his problems.

FUNDRAISING KERFUFFLE: WYPR’s Karen Hosler and Joel McCord talk about why allies of Attorney General Doug Gansler are challenging Howard County Executive Ken Ulman’s ability to raise campaign money during the General Assembly session.

A CRABBY LOSS: With the 35-to-7 drubbing of the Towson University Tigers by the Bison of North Dakota State University, Gov. Martin O’Malley will be sending Gov. Jack Dalrymple a case of crab cakes from Baltimore-based Faidley Seafood, reports John Wagner in the Post.

SLOWED GUN SALES: Frank Krasner was hoping for a good crowd this weekend, but he said he knew it would be nothing like the crowds he saw before October, writes Jen Bondeson for the Frederick News Post. Krasner, who runs the Silverado Gun Show, said gun sales in the state have plummeted since Oct. 1, when new state gun laws went into effect.

NEW JUDGE A HARD WORKER: Carl Hamilton of the Cecil Whig profiles Circuit Court Judge Brenda Sexton as he writes about her swearing in, which occurred on Friday.