January 8, 2014

State Roundup, January 8, 2014

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WHAT TO WATCH FOR: The minimum wage hike, online registration for health care, the new Republican leadership and the impact of the new — and politically well-connected – lobbying firm of Perry, White, Ross & Jacobson are just four of the top items to watch as the 90-day General Assembly session gets under way today in Annapolis, writes John Wagner in the Post.

The editorial board for the Sun offers up a photo gallery editorial on what it thinks are the hot topics for the General Assembly session, starting of course with the minimum wage but also including pit bull and pre-K expansion legislation.

GOV TO PUSH MINIMUM WAGE: Gov. Martin O’Malley says he will be focusing his energy on raising the state’s minimum wage in his last legislative session as Maryland’s governor, according to an AP story in the Annapolis Capital.

“Yes, we’ve had to weather hard times. There’s still many families in Maryland who have not come through those hard times,” O’Malley said at the state party’s annual legislative luncheon. Kate Alexander writes that story for the Gazette.

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY RIGHTS: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times reports that Marylanders developing commercial properties on septic systems may have the amount of sewage they can discharge reduced and their property’s building rights could be diminished if a state initiative gets passed. The requirement would increase the size of septic systems by 1½ to 2 times the current requirement for commercial sites with sewage flows of less than 5,000 gallons per day.

GOP SETS ANNAPOLIS AGENDA: Maryland Republican legislative leaders vowed Tuesday to make tax reduction, including repeal of the so-called “rain tax,” their top priority for the 90-day General Assembly session that begins today, Tim Wheeler and Michael Dresser are reporting in the Sun. After a briefing at which GOP lawmakers were told that the state’s tax burden is driving affluent taxpayers to move elsewhere, the party’s House and Senate leaders said they would push for everything from an across-the-board income tax cut to targeted relief for small businesses.

LOBBYIST SPENDING: Over $32 million was spent last year lobbying state government, and the health care industry was the top spender at $7.1 million, Len Lazarick reports in MarylandReporter.com. Based on State Ethics Commission reports and an analysis by Common Cause, the story list the top 10 spenders and the top 10 grossing lobbyists.

ELECTION YEAR SESSION: Former Gov. Parris Glendening has a chat with Jack Lambert of the Annapolis Capital and predicts that since lawmakers are gearing up for their own elections, you can pretty much expect a lackluster General Assembly session.

NOT SO RAH-RAH: Melinda Henneberger of the Post reports that the Maryland Democratic Party’s annual legislative lunch is really a pre-game pep rally before the session starts. But even cheerleaders make frowny faces sometimes, and U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings tucked some reality into his rah-rah.

ANNAPOLIS BLOG: Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital has started a new blog to post breaking news out of the General Assembly. Here’s his introduction to the effort.

Md CAN (Citizen Action network) ad

***Happy Birthday, Del. Kathleen Dumais. If you want to wish all your favorite legislators a happy birthday, get the new State House Birthday Calendar created by MarylandReporter.com. It lists all 188 legislators, including those who don’t put their birthdates in their official bios.***

DELANEY PUSHES ON EXCHANGE: U.S. Rep. John Delaney is ramping up pressure on Maryland officials to abandon the state’s troubled health insurance exchange and switch to the federal system, penning an open letter Monday that calls on Gov. Martin O’Malley to explain the pros and cons of such a move, John Fritze is reporting in the Sun.

CASINO TAKE: Maryland’s four casinos brought in about $65 million in December, their lowest monthly revenue since the Rocky Gap Casino Resort opened in May, reports the Sun’s Kevin Rector. Still the total was well above revenues seen at the end of 2012, riding a nearly 50% year-over-year revenue increase at Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills.

36th DISTRICT CHANGES: Jack Shaum of the Easton Star Democrat gives a month-by-month breakdown of local events and how the just-concluded year saw a change in the makeup of the 36th District delegation to the Maryland General Assembly and the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners.

LAST-MINUTE FUNDRAISING: They arrived not long after sunrise — those whose connections could help steer the course of legislation in Maryland and those who wish they could — and descended upon historic inns, bars and a union shop for breakfast. By 10 a.m. Tuesday, at least eight political fundraisers already had been held within steps of the State House in Annapolis, and the collection of money was to continue through the night and into this morning. Jenna Johnson and John Wagner write about the final gasp of fundraising before the session begins.

GANSLER PUSHES BROWN ON FUNDRAISING: Attorney General Doug Gansler’s campaign released an open letter to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman Tuesday urging them to observe a ban on fundraising during the 90-day legislative session that starts today, even though the state’s election chief has ruled Ulman can accept donations, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

Gansler said that Brown risks making a “mockery” of Maryland law if Ulman follows through with plans to solicit contributions during the session, writes the Post’s John Wagner.

CRAIG MAKES IT OFFICIAL: Harford County Executive David Craig became the first top-tier Republican candidate for governor to make his candidacy official as he filed papers on Tuesday with the state Board of Elections, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

There was not much suspense involved, writes John Wagner in the Post. Craig kicked off his candidacy back in June with a statewide tour and named Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio as his running mate in July. But Tuesday’s visit made the ticket’s bid official.

FOOD UNIONS BACK BROWN: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown on Tuesday announced endorsements of his gubernatorial bid by three local affiliates of the United Food and Commercial Workers union that collectively claim several thousand members in the state, writes John Wagner in the Post.

PRIVACY & THE POLITICIAN: In light of Sen. Richard Colburn’s upcoming divorce case, Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times writes about privacy and the politician. Just what is off-limits to the press and how much privacy can a politician expect?

ERVIN APPLICANTS LINE UP: The nine applicants seeking appointment by the Montgomery County Council to fill Valerie Ervin’s unexpired term represent a range of professional backgrounds, from attorney to high school principal, to congressional staffer to electrical engineer, reports Bill Turque in the Post. But perhaps the most unusual résumé on file belongs to the budget director for Baltimore City.

CECIL CHARTER LAUDED: Cecil County Executive Tari Moore sat on a stool Monday night in front of more than 100 citizens as she lauded charter government’s first year as successful, despite some critics in the audience, writes Cheryl Mattix in the Cecil Whig.