January 13, 2014

State Roundup, January 13, 2014

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MD. OBAMACARE MISSTEPS: The Washington Post did a lengthy investigation of the implementation of the Maryland Health Exchange, including a detailed timeline that links to important documents. “This report is based on a Washington Post review of thousands of pages of previously undisclosed documents, including e-mails, internal reports, audits and court records, along with interviews with dozens of current and former contractors, state officials and others. The review shows that the creation of the exchange was dysfunctional from the start and that there were repeated missteps at almost every level.” Aaron Davis and Mary Pat Flaherty share the byline with several other reporters getting a tag line credit.

  • O’MALLEY OPTIMISTIC: Gov. Martin O’Malley acknowledged to a national television audience Sunday that Maryland had “squibbed the kickoff” of its online health insurance exchange but predicted the state would still meet an enrollment goal set for the end of March, writes John Wagner for the Post. O’Malley was the lead guest on CNN’s “State of the Union,” where he was billed as “a possible presidential party pick” for 2016.
  • DELANEY IS NOT: O’Malley’s defense came as U.S. Rep. John Delaney of the Western Maryland 6th District renewed his call for the state to abandon its exchange for the federal system, and O’Malley’s remarks prompted criticism from some skeptical lawmakers, write Andrea Walker and Erin Cox for the Sun.
  • RETROACTIVE SIGNUP: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that Maryland lawmakers are expected to approve emergency health insurance legislation as early as this week that will retroactively sign up residents left uninsured due to computer glitches with the state’s new insurance exchange program. “Even though it has the potential to waste up to $10 million in taxpayer money, we favor quick approval of this legislation, because uninsured Marylanders shouldn’t be penalized for the incompetence of their elected leaders.”

2 SIDES OF WAGE COIN: Jean Marbella of the Sun reports that at one end of the minimum wage battle, you’ll find Marissa Greene in Randallstown, for whom an increase would mean not having to eat nearly every meal at the fast-food place where she works, because groceries are a luxury. And at the other end, you’ll find Bob Garner, co-owner of a regional chain of full-service restaurants, who says an increase could cost him as much as $187,000 a year at just one of his 20 locations.

SURVEILLANCE CURBS: Maryland legislators will consider a package of laws to curb electronic surveillance by police, requiring a search warrant to use drones, email, cellphone towers or license plate readers to track people, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. Measures sponsored by a bipartisan pair of senators come amid a national debate over government surveillance after revelations about the extent to which the National Security Agency collects information on U.S. citizens.

RECORDING BAN: The Maryland General Assembly is considering a rule to ban cameras and recording devices in the Senate chambers, according to the Red Maryland blog. (Editor’s note: It’s not a proposal at all — it’s the existing rule, in effect for years and passed again last Wednesday. In effect, it is not enforced in any way. Any media with floor credentials can take photos or videos, without permission, and the senators aren’t notified. In other words, it’s a non-issue. The rule does not apply to the gallery.)

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MCINTOSH BACKS LEGAL POT: Baltimore City Del. Maggie McIntosh joined the chorus of powerful legislators supporting legalized marijuana in Maryland, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. In a Friday email to supporters, McIntosh identified the legalizing pot as one of four “the biggest, most important issues” facing the General Assembly this year.

WHAT’S IN A SLOGAN? Tim Prudente of the Annapolis Capital takes a look at the phrase “rain tax” and how it and other slogans have helped to shape the debate over political movements.

FIREARMS CHECKS: With Maryland State Police unable to keep up with the flood of background checks, some dealers distributed firearms to customers after waiting seven days, as they were allowed to do under state law, report the Sun’s Erin Cox and Tim Wheeler. With the backlog mounting, dealers released more than 50,000 guns before checks were completed, state police said.

CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE: The 2014 General Assembly session got under way Wednesday, turning Annapolis into the state’s center of debate, protest, legislation and proclamation for the next 90 days, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun.

WATCHING DERECK DAVIS: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Josh Kurtz of Central Maryland talk about Del. Dereck Davis, chairman of the influential House Economic Matters Committee, and why he is one politician to watch.

DWYER APOLOGIZES: Del. Don Dwyer, who is serving jail time on weekends after two alcohol-related convictions, apologized Friday to fellow members of the House of Delegates for bringing “undue attention” to the General Assembly, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. “I ask you for your forgiveness,” Dwyer said. “I’ve made some serious mistakes that I’ll regret for the rest of my life.” His colleagues reacted to the apology with silence.

WOOD TO RETIRE: “I’ve had enough,” Del. Johnny Wood told his colleagues in the legislature last week, confirming he would not seek reelection after seven terms in the House of Delegates. Wood, a St. Mary’s County Democrat, turns 78 today (Jan. 13). “After 28 years, it’s time to move on.” He made the decision at a family meeting Jan. 5, he told Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

***Happy Birthday to Del. Johnny Wood. 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 birth dates in their official bios.***

MULLING RUN FOR PRESIDENT: Gov. Martin O’Malley said on national television Sunday he is still evaluating whether to run for president, that the state’s minimum wage should be $10 an hour, and that he considered moving Maryland’s troubled health exchange to the federal site as far back as June, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.

UTAH GAY MARRIAGES: John Wagner of the Post reports that Attorney General Doug Gansler told national gay-rights activists Friday that Maryland will recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah during the 17 days they were recently allowed.

GOP SEEKS AG CANDIDATE: The Maryland Republican Party will continue its efforts to recruit a candidate for attorney general this year after a leading prospect decided not to run, the party’s executive director said Saturday, reports John Wagner in the Post.

FRACKING DISPUTE: Seeking to highlight her green credentials in the race for governor, Del. Heather Mizeur took issue Friday with the environmental platform posted this week by the front-running ticket of Lt. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, reports Tim Wheeler for the Sun. Mizeur’s campaign issued a statement accusing Brown and Ulman of glossing over the dangers of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and making “vague statements” about how to exploit the energy deposits in western Maryland without harming the environment or people’s health.

HOGAN TO LAUNCH: Republican Larry Hogan plans to formally launch his campaign for Maryland governor on Jan. 21 at an Annapolis crab house, writes the Post’s John Wagner. He will join a field that includes Harford County Executive David Craig, Del. Ron George of Anne Arundel County and Charles County business executive Charles Lollar, writes Andrea Walker in the Sun.

DELANEY FOR GOV? Is Rep. John Delaney thinking about running for governor of Maryland? There’s at least some circumstantial evidence, writes John Wagner of the Post. A telephone poll has been conducted in recent days that includes the names of Democrats who’ve already announced they’re running for governor — along with that of Delaney, the freshman congressman.

PUBLIC SERVANTS: Columnist Barry Rascovar writes in MarylandReporter.com about two people who understood the meaning of public service – John Hanson Briscoe and Bishop Robinson, who died this past week at ages 79 and 86 respectively.

PRICEY AA EXEC RACE: In coming months, Anne Arundel County residents can expect to see and hear a lot from Steve Schuh and Laura Neuman as they run for county executive, Rema Rahman reports in the Annapolis Capital. The election is shaping up to be one of the most expensive county races in recent history, with the candidates aiming to reach as many of the tens of thousands of Republican voters as possible before the June 24 GOP primary.

SUN’S CONSERVATIVE BLOGGER: Salvatore Colleluori of the liberal watchdog Media Matters for America questions the Sun’s hiring of conservative blogger Brian Griffiths of RedMaryland and the paper’s silence on the hire.