January 14, 2014

State Roundup, January 14, 2014

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DEAL STRUCK WITH INSURERS: Consumers stuck in limbo, unable to access the state’s glitch-prone online health exchange, will be allowed to get coverage through the plans they want under an agreement that state officials worked out with insurance companies, report Meredith Cohn, Andrea Walker and Erin Cox in the Sun. Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to announce the option today.

BROWN IN THE DARK: The day before he was to testify about an emergency bill that would help those who were unable to sign up for health insurance through the state’s exchange, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said Monday that he was kept in the dark about the severity of the problems that led to the calamitous debut of the state’s online health marketplace, write Jenna Johnson and John Wagner for the Post.

GUN RIGHTS HYSTERIA: Hundreds of guns purchased in the weeks before Maryland’s stricter firearms regulations went into effect last year ended up in the hands of people who should never have been allowed to own them, opines the Sun editorial board. Yet the fault for those failures doesn’t lie with the law or with state police efforts to complete thousands of background checks on gun license applicants in a timely fashion. Rather, the real culprit was the hysteria deliberately whipped up by the gun lobby to convince people that their Second Amendment rights were at risk.

CORPORATE TAX CUT: A bill lowering Maryland’s corporate income tax rate to 6% is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Jan. 22, writes Gary Haber for the Baltimore Business Journal. The rate would drop over five years from the current 8.25%.

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SPECIAL NEEDS ENCOUNTERS: Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times-News reports that a series of listening sessions that could lay the groundwork for better understanding by law enforcement officers of the special skills needed for encounters with the intellectually and developmentally disabled is planned over the next few weeks.

SNAP JUDGMENTS: Lawmakers have been known to snap some candid photos of their colleagues – such as a 2010 photo of former Del. Richard Sossi sleeping on the House floor. Now, reports John Rydell for WBFF-TV, House Republican leader Nic Kipke is concerned about a possible rule change that would restrict lawmakers from taking photos of each other — and other delegates agree.

SESSION BUMP FOR BIZ: No one knows how much soup or vitamin supplements Maryland lawmakers will need. But the Annapolis Organic Market will be prepared. The shop — located within the Annapolis Market House — is one of a series of downtown businesses that are expecting the annual winter boost because of the Maryland General Assembly’s presence, reports Shantee Woodards for the Annapolis Capital. But the 2014 legislative session also marks a first for the overhauled Market House.

FEDERAL BUMP FOR MD: Senior lawmakers on Capitol Hill unveiled a $1.1 trillion spending bill late Monday that would keep the federal government running for most of this year while directing hundreds of millions of dollars to Maryland interests — from the James Webb Space Telescope to blue collar federal workers, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

MIZEUR PICKS UP ENDORSEMENTS: The Post’s John Wagner reports that the gubernatorial campaign of Del. Heather Mizeur picked up endorsements Monday from two women’s groups: the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Women and the national group Feminist Majority.

LEGGETT AVOIDS GOV. RACE: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett — one of the region’s highest-stature Democrats — is standing clear of his party’s gubernatorial primary, for now, Andrew Schotz is reporting in the Gazette.

KITTLEMAN CAN FUND-RAISE: State Sen. Allan Kittleman can continue to raise money for his race for Howard County executive even though he continues to serve in the state Senate, reports Amanda Yeager for the Sun.

MO CO CANDIDATE REPORTS: The first campaign contribution reports from Montgomery County Council candidates are trickling in to the Maryland State Board of Elections ahead of Wednesday evening’s filing deadline, with two at-large incumbents showing six-figure bank accounts, Bill Turque of the Post is reporting.

PRAYER CONTROVERSY IN CARROLL: A U.S. Supreme Court case involving a town in upstate New York might ultimately decide the fate of a federal lawsuit from two residents challenging the Carroll County Board of Commissioners’ practice of starting each meeting with a prayer to Jesus Christ, Christian Alexandersen reports in the Carroll County Times. In the meantime, Judge William D. Quarles Jr. said Friday at the U.S. District Court of Maryland in Baltimore that he will issue a written decision on the request to temporarily stop the commissioners’ sectarian prayers.

YOUNG PROBE SOUGHT: Frederick County’s ethics commission declined to comment Monday night after reviewing a request to investigate whether Commissioners President Blaine Young has been involved in an extramarital affair with a Frederick County government employee, reports Cara Anthony for the Frederick News Post.

REDMARYLAND STRIKES BACK: Mark Newgent of RedMaryland takes point by point issue with “the shrieking harpies at Media Matters for America” for questioning the Baltimore Sun’s partnership with RedMaryland (and not just Brian Griffiths as erroneously stated yesterday). Media Matters demanded the Sun explain why it hired Red Maryland, and “how it plans to deal with potential issues with writer’s conduct and conflicts of interest.”