LEGAL POT EFFORT LAUNCHED: Advocates of legalizing marijuana launched their effort Thursday to change the law in Maryland, calling the war on drugs a failure and pointing to growing public support for their cause, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.
TECH UPGRADE FOR COMMON CORE: Maryland schools will be scrambling to make $100 million in technological and other upgrades to give new state tests aligned with the Common Core standards next year, Liz Bowie and Erica Green of the Sun write about a report to the legislature by the Maryland State Department of Education.
- BROWN WANTS TEST WAIVER: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown said Thursday that Maryland should seek a waiver from the federal government so it won’t have to administer outdated standardized tests to students this year, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. Brown also came out strongly for decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.
MENTAL EVALUATIONS:In the letters he sent from prison, William Brown Jr. said he would not only harm himself, but the mother of his children, Ronnesha Simms. On Sept. 10, he stabbed Simms five times. Police shot him five times before he was killed. Now, in response, Del. Kathy Vitale sponsored House Bill 44, which would allow a judge to order a psychological evaluation during a protective order proceeding if a person shows symptoms of a mental disorder and has acted dangerously toward others, Sara Blumberg reports in the Annapolis Capital.
MINIMUM WAGE DEBATE: Maryland Senate President Mike Miller on Thursday braced his colleagues for a difficult debate over raising the state’s minimum wage and asked senators to be open to compromise, according to an AP story in the Annapolis Capital. Miller told senators during session it will be hard to find a solution to address economic differences in various parts of the state.
- Laura Howell of the Maryland Association for Community Services writes, in an op-ed for the Sun, that the current debate on the minimum wage rightfully focuses on the plight of low-income Marylanders. However, a related issue has gotten little attention in all of the discussion, and that is the fragile and underfunded system of services for Marylanders with developmental disabilities and the backbone of those services — the direct support staff who provide them.
STORMWATER FEES TO STAY: The leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates predicted Thursday morning that lawmakers won’t be repealing the stormwater fees in the state’s largest jurisdictions this year, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.
HEALTH CARE ROLLOUT
- RNC STEPS INTO ISSUE: The Republican National Committee has filed a records request with Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, seeking information about one of the key players involved with the troubled rollout of the state’s health insurance exchange, reports John Fritze for the Sun.
- SENATE PROBE TO CONTINUE: Sen. President Mike Miller said the investigations into how the state bungled its $107 million health exchange would continue until lawmakers are satisfied, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. “The public wants answers, and the buck stops here,” Miller said.
PENSION TENSION: The largest unions representing state workers and public school teachers are upset at Gov. Martin O’Malley’s decision to permanently cut $100 million from extra payments into the state pension system, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. The money came from additional employee salary deductions required by a 2011 pension reform, and was intended to help cure underfunding in the pension system
PARK FUNDING SHIFTED: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed state budget is balanced in part with funds shifted from programs meant to buy parkland and protect farmland from development, according to highlights of the plan released by the governor’s office, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun. Conservationists say the move short-changes land preservation, which they note has been a priority of the O’Malley administration.
GOP GUB DEBATE: Four Republicans running for governor of Maryland pledged Thursday not to raise taxes if elected and heavily criticized the current administration’s handling of the rollout of its online health insurance exchange, writes John Wagner for the Post.
- Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital writes that the debate lacked confrontation, as the candidates agreed on most issues. All said they supported repealing stormwater fees. All criticized the recent implementation of Common Core standards for language arts and math education in the state. All rejected the notion of increasing or introducing new taxes, if elected governer. But the debate wasn’t completely without its disagreements. When asked about their position on decriminalizing marijuana, three said they did not support decriminalization. But one said he supported decriminalizing it.
O’MALLEY PAC GIVES: Gov. Martin O’Malley raised $19,500 last year in a state political action committee he is using mostly to support Democratic candidates for state legislative office, a filing with the state Board of Elections shows. Michael Dresser writes in the Sun that the O’ Say Can You See PAC spent just over $24,500, mostly on Democratic candidates for the General Assembly. The committee made $1,000 in contributions in early January to state Sen. Bobby Zirkin of Baltimore County as well as Baltimore City lawmakers Sen. Nathaniel McFadden and Del. Maggie McIntosh.
***Happy Birthday today to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Del. Wendel Beitzel. Happy Birthday tomorrow to Gov. Martin O’Malley, Congressman Elijah Cummings and Sen. Jim Robey.
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.***
SENATE MONEY RACES: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland goes through the campaign finances reports of the state senators and their opposition and finds some interesting facts among even the shakiest of incumbents. Maybe turnover in the state Senate won’t be so great after all, he writes, adding that several of the shakiest senators appear to be in solid financial shape – at least when compared to their challengers.
CASH IN MoCo RACES: Maryland Juice has a comprehensive run down of cash on hand for both statewide races and all the Montgomery County legislative races, as well as the executive contest.
- BUSCH LEADS IN 30A: A team of reporters from the Annapolis Capital report that Del. Michael Busch has a massive lead over all District 30A candidates in fundraising. The Friends of Mike Busch, the speaker of the House’s fundraising arm, raised $266,278 from Jan. 10, 2013, to last Jan. 8, leaving him with more than $443,808 cash on hand. Busch is one of four candidates to file for election in the newly created District 30A.
- INCUMBENT DONATES TO CHALLENGER: One of the more interesting items in this week’s campaign finance reports was a $6,000 donation from Del. Rudy Cane to his Democratic primary opponent, Sheree Sample-Hughes, Jennifer Shutt reports in the Salisbury Daily Times. The donation was made July 13, three days after the Wicomico County councilwoman filed with the state board of elections. It also came about a week before Cane told The Daily Times he planned to seek re-election.
- Del. Neil Parrott has a cash balance of about $51,000, the highest amount among Washington County lawmakers who plan to run for seats in the Maryland General Assembly in the 2014 elections, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Parrott raised about $36,468 in a period roughly from January 2013 to January 2014, adding to a balance of $32,108 from previous years. His campaign spent about $17,758 in the last year.
ASSESSING RACE FOR GOVERNOR: Richard Cross, conservative blogger and former speech writer for Gov. Bob Ehrlich, assesses the governor’s race and the chances of a Republican making it in this video chat with the folks at Center Maryland.
GUB WAR CHESTS: In the races for the gubernatorial nomination, he’s a quick photo gallery from the Sun showing how much each candidate has raised and how much cash they have on hand.
- Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland, writing in the Sun, opines that GOP gubernatorial hopeful Charles Lollar’s campaign raised a paltry $65,329.67 during the last year, and he has only $5,731.35 available cash-on-hand according to the filings due to the Board of Elections yesterday. And that’s not the interesting part.
AG WAR CHESTS: Del. Aisha Braveboy has come in last in fund-raising for the four-way Democratic race for attorney general, calling the viability of her campaign into question, the Sun’s Michael Dresser reports. Braveboy, from Prince George’s County, reported Thursday that she raised $33,622 in the year ended Jan. 8. That is less than a tenth of the money raised by Sen. Brian Frosh of Montgomery County and Del. Jon Cardin of Baltimore County.
FREDERICK EXEC MONEY RACE: Jan Gardner and Blaine Young have not yet stepped into the ring as election opponents for Frederick County executive. But, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post, this week’s release of campaign finance numbers highlighted the yet-to-be-defined rivalry between the past and present Frederick County commissioners presidents. Gardner, who is officially in the running for the new office of Frederick County executive, gathered roughly $45,473 from the time she created her campaign committee in September through Jan. 8, the close of the reporting period. Though Young hasn’t made up his mind about entering the race, he did rack up roughly $69,517 during the yearlong fundraising cycle.
MO CO EXEC MONEY RUN: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett enjoys a nearly 3-to-1 cash advantage over Democratic primary opponent Doug Duncan, Bill Turque of the Post reports. Leggett, who is seeking his third term, disclosed donations of $653,986 over the past year and $971,159 total cash on hand, including funds from prior campaigns.