January 17, 2014

State Roundup, January 17, 2014

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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.

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.

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

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.

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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.

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.

***MarylandReporter.com editor Len Lazarick will be on Maryland Public TV’s State Circle program Friday night with Lou Davis at 7:30 p.m. The programs airs again Sunday morning at 8 a.m.***2014 Calendar AD PHOTO

***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.

DELEGATE FUND-RAISING

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.

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.