January 20, 2014

State Roundup, January 20, 2014

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HEALTH EXCHANGE

UPCOMING IN ANNAPOLIS: Jenna Johnson and John Wagner of the Post offer up quick hits on what is expected to happen in Annapolis this week. Among items: Gov. Martin O’Malley is scheduled to formally roll out his legislative package and deliver his eighth and final State of the State address; Questions continue to swirl around the state’s troubled online health insurance exchange; And there’s going to be a new candidate in the Republican primary for governor.

STORMWATER FEES: Environmentalists are trying to convince Maryland legislative leaders to not change a state mandate on stormwater fees, allowing local governments to take it from here, reports Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital. Sources in the General Assembly say Senate President Mike Miller is considering introducing legislation that would cap the fees that the state’s 10 most populous jurisdictions were required to impose.

LEGAL POT: The Cumberland Times News reports that some Democratic lawmakers want to make it legal for Maryland residents to possess, use and grow marijuana, which would be regulated and taxed like alcohol. And, in a November poll, 51% of those asked also think Maryland should legalize pot.

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NEUMAN WANTS FAIR SHARE: County Executive Laura Neuman wants money: money for a new high school in Anne Arundel County, money for public transportation and to fix roads and bridges and money to rehab the Anne Arundel County Police Academy. Neuman highlighted those needs as her legislative priorities on Friday in her first appearance before the Anne Arundel County House delegation in Annapolis, and Alex Jackson and Rema Rahman report the story for the Annapolis Capital.

  • Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital writes that House Speaker Michael Busch was shooting back at Republicans – including County Exec Neuman – who said at Friday’s House delegation meeting that Anne Arundel County doesn’t get its fair share of state money. Jackson also writes about the GOP gubernatorial candidates’ debate.

SPENDING ON WA CO: Republican lawmakers from Washington County have long criticized spending by Gov. Martin O’Malley, and this year’s proposed budget, presented Wednesday in Annapolis, elicited similar reactions, writes Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail. O’Malley’s budget gives Washington County $204 million in direct aid, including retirement benefits, for fiscal year 2015, up 3.3% from the previous fiscal year.

A LOOK BACK: In an op-ed in the Annapolis Capital, former General Assembly reporter Hal Burdett recalls several characters who served in the House of Delegates and the Senate and how they handled situations with humor, some of it intentional, some of it not.

BAIL REFORM: The editorial board of the Sun, in a piece pushing for bail reform, opines that a judge’s ruling that the state can’t hold suspects who aren’t represented by counsel at their initial hearing should prod reluctant lawmakers to act.

  • MAKING BAIL: Ian Duncan and Justin Fenton of the Sun report that, in a shoebox of a courtroom at Baltimore’s central booking facility on a recent day, Judge Nicole Pastore Klein worked swiftly to determine the price of freedom for men and women accused of crimes. Attempting to disarm a police officer: $150,000. Burglary, resisting arrest and drug charges: $100,000. Cocaine possession: $25,000. Some will go free within the day, while others will likely sit in jail until their day in court. But that distinction often has less to do with the size of their bail than their ability to pay it.

STATE POLICE ROLE: Josh Bollinger reports that Maryland State Police will pull its troopers out of counties’ drug task forces. Secretary of MSP Col. Marcus Brown said it’s an effort to get state police back to their original role in law enforcement — to police the state without county borders, since crime doesn’t have borders either.

GAS BASIN IN SO MD: While most eyes in the statewide fracking debate are on the Marcellus Shale region in Western Maryland, a smaller gas basin underneath Southern Maryland is drawing a Texas-based energy company’s attention, Lyle Kendrick is reporting in the Annapolis Capital.

DWYER SPEAKS: Red Maryland’s Duane Keenan interviews Del. Don Dwyer, who talks about his health, his drinking and his removal from the House Way and Means Committee.  The show also covers the week that was in the General Assembly.

MONEY TALKS: Money can’t buy you love, but in campaigns, it can buy you lots of other things: attention, status, respect, advertising, mailers, staff and headlines, writes Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com. Lazarick assesses upcoming statewide primaries and how the candidates are fairing in the fund-raising race.

IS ULMAN FUNDRAISING? A week and a half into Maryland’s legislative session, officials with the campaign of Democratic hopeful Anthony Brown won’t say whether his running mate is collecting political donations,writes John Wagner in the Post.

LLC LOOPHOLE: For decades, well-heeled contributors have been able to dodge Maryland’s campaign donation limits through a quirk in state law known to reform advocates as the “LLC loophole.” In explaining the loophole, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that the General Assembly passed legislation in 2013 to close the loophole as of the next four-year election cycle, but campaign finance reports filed last week show it is enjoying a last hurrah in the 2014 governor’s race.

ARUNDEL EXEC FUND-RAISING: The Republican candidates for Anne Arundel county executive raised substantial amounts of money outside the county last year, campaign finance reports show. Of the two, Del. Steve Schuh was beating Laura Neuman when it came to raising donor dollars in Anne Arundel County in 2013, Rema Rahman reports in the Annapolis Capital.

OUT & ABOUT: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s growing role in Democratic politics has given a boost to her national profile — and to her frequent-flyer miles, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun. A leader with the Democratic National Committee and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Rawlings-Blake has visited Panama with Vice President Joe Biden and attended summits in Utah, New York and Louisiana. She stumped for Cory Booker as he ran for Senate in New Jersey and rallied young Democrats in San Antonio. She also went to three conferences in Las Vegas.