January 22, 2014

State Roundup, January 22, 2014

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SENATE OKS EMERGENCY PLAN: The Maryland Senate approved an emergency plan Tuesday designed to help people stuck without insurance because of the state’s glitch-ridden health exchange. Lawmakers vowed inquiries will continue into what went wrong, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.

DELANEY SEEKS ANSWERS: Six weeks ago, Rep. John Delaney began to push this idea: What if Maryland just abandoned its troubled online health insurance marketplace and used the federal version instead? Or maybe used some combination of the two? On Jan. 6, he sent a letter to the state’s secretary of health and asked for a brief analysis of the “pros and cons” of switching. He didn’t receive a formal response. On Tuesday, Delaney sent another letter, Jenna Johnson reports for the Post.

MENTAL HEALTH CARE: A panel convened by Gov. Martin O’Malley after the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., has made more than two dozen recommendations to bolster care for the mentally ill in Maryland, reports Meredith Cohn in the Sun. The report by the Continuity of Care Advisory Panel looked at deficiencies in the behavioral health system that led to breaks in care for those with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression and other conditions.

ESTATE TAX RELIEF: Maryland lawmakers are thinking of easing estate taxes this legislative session, a change proponents say would prevent many retirees from decamping to warmer, and less taxed, parts of the country, Bethany Rodgers reports for the Frederick News Post.

$10 BILLION QUESTION: In this info-graphic on where the money came from and where the money went, the editorial board for the Sun attempts to answer “O’Malley’s $10 billion question.”

FUNDS FOR LOCALS: After years of slashed highway user revenues and a pension shift, Maryland’s local governments could see a bit more state aid headed their way in fiscal 2015. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed $39.2 billion fiscal 2015 budget increases aid to local governments by $183 million, most of that heading to education. For Montgomery County, the governor has proposed $885 million, an increase of $23 million over the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The bulk of that increase, or $20 million, will go to educating the county’s students.

NIXING NOx NIX: Greg Larry of the Cumberland Times News reports that the District 1 legislative delegation is attempting to stop new legislation coming from the Maryland Department of the Environment that would force AES Warrior Run – a coal-fired power generating station– to invest millions of dollars to further reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide. The draft legislation is an attempt to force all carbon-based power plants across Maryland to reduce nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide, referred to as NOx. NOx is considered a contributing source for acid rain, smog and ozone layer depletion and is thought to be harmful to lung tissue.

MARIJUANA LAWS: As lawmakers in Annapolis continue to consider whether to loosen Maryland’s marijuana laws, a bipartisan pair of senators plans to introduce a proposal Wednesday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug, reports the Sun’s Erin Cox. “We’re not trying to encourage people to smoke pot,” said Baltimore County Democrat Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who is leading the effort.

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ASSESSMENT PROBLEMS: The state Assessments and Taxation Department hasn’t performed regular physical inspections of individual properties to support property assessments as required by state law for “many years,” legislative auditors found, according to Charlie Hayward in MarylandReporter.com. The department also did not audit or review business personal property tax returns or homeowner tax credits, and it doesn’t perform sufficient data matches to look for businesses who fail to file personal-property tax returns, according to an audit report released last month.

VETERANS DAY OFF: Del. Ted Sophocleus said the meaning of Veterans Day really struck him the first time he visited a veterans’ cemetery and saw the rows and rows of flags and graves. “I think it’s a very valuable experience for children to see first hand,” he said. That’s why he’s hoping his legislation to make Veterans Day a day off for school students will pass in the General Assembly this session, Kate Yoon writes in the Annapolis Capital.

SCHOOL ZONE SPEED CAMERAS: After rescinding a bill to expand speed camera hours, Del. Dereck Davis is proposing legislation to stop use of the devices in school zones during school holidays and summer breaks, Jamie Anfenson-Comeau writes in the Gazette.

2 GOVS AGAINST BROCHIN: John Wagner of the Post is reporting that Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Gov. Bob Ehrlich never agreed on much, but the two adversaries have come to the same conclusion about one thing: Someone other than James Brochin should be elected to the state Senate from District 42.

WHAT THE SNOWS DELAYED: Anne Arundel County school leaders will have to wait another two weeks to ask the Board of Public Works for money. The state board’s annual “beg-a-thon,” where county leaders flock to the Maryland State House to ask for school construction funding, has been postponed until Feb. 5 due to snowy weather conditions, reports the Annapolis Capital’s Alex Jackson.

SNOWS STOP HOGAN: Republican gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan has postponed his planned campaign announcement Tuesday night because of the snow, John Wagner writes in the Post. Hogan, a Cabinet secretary under former Gov. Bob Ehrlich, had vowed on Monday to hold the event at an Annapolis-area crab house regardless of weather conditions. But they just kept getting worse.

MONEY MONEY MONEY: In a second part of his analysis of campaign war chests thus far, Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland looks at some of the non-gubernatorial campaigns and stockpiles that draw interest and should be given notice, including Brooke Lierman, the young lawyer running for a House seat in Baltimore’s District 46. She’s the daughter of Terry Lierman, the well-connected former state Democratic chairman – and it shows.

ANOTHER AA EXEC CANDIDATE: The Anne Arundel Martin Luther King Day Breakfast drew a lot of politicians who did, well, politicking, writes Rick Hutzell in the Annapolis Capital. Some did it with a little more aplomb then others. But it was an interesting and at times moving event nonetheless with one secret county executive candidate outed.

FLOREEN LEADS MO CO COUNCIL $$ RACE: Montgomery County Council member Nancy Floreen is in the strongest financial position of the body’s four at-large incumbents, 2013 campaign statements show. Bill Turque of the Post reports that Floreen reported $144,908 cash on hand in last week’s filing with the Maryland Board of Elections.

DRAFT CARSON MOVEMENT: A group trying to draft Ben Carson to run for president in 2016 has bought seven billboards in the Baltimore region aimed partly at voters but also at the Hopkins neurosurgeon himself, John Fritze writes in the Sun. “We wanted Dr. Carson to be able to see the billboards on the way into work,” said Vernon Robinson, treasurer of the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee.