January 23, 2014

State Roundup, January 23, 2014

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In a ground floor hallway of the State House, Maryland flags are readied for governor's State of the State address.

In a ground floor hallway of the State House, Maryland flags are readied for governor's State of the State address.

STATE OF STATE: Erin Cox of the Sun writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley will deliver the final State of the State speech of his tenure Thursday in an address that recounts his seven years as governor and argues for policies to help the middle class.

DEMARCO TO PUSH FOR BUTT TAX HIKE: Even while Gov. O’Malley is likely to tout that he balanced his proposed fiscal 2015 budget with “no new taxes or fees,” Vinny DeMarco, president of Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, will be pushing for higher taxes on cigarettes and booze and touting a new poll that says the public wants that as well, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

CORPORATE TAX CUT: The Maryland Chamber of Commerce supports reducing the state’s corporate income tax rate to 7%, but not to the 6% proposed by Sen. Richard Colburn, Jennifer Shutt blogs in the Salisbury Daily Times. During a hearing in the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Wednesday, Mathew Palmer of the chamber said the organization supports reducing the rate from 8.25% to 7% over five years, not the reduction proposed by Colburn in the bill.

FRANCHOT CAUTIONS ON WAGE HIKE: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot told a group of accountants and tax attorneys in Easton last week that a hike in the minimum wage should be done cautiously, taking into account Maryland’s “fragile” economic recovery. Dan Menefee of the Spy websites has a story and video of the event.

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HEALTH COVERAGE: The emergency plan to provide state insurance to people stuck because of Maryland's faulty health exchange cleared another hurdle Wednesday as a committee voted to send it to the floor of the House of Delegates, reports the Sun's Erin Cox.

TARGET DROPS PART-TIMERS HEALTH COVERAGE: Hundreds — if not thousands — of Maryland Target employees will lose their health insurance benefits April 1 and are being directed instead to health exchanges created through President Obama’s health care reform law. The national retail giant announced a new company-wide policy this week to discontinue health insurance coverage for all store part-time employees, Glynis Kazanjian reports in MarylandReporter.com.

POT BILLS INTRODUCED: As the General Assembly prepares to debate a bill that would legalize marijuana, regulate it and tax it like alcohol, two senators reintroduced different legislation Wednesday that would decriminalize small amounts of the drug, reports Alex Jackson for the Annapolis Capital.

STREAMLINING BAIL REVIEW: Frederick Kunkle of the Post reports that a state Senate panel heard testimony Wednesday on a proposal by the state’s judiciary that would streamline the system for setting bail while also guaranteeing that all defendants have access to an attorney from the beginning of the judicial process. But some members of the Judicial Proceedings Committee objected that some defendants could still be confined in jail longer because a judge might not be immediately available to hear their case.

STORMWATER ADS: Environmental groups have come out singing with a musical radio ad blitz against efforts in Annapolis to repeal or weaken the 2012 law requiring storm-water fees in Baltimore City and Maryland's largest counties, reports Tim Wheeler for the Sun.

BLACK BEAR HUNT: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering a big change in the black bear hunting season. The agency said Monday it may eliminate the quota system that has dictated the length of each season since bear hunting resumed in 2004 after a 51-year ban, according to an AP story in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Instead, the season would be of a predetermined length. That’s how hunting seasons for other species are run.

OD REPORTING SHIELD: There soon could be few legal consequences for minors who help a friend, family member or even a stranger during an overdose, blogs Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. A bill introduced Wednesday by Delegates Addie Eckardt and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio would provide legal insulation for minors who seek medical assistance for people who have drank too much or overdosed on drugs.

BROADCAST THEM ALL: All of the official proceedings of the Maryland General Assembly — committee hearings, voting sessions, floor debates and so on — are open to the public. Anyone who cares to can watch as their senators and delegates discuss and vote on any of the thousands of pieces of legislation that move through the General Assembly every year. Anyone, that is, who happens to be in Annapolis. That is why, writes the editorial board for the Sun, all of these proceedings should be broadcast.

OPPOSE DNR AUTHORITY BILL: Republican candidate for governor David Craig and running mate Jeannie Haddaway don’t want a bill clarifying the Department of Natural Resources’ ability to open or close fishing seasons to pass, writes Jennifer Shutt in the Salisbury Daily Times.

DUTCH WON'T RUN FOR GOV: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger will not run for governor this year, the Democratic congressman announced Wednesday, John Fritze reports in the Sun. The Baltimore County lawmaker has flirted for months with joining a crowded field of Democrats seeking to replace Gov. O'Malley, whose term will end after this year. But in a statement, Ruppersberger said he will instead "continue to push for change in Washington."

BUT WILL DELANEY? U.S. Rep. John Delaney, the Potomac Democrat who has emerged as a leading critic of Maryland's troubled health exchange, is fueling speculation that he is interested in running for governor — a move observers said could shake up the state's premier political contest this year, report Erin Cox and John Fritze in the Sun.

GANSLER GOES AFTER BROWN: Gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler took his latest jab at Democratic rival Anthony Brown on Wednesday, releasing a Web video that mocks Brown for taking campaign donations from health-care interests while overseeing the botched rollout of the state’s online insurance exchange, the Post's John Wagner writes. Here's the link to the ad.

CAMPAIGN CASH: Maryland Juice offers a list of campaign cash in hand for Montgomery County and statewide Democratic races, plus a few other interesting ones outside of Montgomery, including State Senate District 42 between Jim Brochin and Connie DeJuliis.

A GREENER DUNCAN: When he was Montgomery County executive, Doug Duncan's record didn’t endear him to environmentalists, who saw him as a public official who never met a slab of concrete he didn’t like. But Duncan, running for a return to office in the June Democratic primary, was as green as a leprechaun’s coat Wednesday when he announced his solidarity with environmentalists who want to protect northern Montgomery’s Ten Mile Creek watershed from new development, Bill Turque writes in the Post.