February 6, 2014

State Roundup, Thursday, February 6, 2014

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HOUSE TO PROBE HEALTH EXCHANGE PROBLEMS: Members of Maryland’s House of Delegates on Wednesday said they plan to forge ahead with questioning the leaders of the state’s troubled health insurance exchange, even though days earlier a high-ranking state senator said the General Assembly was largely done with its inquiries, reports Jenna Johnson for the Post.

TRUTH IN SEAFOOD: Did you ever wonder if a restaurant’s crabcake was made with Maryland crab or some foreign import? Or if that was really red snapper you bought, or an impostor? Tim Wheeler of the Sun reports that a bill introduced Wednesday in Annapolis would make it illegal for restaurants or markets to mislabel the seafood they sell and, moreover, would require them to specify where their crabmeat came from.

PHOSPHORUS BILL OPPOSED: For the first time this legislative session, Maryland Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance has opposed a bill to require an economic analysis on changes to phosphorus application, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. The bill sponsored by mid-Shore Del. Addie Eckardt is “vastly different” from others and would cause some issues for the department, Hance said Wednesday.

MARIJUANA REGULATION: With the aim of taking a broad look at a range of proposed legislation on marijuana usage, Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch said Wednesday that he plans to appoint a work group of a dozen delegates to recommend a path forward this session.

OUTLAWING GRAIN ALCOHOL: Grain alcohol, the cheap, potent booze that has been a staple at college parties for generations, could be outlawed in Maryland as university presidents press lawmakers to ban it, Erin Cox, Carrie Wells and Colin Campbell report in the Sun.

CAMPUS SEX ASSAULTS: Supporters believe a bill requiring Maryland colleges and universities to administer anonymous sexual assault surveys would shed light on the true number of incidents on campuses, according to a CNS story in the Daily Record. One in five women has been sexually assaulted while in college, according to a recent White House report. “This bill would bridge the gap between school data and reports from victims of sexual assault,” said the bill’s sponsor, Del. Jon Cardin,

HOLDING ONTO SCOFFLAWS’ TAX REFUNDS: Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore testified in Annapolis on Tuesday in support of a local delegation bill that would allow the comptroller’s office to withhold state-income tax refunds from county residents wanted on outstanding warrants, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Anne Arundel County already has such a program, while another bill that seeks to begin a similar program in Baltimore City was also discussed in committee Tuesday.

STONE GIVES ON HYBRID SCHOOL BOARD: Over the last seven years Sen. Norman Stone has been a staunch opponent of any form of an elected school board in Baltimore County, blogs Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. But Stone Wednesday gave indications that he could be moving away from opposing a bill creating a hybrid elected-appointed school board in his home county.

MSA TEST CONTROVERSY: Dozens of parents told legislators Wednesday that the entire Common Core curriculum ought to be scrapped, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.  But even those who support the new education standards, such as school boards and the state teachers union, said the standardized tests scheduled this spring should be dropped since they’re not based on the new curriculum.

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REPRIEVE FROM BATTLE: A battle that’s been fought for several years by local legislators to protect a coal tax credit may be called off this year, giving the representatives time to focus on other battles, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times-News. Sen. George Edwards said that unlike previous years, Gov. Martin O’Malley did not place repeal of the mined coal tax credit in his budget plans and legislative package for the year.

REDSKINS RESOLUTION: Two Maryland lawmakers have introduced a resolution in the House of Delegates urging the Washington Redskins’ owners to change the team’s name, writes Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital. House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch and Del. C.T. Wilson officially introduced House Joint Resolution 5 on Wednesday.

PUBLIC INFORMATION: The Maryland Public Information Act requires the state comptroller to provide a list of the “top 5,000 accounts” of abandoned properties to a businessman who, for a fee, helps reunite people with their lost goods, a Maryland appellate court has held. But, writes Steve Lash in the Daily Record, the comptroller does not need to list the accounts in order of their value, since that information is shielded by the act.

DWYER ON DWYER: Del. Don Dwyer isn’t sure he will be re-elected in 2014. But he’s going to try, writes Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital. Dwyer is currently serving weekends in jail as part of a 60-day sentence for an incident of drunken boating and a separate incident of drunken driving. He dishes with Jackson on his proposal to suspend lawmakers serving jail time as well as his chances of re-election.

SAVING BATS & BIRDS: Federal wildlife officials announced they have approved measures taken at Maryland’s first industrial wind energy project to reduce the risk of spinning turbine blades killing endangered bats and birds, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

AGE REQUIREMENT FOR LONG GUNS: The legal age to purchase a rifle or shotgun in Maryland is 18, but one gubernatorial candidate is looking to change that. A proposal from Del. Heather Mizuer’s public safety platform would raise the age of buying a rifle or shotgun to 21, reports John Rydell for WBFF-TV.

BROWN BLASTS GANSLER: The campaign of Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Anthony Brown on Wednesday attacked rival Democrat Doug Gansler for backing a cut in the state’s corporate income tax rate,highlighting one of only a few major policy disputes that have emerged so far in the primary, the Post’s John Wagner writes.

EHRLICH AT HOGAN EVENT: Larry Hogan, Maryland’s newest Republican gubernatorial hopeful, is expected to get a boost later this month from the state’s only GOP governor of the past generation, writes John Wagner for the Post. Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich is scheduled to appear at a “headquarters grand opening party” with Hogan, who served as appointments secretary for Ehrlich.

O’MALLEY SETS SIGHTS ON CALIFORNIA: Gov. Martin O’Malley has been booked to speak at the California Democratic Party state convention in March, an appearance that will provide additional national exposure among party activists and donors as he weighs a 2016 White House bid, writes John Wagner for the Post.

TECH UPGRADES IN ARUNDEL: Anne Arundel County is in the early stages of implementing technology upgrades and other recommendations made by a Commission on Excellence report, Rema Rahman reports in the Annapolis Capital. The report, eight months in the making and unveiled Tuesday, outlines recommendations to the county’s 19 departments. The commission was made up of 45 volunteers who are Anne Arundel County citizens.

LEOPOLD BACK IN COURT: John Leopold’s conviction should be overturned because his actions did not constitute criminal activity, a lawyer for the former county executive argued Wednesday. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals heard oral arguments on a motion to dismiss Leopold’s January 2013 convictions on two counts of misconduct in office, reports Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital.

LEGGETT BOND PLAN OK’D: After a brief skirmish by budget analysts with opposing views, the Montgomery County Council on Tuesday approved County Executive Ike Leggett’s proposal to raise the ceiling on the amount of bonds that can be sold to finance capital improvements, writes Bill Turque for the Post.