February 10, 2014

State Roundup, February 10, 2014

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5 THINGS TO WATCH: Gov. Martin O’Malley and some of his possible successors are expected to be highly visible this week as the Maryland General Assembly holds hearings on a few high-profile bills, including legislation to raise the minimum wage, the governor’s chief priority this year. The Post’s John Wagner and Jenna Johnson write about five things to watch for in Annapolis this week.

WHY $10.10? Erin Cox of the Sun tries to answer the question: In the argument for a higher minimum wage, proponents continued to use the figure $10.10. Why not a round number, or say a $3 hike?

ESTATE TAX CUT: An Annapolis certified financial planner said none of his clients has left the state solely because of the “death tax,” but they do view it as an unnecessary burden, reports Alex Jackson for the Annapolis Capital as the legislature begins to look at cutting the tax. Maryland’s tax is imposed on the transfer of property from the estate of the deceased, if that estate is greater than $1 million for an individual or $2 million for a married couple. The rate is as high as 16%. The federal government taxes only estates worth more than $5.34 million.

RENEGING ON PENSION PROMISE: Opinionator Barry Rascovar, writing in MarylandReporter.com, says that Gov. O’Malley’s $100 million budget cut for state pension contributions is a cold, calculated slap in the face of state workers. He is reneging on an agreement he made with them just a few years ago. The irony is that the very same “working families” O’Malley defends so passionately are the ones hurt most by his action.

BORROWING TROUBLE: Some state lawmakers call them “smoke and mirrors.” The state’s top fiscal analyst calls them “mandate-modifying palliatives of a one-time nature.” Donald Frye of Center Maryland writes that they are the budget-balancing tactics that lawmakers in Annapolis deploy to address the seemingly chronic series of so-called “structural” deficits our state government has been facing for more than a decade. As Maryland pulls out of the recession, however, some in Annapolis are calling attention to the increasing cost of a favorite state budget-balancing tactic – borrowing.

LACK OF EXPERIENCE: Jenna Johnson and Mary Pat Flaherty of the Post report that one of the two companies that built Maryland’s troubled online health insurance exchange charged in court papers Friday that the lead contractor “concealed its lack of relevant expertise” when it bid on the contract.

BANNING ENERGY DRINKS: Kevin Goldberg has lobbied for legislation before as president of the Maryland Association for Justice Inc. But he says his backing of this session’s bill to ban the sale of energy drinks to minors is unique for a trial lawyer, writes Danny Jacobs for the Daily Record. “Usually we don’t get the opportunity to save lives,” Goldberg said.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: A Frederick County mother hopes to treat her special needs sons’ seizures with medical marijuana, which is helping other children with epilepsy across the country, according to a story at WBFF-TV. “Medical marijuana is saving the lives of children with epilepsy. I want to save more lives and want to help in doing that,” said the woman, who is now championing the cause of medical marijuana for children in Maryland.

COMMON CORE FIGHT: Maryland parents argued against education experts at a hearing to repeal the Common Core State Standards at the House Ways and Means Committee last Wednesday, Ethan Barton of CNS reports in the Cecil Whig. Common Core was adopted in June 2010 by the state Board of Education and was implemented at the beginning of this school year.

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BLOCKED CELL CALLS: Drivers have reported that new cellphone blocking technology at the Baltimore City Detention Center may be extending beyond the jail’s walls, despite assurances to the contrary, reports Carrie Wells for the Sun. Three people have told The Baltimore Sun that they were using their cellphones in the past week and a half while driving near the jail and that their calls were interrupted with a recording that said they were using an unauthorized or illegal device. State officials on Friday announced the new cellphone blocking technology, which is intended to stop inmates from directing criminal schemes while behind bars.

BIRTH INJURY FUND: Prompted by recent multimillion-dollar medical malpractice judgments, Maryland lawmakers are pushing to create a fund to help pay for treating babies who suffer neurological injuries during birth, reports Andrea Walker for the Sun. Proposed legislation calls for hospitals and doctors with obstetrics and gynecological practices, as well as malpractice insurers, to pay annual fees to the birth injury fund, which families could tap to pay medical bills, recoup lost earnings potential and cover other costs.

MCINTOSH ON CITY TAXES: Saying she’s convinced Baltimore City’s high property taxes are driving residents and business away, Del. Maggie McIntosh has introduced legislation aimed at helping retain current homeowners while launching studies of ways to reduce the rate, Tim Wheeler is reporting in the Sun.

COLLEGE POLICE FORCE: Anne Arundel Community College is a step closer to establishing its own police force, reports Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital. The Anne Arundel County House delegation voted unanimously Friday to move forward House Bill 552, which would establish a police department at the college’s main campus in Arnold.

CARROLL LIQUOR LICENSING REVENUES: Rachel Roubein of the Carroll County Times reports that opposition is mounting from Carroll County and some of its towns against a House bill that would prevent Carroll municipalities from receiving 25% of liquor license fee revenue — amounts that range from more than $500 to $11,665. Since the Carroll County House delegation introduced HB 360 Jan. 23, the Carroll County Board of Commissioners has opposed the bill, and the Carroll Senate Delegation has begun to solicit input from mayors — at least four of whom have written to Sen. Joe Getty telling him that they are against the measure.

O’MALLEY REBUKED: Gubernatorial criticism of a Charles County farmer and the executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. on Thursday night brought rebuke from the Eastern Shore delegation on Friday, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.

BY THE NUMBERS: One month has passed since the Maryland General Assembly convened for its 90-day session on Jan. 8, writes Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. She offers a by-the-numbers look at what the House of Delegates and state Senate have done with the first 30 days, detailing the shore delegation actions.

Maryland Business for Responsive Government (MBRG) last week honored legislators -- mostly Republicans -- who got at least a 70% lifetime score on its annual Roll Call report card. MBRG also announced its new president, Duane Carey of Impact Marketing in Columbia, who replaces Kim Burns, now working in business development for BWI airport. In the photo, from left, lobbyist Carville Collins, who has put together Roll Call for decades; MBRG Chairman Jerry Wit of St. John Properties; Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Anne Arundel; and MBRG President Duane Carey.

Maryland Business for Responsive Government (MBRG) last week honored legislators — mostly Republicans — who got at least a 70% lifetime score on its annual Roll Call report card. MBRG also announced its new president, Duane Carey of Impact Marketing in Columbia, who replaces Kim Burns, now working in business development for BWI airport. In the photo, from left, lobbyist Carville Collins, who has put together Roll Call for decades; MBRG Chairman Jerry Wit of St. John Properties; Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Anne Arundel; and MBRG President Duane Carey.

FUNNY PEOPLE: Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital writes, in the Under the Dome column about two humorous incidents within the legislature. Before the end of Friday’s Anne Arundel County House delegation meeting, House Minority Leader Nic Kipke got a laugh out of his colleagues — whether he wanted one or not.

DELANEY THEN & NOW: Ben Pershing of the Post profiles U.S. Rep. John Delaney, who, two winters ago, was just a wealthy financier, with a mansion in Potomac, a quick commute to his Chevy Chase office and a host of fellow millionaires on speed dial. This month, Delaney stood in a cold room at the snow-covered Allegany County fairgrounds, listening to farmers complain about cow manure.

GANSLER’S ICC TOLL PROPOSAL: Attorney General Doug Gansler, running for the Democratic nomination for governor, proposed Friday that the state give commuters a break on the tolls on the Intercounty Connector in the Washington suburbs, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

HOGAN’S PUBLIC FINANCING: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about several recent developments in the push for public financing of political campaigns, most notably Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan’s decision to take the money despite its accompanying restrictions on fundraising.

ATTACKING LOLLAR: Red Maryland goes after Charles Lollar’s campaign claims concerning a straw poll taken Saturday at the Montgomery Republican Convention and attacks his plan to eliminate the state’s income tax in its entirety, without any detailed plan. It seems to highlight the criticism of the Lollar campaign’s lack of gravitas, Red Maryland says.

GANSLER OPENS PG OFFICE: In an attempted show of strength on his rival’s home turf, Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler opened a campaign office Saturday in Prince George’s County and argued that his ticket is more committed to the jurisdiction’s vast economic development and educational needs than Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, John Wagner reports for the Post.

DEM RUNNING MATES CLASH: The No. 2 members of the three contending Democratic gubernatorial tickets sparred Friday  night in a well-attended debate in East Baltimore in which they clashed over marijuana legalization, taxation, health care and other issues, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, Del. Jolene Ivey and the Rev. Delman Coates each drew cheers from vocal supporters at the forum.

DISTRICTING CONFUSION: Chase Cook reports for the Gazette that questions have been raised about a former Prince George’s county councilman’s decision to run for state delegate in District 26, where he has rented a home for about two months. Tony Knotts, a Democrat served on the County Council for District 8 from 2002 to 2010 and announced a run for county executive in 2010 but didn’t file by deadline because of lack of voter suppor. He said he attempted to file Nov. 12 to run for state delegate in District 26, where the Temple Hills home he has lived in for about 24 years is located, only to find out redistricting now places that home in District 25.

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MO CO EXEC CANDIDATE FORUM: The candidates for Montgomery County executive will make their first joint public appearance at a forum on Wednesday, reports Bill Turque for the Post. Democrats Doug Duncan, council member Phil Andrews and incumbent Ike Leggett and Republican James Shalleck will start the 2014 primary season with the Montgomery County Education Association.

GRASSO TICKETED: Rema Rahman reports in the Annapolis Capital that John Grasso has gotten in trouble for what he’s said before — but this time he broke the law. Grasso, chairman of the Anne Arundel County Council, was ticketed by a county police officer Friday for talking on his cell phone while driving.