February 11, 2014

State Roundup, February 11, 2014

Print More

FUTURE OF HEALTH EXCHANGE: Maryland’s poorly performing health exchange will cost taxpayers $33 million more than expected this year, bringing the state’s total annual expense to $138 million, officials said Monday. The money is needed, in part, to pay the company hired to help fix the dysfunctional web site and to triple the work force at the state’s call center, which has been overwhelmed by requests for help from customers struggling to buy insurance online, Erin Cox is reporting for the Sun.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE WILL HARM, STUDY SAYS: A study commissioned by a pro-business group in Maryland warns that raising the state’s minimum wage could lead to thousands of job losses, increase the price of consumer goods and weaken the state’s competitive position, reports John Wagner for the Post. The study was released Monday on the eve of a legislative hearing in Annapolis at which Gov. Martin O’Malley plans to urge lawmakers to pass a bill to raise Maryland’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2016 and peg future increases to inflation. (Editor’s note: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown will fill in for O’Malley, who will be attending a funeral.)

BROWN, MIZEUR FIND COMMON GROUND: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, a leading Democratic candidate for governor, on Monday called the state’s marijuana laws “costly, ineffective and racially biased” in a letter in which he outlined his reasons for supporting decriminalization of small amounts of the drug, writes the Post’s John Wagner.

CMPNON_BannerAds_320x250CAMPUS DRINKING: How to change the drinking culture on college campuses is a growing concern in Maryland, according to a legislative briefing on Monday. Jennifer Shutt of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that among top concerns are having colleges do more than just tell incoming freshmen about the problems of binge drinking, working to address the ring of bars that often encircles college campuses and removing grain alcohol from all liquor store shelves

EARLY EDUCATION: Fraser Smith of WYPR-FM opines that Maryland’s education and child welfare community must find the current interest in early childhood education exciting, gratifying – and somewhat amusing. But only time will tell if politicians are serious enough to pony up the money.

LODGING REIMBURSEMENT: Senators and delegates living within 50 miles of the State House would be denied lodging reimbursements during the 90-day General Assembly session under a bill introduced by a Howard County senator, Alex Jackson reports in the Annapolis Capital. The bill comes a year after 99 lawmakers used the maximum $9,191 allowance, according to the Department of Legislative Services. Thirty-six more asked for more than $9,000 in reimbursement for lodging. There are 141 delegates and 47 senators in the General Assembly.

PIT BULL ADVOCATE: Kirsten Petersen writes in the Gazette about Eric Bernthal, chairman of the board of directors for the Humane Society of the United States, is a staunch advocate for striking down a Maryland Court of Appeals opinion that makes an owner of a pit bull automatically liable for any damages.

FISHERIES BILL WITHDRAWN: The bill that had watermen up in arms has been withdrawn by its Senate sponsor and referred to interim study in the House, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. The legislation would have defined how the Natural Resources Department opens and closes fishing seasons, changes catch limits and modifies where fishing can take place via public notice.

DEFINING ‘JOURNALIST:’ Are lawmakers in Annapolis going to get to define who is and isn’t a journalist, what is or isn’t a news organization in Maryland? It seems so, judging by what transpired at a House of Delegates Judiciary Committee hearing attended Wednesday by Baltimore Brew editor and publisher Fern Shen.

Testifying on shield law: From left, Sponsor Del. Sandy Rosenberg; Jim McLaughlin, a Washington Post attorney; Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew; and Len Lazarick of Maryland Reporter.

Testifying on shield law: From left, Sponsor Del. Sandy Rosenberg; Jim McLaughlin, a Washington Post attorney; Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew; and Len Lazarick of Maryland Reporter.

 

SHA PERMITS STREAMLINED: Some Washington County delegation members said the Maryland State Highway Administration is becoming more responsive to streamlining its permits process for developers, but there is room for improvement, Kaustuv Basu reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. The SHA is required to make sure that developers make roadway improvements to mitigate impacts caused by new developments or changes to existing developments.

POWER OF LOVE COUPLES: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland blends Politico with People to come up with the state’s power couples for a Valentine’s Day kiss to the power of love and the love of power.

COLBURN DIVORCE PRIVATE: Concerns over politics and privacy led a Dorchester County judge to rule state Sen. Richard Colburn’s divorce should be hidden from public eyes. No one will be allowed to view the court file, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. Only attorneys and the Colburns will be allowed inside court proceedings. And if you try to find out when the trial will take place, it will look on Maryland’s online court management system as if the divorce does not even exist.

CURBS ON ELECTION ADMINISTRATOR: The State Board of Elections will consider restricting some authority from State Election Administrator Linda Lamone to interpret election law on her own after one of her rulings gave a fundraising advantage to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s gubernatorial campaign without the board’s consent or knowledge in December, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com.

BROWN BACKERS BLAST GANSLER: More than two dozen elected officials from Prince George’s County — most of them backers of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown for governor — signed onto a letter Monday accusing Democratic gubernatorial rival Doug Gansler of making “demeaning” remarks about the county during a campaign stop over the weekend, John Wagner reports in the Post.