February 14, 2014

State Roundup, Friday, February 14, 2014

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Maryland got one to two feet of snow in 24 hours, with wall to wall broadcast coverage; the governor and county executives made regular TV appearances to discuss the reponse; but today’s roundup focuses on other news.

ALL’S QUIET IN NAPTOWN: The hallways and tunnels of the Maryland State House were eerily empty Thursday after parts of the state capital got pummeled by nearly a foot of snow, Stu Basu reports in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Almost all committee meetings were canceled, leaving many legislators with a rare free afternoon during the hectic 90-day session.

HARRIS DENIES SLAMMING BOEHNER: Republican Rep. Andy Harris is denying reports he stirred outrage among his Republican colleagues, and even boos, by accusing House Speaker John Boehner of being in the pocket of insurance companies, Nicole Gaudiano of the Gannet News Service reports in the Salisbury Times. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times referenced Harris in stories Tuesday about a House vote to extend the debt limit until 2015 without conditions.

HEALTH EXCHANGE PROBE: Two Republican congressmen, one of them Andy Harris, have called for an investigation of the tens of millions of federal dollars that Maryland spent to build an online health exchange that state officials say has so many defects that they might have to abandon parts, or even all, of it, Jenna Johnson reports in the Post.

RAW MILK: A bill that would make the sale of raw milk legal in Maryland is being considered again in the state legislature, Melanie Balakit of Capital News Service reports in the Easton Star-Democrat.

LICENSE PLATE DATA: Each day across Maryland, hundreds of thousands of motorists’ license plates are recorded, stamped with location and time, and disseminated to various local, state and federal law enforcement agencies — sometimes to be retained indefinitely, Patrick Farrell of Capital News Service reports in the Gazette. Last month, Maryland legislators introduced a bipartisan proposal calling for limitations on state law enforcement’s ability to track citizens through these systems of license plate surveillance.

DISTRICT 12 FUNDRAISING: District 12 candidate Mike Gisriel has filed his electronic campaign finance report, a little less than a month after the Jan. 15 filing deadline, Amanda Yeager reports in the Howard County Times. The report shows Gisriel, a Catonsville Democrat, has $117,256 to spend going into 2014, almost twice the cash on hand as Clarence Lam, who with $60,594 had been the District 12 candidate with the deepest pockets.

DISTRICT 16: With the filing deadline for the June primary near, the field of candidates for two open state delegate seats in Bethesda/Potomac-based District 16 has grown more fluid – with two candidates poised to drop out of the race for the Democratic nomination, and at least one other considering a late entry, Louis Peck reports in Bethesda magazine.

BOYCOTTING ISRAEL: An academic boycott of Israel by a U.S. academic association has Maryland lawmakers questioning how its colleges and universities spend public funds, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette. The American Studies Association voted in December to boycott Israeli academic institutions. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County remained a dues-paying member of the association even after the vote to boycott, so Del. Ben Kramer has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of universities and its faculty to spend public money on participation in organizations that engage in such boycotts.

Campaign On banner 2 Polling

SALES-TAX FREE APPLIANCES: This weekend, Maryland businesses are once again selling Energy Star certified products free of sales tax. The offer, valid Saturday, Sunday and Monday, includes refrigerators, clothes washers, room air-conditioners, dehumidifiers, heat pumps and compact fluorescent light bulbs, Gail Dean of the Dorchester Star reports in the Cecil Whig. Comptroller Peter Franchot said it is estimated that Maryland will miss out on more than $600,000 in sales tax through this promotion, but ultimately the state benefits from increased appliance sales of all kinds that weekend.

HoCo SALARIES: The recommendations of Howard County’s Compensation Review Commission include a salary increase for both the county executive and council members, Amanda Yeager reports in the Howard County Times. Under its proposal, the executive’s salary would be raised $6,699 to $178,000.Council members’ salaries would be $59,950, an increase of $2,864 above their 2014 pay.

GUN BACKGROUND CHECKS: Federal background checks are denying gun purchasers under President Obama at about half the rate they did under President Clinton and also at a slower clip than during President George W. Bush’s administration, according to data obtained by The Washington Times under the Freedom of Information Act, David Sherfinski reports. The federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System is designed to weed out would-be gun buyers with criminal records or histories of mental health problems. Gun control advocates have pushed for the system to be expanded in the wake of mass shootings as a way to keep firearms out of the wrong hands.

HIGHWAY FUNDS: Millions of dollars that counties and municipalities have lost over the past few years for road and highway maintenance could be restored, at least in part, if a bill sponsored by Del. Wendell Beitzel gains traction in the General Assembly, Matthew Bieniek reports in the Cumberland Times-News. Over the years, there has been a sharp decline in those funds, which have been diverted by the state for other purposes, including mass transit in urban areas.

March 13-2014 MR fundraiser medium web adCHICKEN TAX: Supporters of a 5-cent tax on chickens hoped it would start a conversation about how to finance cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. What has happened in the wake, though, is a bit different, Jennifer Shutt reports in the Salisbury Daily Times. Farmers and agricultural organizations were outraged, the governor promised to veto the legislation and analysts at least one ratings agency in New York took note, according to Sen. Jim Mathias.

INTERSTATE 81 AID: U.S. Rep. John Delaney will ask for federal help to expand Interstate 81 in Washington County, according to a letter he sent this week to county legislative delegation members in Annapolis, the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports.

VACANT JUDGESHIPS LINGER: A list of 18 nominees for three vacant appellate court judgeships has been sitting for more than four months on Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk, raising concerns that appointments delayed is justice denied, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record. “Vacancies on all courts should be filled as soon as possible in order to provide speedy justice to all citizens of the state,” said William Reynolds, the Jacob A. France Professor of Judicial Process at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. “It is difficult to understand why three vacancies stand unfilled for four months. In that time frame, delay has denied citizens justice. This should not happen.”

OVERDOSE DEATHS: Amid growing concern about heroin abuse in Frederick County, Del. Kelly Schulz wants to free up government agencies to share medical, law enforcement and social services records about overdose deaths, Bethany Rogers reports in the Frederick News-Post.

COMMON CORE STANDARDS: As lawmakers in Annapolis and educators debate a number of bills aimed at either delaying or prohibiting the implementation of the Common Core standards, it’s important for debaters to keep in mind the ultimate desired outcome – superior student preparedness, Don Fry of the Greater Baltimore Committee reports in Center Maryland. Maryland’s education system must strengthen the quality of knowledge and capabilities of Maryland students who will emerge from our school systems and enter tomorrow’s workforce.
This begs an obvious question: what do Maryland’s employers want?

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BILL: The Maryland Senate passed one of the governor’s proposals to combat domestic violence Thursday, sending to the House a bill that would make it easier for assault victims to obtain permanent court orders telling their abusers to stay away, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. Meeting despite the snow, senators approved the measure that would add second-degree assault to the list of crimes that can trigger a protective order. There was no debate or dissent.

DUNCAN SLAMS LEGGETT: The question was when, not if, Doug Duncan would start throwing punches during Wednesday night’s first joint appearance of candidates for Montgomery County executive, Bill Turque writes in the Washington Post. Duncan took every opportunity to depict County Executive Isiah Leggett as weak and ineffective, especially when it came to securing school funding from Annapolis.

BILL STATUS REPORT: The Washington Post offers a status report on key bills in the Maryland General Assembly this session.

MoCo MINIMUM WAGE: As Maryland considers various options for raising its minimum wage, Montgomery County continues watching closely to ensure its local wage remains intact, Kate Alexander reports in the Gazette. Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Thursday he is hopeful the state can work out a compromise that allows areas with higher costs of living to have a different wage.

EX-SEN. WAGNER DIES: Michael J. Wagner Sr., a civic activist who mentored a generation of elected officials in Anne Arundel County, died Thursday morning after a brief struggle with cancer. He was 72. Zoe Read reports in the Capital-Gazette.