February 24, 2014

State Roundup, February 24, 2014

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SIGNUP GOAL MET: For months, it looked like Maryland would miss or barely meet the first enrollment goal for its new health insurance exchange. But it turns out the goal was based on flawed data, and the state’s new goal is one that it has already beat, Jenna Johnson reports in the Post.

THIS WEEK: Several high-profile bills should get some attention this week in Annapolis. Legislation to legalize marijuana will get a hearing in the Senate, for example. And bills inspired by the scandal at the state-run Baltimore jail should be on the House floor. But the political side shows might be more entertaining, John Wagner and Jenna Johnson of the Post report.

FUTURE OF POT: Just under half of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana, while 43% are opposed, a new Washington Post poll found. Those who oppose legalization are evenly split on whether the state should reduce punishments for possession of small amounts of the drug, Fredrick Kunkle and Scott Clement report in the Post.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BILLS: Two leading Democratic candidates for governor of Maryland testified in the House of Delegates on Friday for competing bills that both would allow judges to impose harsher sentences on abusers who commit acts of domestic violence in front of children, John Wagner writes in the Post. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown took the lead in presenting a bill sponsored by Gov. Martin O’Malley to the House Judiciary Committee. About an hour later, Attorney General Doug Gansler testified to the same committee on similar legislation sponsored by Del. Luiz Simmons.

HOLOCAUST REPARATIONS: Lawmakers in Maryland are considering a bill that would block one of the firms seeking to bid on a multibillion-dollar light rail project from winning its bid unless its majority stockholder agrees to pay reparations to Holocaust victims, reports Allison Keyes for NPR.org.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS: CNS’s Ethan Barton, writing in the Cecil Whig, reports that state and local officials disagreed over how to appropriately evaluate teachers and who should hold the power to make such decisions during a Senate committee hearing Wednesday. A package of bills before the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee would together delay the use of the new student achievement test, called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, and would allow local school systems, rather than the state, to decide how much, if at all, the test would count toward teacher evaluation.

LODGING STIPEND: Jeremy Bauer-Wolf of MarylandReporter.com writes that Sen. Allan Kittleman’s colleagues on a Senate committee were clearly unhappy with his legislation that would force most of them to commute and no longer reimburse their lodging in Annapolis during the session. “I just think our citizens who have to drive quite a bit for their jobs expect us to do the same,” Kittleman said.

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FILM TAX CREDITS: A leading Democratic lawmaker says the O’Malley administration isn’t doing enough to keep the popular Netflix drama “House of Cards” in Maryland. Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, has introduced a bill that would authorize $18 million in tax credits for movies and television shows filmed in Maryland as part of an effort to keep the show here, Luke Broadwater reports in the Sun.

GAS TAX HIKE: It’s a given that politicians like to spend money but they don’t like to raise taxes. After all, the former makes them popular with their constituents and the latter has the opposite effect. Rarely is this more evident than in an election year, opines the editorial board for the Sun. Marylanders may want to keep that in mind if they’re bewildered by how less than one year after the General Assembly approved a major gas tax increase, lawmakers are back debating whether to raise transportation-related taxes again.

DOG BITE BILL: After twice failing to agree with the House on a liability standard for dog bites, Maryland’s Senate will consider a so-called compromise, reluctantly supported Thursday night by its Judicial Proceedings Committee, writes Kate Alexander for the Gazette. The bill seeks to overturn a controversial Court of Appeals ruling from 2012, Tracey v. Solesky, that holds landlords strictly liable for injuries and that declared pit bulls inherently dangerous.

CHICKEN TAX: Farmers and industry groups are gearing up for Tuesday’s hearing on a proposed 5-cent chicken tax, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. While the House version of the Poultry Fair Share Act was withdrawn following a veto promise from Gov. Martin O’Malley, the Senate version is still active. If approved, which is unlikely, the bill would have required the estimated $27 million annual tax to go to the bay restoration fund.

EMERGENCY RADIO: The infrastructure for Maryland’s emergency radio system is up and running for the eastern half of the state, but some counties aren’t signing on until they’re guaranteed a voice in how it’s managed, according to an AP report in the Annapolis Capital. The House of Delegates voted unanimously last week to create a governing board for the radio system. The board would have county representatives working alongside state members. A similar bill is pending in the Senate.

AFTERNOONS IN ANNAPOLIS: Tim Prudente gives readers an overview of Annapolis from the perspective of those regular citizens who arrive at the State House in the afternoons seeking a change in the law: They come, a chorus of voices to speak up in democracy, 1,000 people or more. They want rights to unionize. They want higher wages and more books. They want to ride a Harley without a helmet. That want a safer, better world. Seven committees meet here most weekdays, and the fate of most state bills is decided in these long afternoons in the House of Delegates building. It’s often tedious. Sometimes, it’s heartbreaking.

March 13-2014 MR fundraiser medium web adFILING DEADLINE NEARS: With the deadline to file for candidacy in state and county elections approaching at 9 p.m. Tuesday, lawmakers on Friday had their eyes on the field, report Rema Rahman and Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital. Of those who hadn’t filed, the question was — who will run and who won’t?

  • With that filing deadline looming, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com, candidates for attorney general are trying to figure out next steps, GOP gubernatorial running mates are needed, Senate candidates are opposing their fellows on the right – and the left and Larry Hogan appeals to Korean-Americans.

ECKARDT CHALLENGES COLBURN: Del. Addie Eckardt plans to challenge incumbent state Sen. Richard Colburn for his mid-Shore Senate seat in this June’s Republican primary. Previously registered for re-election to her House of Delegates seat, Eckardt switched races last week, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times.

MURRAY IN DISTRICT 34A: Patrick Murray, a former top aide to both Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch and one of the most respected strategists in Maryland politics, will run for a seat in the House of Delegates this year. Murray, director of state affairs for Johns Hopkins University, filed papers Friday afternoon to become a candidate in District 34A in Harford County, the community where he grew up, writes Josh Kurtz for Center Maryland.

EHRLICH STUMPS FOR HOGAN: Bob Ehrlich, Maryland’s only Republican governor in a generation, offered kind words Friday night for Larry Hogan, who is hoping to be the next one. Appearing at an office-opening party and fundraiser for Hogan in Annapolis, Ehrlich said the GOP gubernatorial hopeful had served him well as appointments secretary during his four-year tenure as governor, reports John Wagner for the Post.

GANSLER’S MESSAGE: Doug Gansler, now 21 points behind Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and with Del. Heather Mizeur of Montgomery County chasing him in the polls, must come up with a consistent sales pitch — and soon — if he hopes to persuade enough undecided Democratic voters to support him in the June 24 primary, the Sun’s Erin Cox reports that analysts are saying.

O’MALLEY ON UPSWING: Gov. Martin O’Malley’s popularity is on the upswing as he nears the end of his tenure in Maryland, according to a new Washington Post poll, but the difference in how Democrats and Republicans view his performance has never been more stark, write John Wagner and Peyton Craighill. Overall, 55% of Maryland residents approve of how O’Malley is handling his job, the poll found. That’s a six-point increase since a year ago, when O’Malley was in the midst of legislative battles to repeal the death penalty and pass stricter gun-control laws and had just led an effort to legalize same-sex marriage.

O’MALLEY FOR PREZ? Gov. Martin O’Malley sidestepped a question on national television Sunday about whether he will pursue the Democratic nomination for president in 2016 if Hillary Rodham Clinton gets in the race, writes John Wagner in the Post.

Mandel a complicated life

MARVIN MANDEL DOCUMENTARY: MPT is airing at 9 p.m. tonight a 30-minute documentary on former Gov. Marvin Mandel, Marvin Mandel: A Complicated Life. Through interviews with the 93-year-old Mandel, archival film footage, radio broadcasts, and newspaper accounts during his administration, the documentary traces how Mandel shaped and reorganized Maryland government while defending himself in court – and in the court of public opinion. You can find out more here.

SCHUH VS NEUMAN: Del. Steve Schuh and Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman traded barbs this week over alleged ethical lapses as the Republican campaign for the county’s top job heats up. Schuh fired the first shot Thursday, saying he planned to file an ethics complaint alleging Neuman and some of her staff have been doing campaign work on county time, Pamela Wood of the Sun follows up on an earlier report.

DEFICIENCY JUDGMENTS: Adam Bednar of the Daily Record writes about a bill to limit the time that a bank can seek a deficiency judgment, which occurs after a property is foreclosed on and the proceeds are less than the amount due on the loan. Banks in Maryland have up to 12 years to seek to recover that difference, plus interest. A bill that would reduce that window — to three years through a civil action and 180 days as part of the foreclosure sale process — is scheduled for a hearing in a Maryland Senate committee on Thursday.