March 3, 2014

State Roundup, March 3, 2014

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HEALTH SIGNUPS: Only nine Marylanders have signed up for temporary, retroactive health insurance made possible by emergency legislation aimed at helping people who tried to get coverage through the state’s faulty online health insurance marketplace, encountered problems and were stuck with medical bills to pay, Jenna Johnson of the Post is reporting.

REVENGE PORN: The Maryland House of Delegates has approved legislation that would make it a crime to disseminate “revenge porn” — using private, intimate photos or videos to harass or embarrass someone, often once a relationship ends, Jenna Johnson writes in the Post.

TRANSGENDER PROTECTION: A bill that would protect transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing and other areas gained preliminary approval Friday in the Senate, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun. Transgender discrimination already is barred by local ordinance in some areas, including Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Montgomery County. The Senate measure would extend transgender rights statewide, making explicit that people may not be denied jobs, housing or access to public facilities on the basis of their gender identity, even if different than the sex they were assigned at birth.

PENSION CONTROVERSY: WYPR’s Joel McCord and Bryan Sears of the Daily Record talk about Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposal to divert $100 million out of a $300 million annual reinvestment payment into the state employees pension fund, and why Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot lobbied against the move.

COMMON CORE: The editorial board of the Frederick News Post is urging the delay of the Common Core standards in Maryland public schools saying it’s become painfully clear that its implementation was too aggressive, and more time is needed for the program’s rollout. The warning signs that Maryland bit off more than it can chew have been there and we’re glad they’re finally being heeded, say the editors.

SOFT SHELL SELLS: Midshore Sen. Richard Colburn told a Senate committee on Friday it might be wise to see whether a House committee approves the soft shell crab sandwich as the state’s official sandwich before taking a vote. He believes the sandwich would boost tourism.

LEGAL MARIJUANA: Two bills aimed at decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana could potentially bring in millions in new revenue for the state, or could wind up costing taxpayers more than ever. Proponents of the bills point to possible savings on jail time, courts and police, not to mention extra income from taxes on what is now illegal, writes Margaret Sessa-Hawkins for MarylandReporter.com.

ENERGY DRINK BAN: A bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would ban the sale of energy drinks to minors raises so many questions, writes the editorial board for the Frederick News Post. First of all, defining an energy drink as a beverage containing 71 milligrams or more of caffeine in a 12-ounce container doesn’t make sense, since some enhanced coffee drinks contain so much more. And enforcement would be a nightmare.

March 13 MR fundraiser banner 728 x 90

DWYER, BOAT PILOT SUED: A passenger injured in a 2012 drunken boating collision involving Del. Don Dwyer is suing both the Pasadena Republican and the pilot of the other boat for negligence, reports Kate Yoon in the Annapolis Capital. Earl Mitchell sued Dwyer and Mark “Randy” Harbin on Feb. 21 in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, seeking more than $75,000 in damages plus compensation for medical bills and lost wages, according to court documents.

STATE

State House in snow (Photo by Matt Proud)

More snow predicted for Annapolis and Central Maryland than for Baltimore and north. (Photo by Matt Proud)

HOUSE REPORTERS: There’s apparently a new Annapolis group so secret that obtaining the list of members is said to be protected by law, blogs Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Ironically, it’s made up of men and women charged with shining light in the dark corners of the Maryland State House — the press. Late Friday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office released the list.

WORKERS COMPENSATION ABUSE: To crack down on workers compensation fraud or abuse, local governments spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on surveillance and investigations into suspect claims. Howard County, for instance, spends $20,000 a year on workers’ compensation investigations. Scott Calvert and Luke Broadwater conducted a Baltimore Sun investigation into the fraud and abuse that ultimately taxpayers pay for.

TEEN DRINKING: Teenagers who drink at an early age are five times more likely to abuse alcohol, six times more likely to get in a fight or be assaulted and five times more likely to get hurt while drunk. In a three-month project, The Capital and the Maryland Gazette asked teenagers, parents, educators, police and business owners about underage drinking, Zoe Read reports.

CRAIG CAMPAIGN FINED: The campaign committees of Maryland Republican gubernatorial hopeful David Craig and his running mate, Jeannie Haddaway, have both been assessed $1,000 civil penalties for a violation of the state’s prohibition on fundraising during the legislative session, reports John Wagner for the Post.

LEOPOLD DOSSIER SUIT DISMISSED: A judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against former County Executive John Leopold by the American Civil Liberties Union over dossiers allegedly compiled by the police officers assigned to protect him, Rema Rahman reports in the Annapolis Capital.

MAYOR INVITES ARIZONA LGBT: On NBC’s “Meet the Press” today, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake invited gay and lesbian residents of Arizona to move to Baltimore City, writes Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

DANCE LESSONS: A year and a half into the tenure of the superintendent they hired for his communication skills, Baltimore County school board members probably did not expect such an uproar, writes Liz Bowie in the Sun. Protesters rang cowbells, blew horns and chanted in the cold night air outside a recent board meeting while inside the drab administration building frustration and emotion poured out as one speaker after another criticized decisions made by Superintendent Dallas Dance.