March 18, 2014

State Roundup, March 18, 2014

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CROSSOVER DAY: The Maryland House of Delegates gathered hours earlier than normal Monday to continue working its way through a pile of legislation that was due to the Senate that evening. As the deadline loomed (and snow continued to fall and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations raged elsewhere), among the items delegates approved are expanding medical marijuana and slowly allowing more 4-year-olds into some pre-kindergarten classes, writes Jenna Johnson for the Post.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Delegates voted 127 to 9 to allow “certified physicians” to discuss the option of medical marijuana with patients and then recommend its use. Those patients or their caregivers could obtain a 30-day supply from a licensed grower. The legislation now heads to the Senate, where approval is expected, report Jenna Johnson and John Wagner of the Post.

BOOST TO PRE-K: The House of Delegates approved legislation Monday that would expand the state’s pre-kindergarten program to include 1,600 more children, handing a victory to Gov. Martin O’Malley, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

SHIELD LAW PASSES HOUSE: The House of Delegates on Monday passed a law that would allow some ex-offenders to “shield” their criminal records from online background checks, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. In a 87-49 vote, the chamber approved the measure that would allow people convicted of various traffic, drug and other misdemeanors to petition the court to remove any reference to their convictions from the state’s court website.

FILM TAX CREDITS: A bill to boost Maryland’s film production tax credit cleared the Senate Monday night, reports Tim Wheeler in the Sun. The measure, approved 45 to 1, authorizes $18.5 million in tax credits the state may award in the next fiscal year for movie and television productions. The credit had been increased this year from $7.5 million to $25 million, but was set to return to the lower level next year, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

FOOD ALLERGY AWARENESS: County governments may soon have authority to make restaurants accommodate customers with food allergies. reports the AP’s Nick Tabor for the Salisbury Daily Times. A bill would let counties require each restaurant to have a staff member trained on food allergens, ready to advise customers. The bill would also require restaurants statewide to encourage customers to notify servers about their food allergies.

MEDICAL APOLOGIES:  A proposal to extend more protection to health care professionals when they say “I’m sorry” will not make it in this year’s General Assembly, Alex Jackson reports in the Annapolis Capital.  The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-6 at the end of last week to give an unfavorable report to House Bill 635, a bill introduced by Del. Ron George.

KILLING WIND PROJECT IN SOMERSET: Legislation that would essentially kill a wind turbine project in Somerset County moved one step closer to becoming law Monday, Jennifer Shutt writes in the Salisbury Daily Times. The House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to put height restrictions on wind turbines at varying distances from the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Southern Maryland.

HEALTH CARE SIGNUP DEADLINE: The deadline to enroll uninsured Marylanders in health coverage hangs over officials’ heads as they scurry to sign up residents in qualified plans by March 31, reports Rachel Roubein for the Carroll County Times. It’s the final push for Maryland Health Connection, the state’s online insurance marketplace. The troubled site has faced harsh criticism for its glitches, resulting in a March 10 announcement that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services inspector general — who has subpoena powers — will review the state’s health-care exchange.

DHMH HACK: A hacker improperly accessed the names and Social Security numbers of some Marylanders with disabilities, according to a Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene news release issued Monday. The confidentiality of the investigation was lifted after law enforcement identified the alleged hacker, writes Rachel Roubein for the Carroll County Times.

CAMPAIGN UPDATE: MarylandReporter.com’s eighth monthly roundup of candidates for the General Assembly is hopefully complete through the June 24 primary. The Feb. 25 filing deadline has passed,as has the Feb. 27 withdrawal deadline, and the March 4 deadline for the major parties to fill open ballot positions when no one has filed. As last month, MarylandReporter.com includes campaign fundraising totals from 2013 filed with the State Board of Elections in January. The next campaign finance reports are due April 15.

HOGAN IN WESTERN MARYLAND: Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan crisscrossed Western Maryland on Monday, emphasizing that voters are ready for change in a state that has lost thousands of jobs and made it tougher for small-business owners to operate by continually raising taxes, Dave McMillion writes in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

LEGGETT INTRODUCES BUDGET: A major boost in education funding, new police patrols in Wheaton and Germantown and a restoration of library hours are part of a nearly $5 billion operating budget unveiled Monday by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, reports Bill Turque for the Post.