March 25, 2014

State Roundup, March 25, 2014

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OPEN REVIEW OF EXCHANGE: WBFF-TV reports on its repeated attempts to get documents and invoices from the Maryland Health Exchange. Staff obtained some documents but attempts to get more have been more difficult. One bill for documents hit $800. Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who was the point man on the program, says he continues to support an open review of the exchange.

RAW MILK BILL PULLED: A proposal to legalize raw milk sales in Maryland has been pushed back another year. The bill’s chief sponsor hopes a report from Johns Hopkins University will give it the necessary push in 2015, according to an AP report in the Annapolis Capital.

GOP’S ALT BUDGET: Maryland House Republicans are scheduled to talk about the state’s fiscal future, according to an AP brief in the Carroll County Times. The House Minority Caucus has set a news conference for today to talk about an alternative budget proposal in Annapolis.

CORRECTIONS BILLS KILLED: A bill that would have made it easier for state correctional officers to make workers’ compensation claims for hypertension and heart disease has died in the Maryland General Assembly. Another bill, which would have allowed the death penalty to be imposed for killing a law enforcement officer or correctional officer, also failed, Matthew Bieniek reports in the Cumberland Times News.Maryland does not currently have a death penalty; it was repealed last year.

JAKE’S LAW: “Jake’s Law,” named after a 5-year-old boy who was killed by a distracted driver in 2011, would impose a three-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $5,000 for someone convicted of causing a death or serious injury while texting and driving. The Maryland Senate unanimously passed the bill Thursday, and the House of Delegates approved its own version March 14. Some Frederick County lawmakers approved of the bill but thought it did not go far enough, while others considered it hasty policy, reports Kelsi Loos for the Frederick News Post. The Senate bill covers texting; the House legislation applies to all cellphone use.

ZIRKIN AGAINST AUTOMATED ASSESSING: Automation might be good in most cases but when it comes to making bail decisions, Sen. Bobby Zirkin isn’t a fan, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Zirkin is leading the charge against a so-called “bridge proposal” that would allow legislators to phase-in use of an automated risk assessment tool that would be used for setting bond for defendants.

PARROTT ON TRANSGENDER BIAS: Del. Neil Parrott is asking his supporters to speak up against a bill that its sponsor said would prohibit discrimination against transgender people in public places, housing and employment in Maryland, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, is the lead sponsor in the Senate of SB212, which cleared the Senate 32-15 and now will be heard by a House committee.

WAITING FOR PASSAGE: Farming and environmental groups are among the many advocating for legislation during the final two weeks of the Maryland’s 2104 session, reports Jennifer Shutt for the Salisbury Daily Times. Among the complications are the technical differences made in one committee, but not the other. Bills passed in the House and the Senate have to be identical to go to Gov. Martin O’Malley for final approval.

STEALTH RAISE: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post is none too happy about the stealth raises that the General Assembly will be getting over the next few years, opining that it doesn’t like the idea of a compensation board giving elected members of the legislature a raise. Let members vote for their own raises. And, as has been suggested, let only those who vote for the raise receive it. Marylanders can decide how they feel about it on Election Day.

MOVE OVER FOR MORE: The editorial board for the Sun opines that the proposed expansion of the “move over” law doesn’t go far enough. Why stop with tow truck operators when so many others are just as much at risk when an accident or vehicle malfunction forces them to stop roadside? Motorists who get a flat that requires them to pull over often find themselves in the same precarious situation as the tow truck driver who comes to their rescue. And unlike the tow truck operator, the risk for ordinary motorists is compounded if there are passengers in their vehicles, especially if they include children.

REFUND WITHHOLDING: An Anne Arundel County program that withholds tax refunds from people with outstanding warrants — and last year enticed hundreds of people to turn themselves in — could be expanded to Baltimore City and possibly even statewide, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun.

BOOSTING PG FBI HQ: Maryland’s top elected officials gathered Monday to send a message that the state is “all in” for an effort to lure a new FBI headquarters to Prince George’s County. Gov. Martin O’Malley and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown joined the state’s two U.S. senators and two of its congressional representatives in boasting of the advantages a Greenbelt location would have for the county, the state and the nation, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

PG SCHOOLS AUDIT: The Prince George’s County Public School System overpaid employees millions of dollars because of lax controls on payrolls and “sick-leave banks,” according to one of many repeat findings by legislative auditors, reports Charlie Hayward for MarylandReporter.com. More than half of the findings – 12 of 23 — in the scathing report are repeated from a previous audit, but still remain problems.

BROWN TOUTS DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WORK: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is highlighting his work to reduce domestic violence in his latest television ad in his campaign for governor. In Brown’s ad, the third of his 2014 campaign, he recalls the 2008 death of his cousin, Cathy, at the hands of her estranged boyfriend. Brown has said the episode was a pivotal moment in his involvement on the issue, writes John Wagner for the Post.

DUTCH SEEKS END TO NSA BULK DATA COLLECTION: U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, plans to introduce bipartisan legislation Tuesday that would end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. telephone and email data — the surveillance program that has drawn fire from privacy advocates, civil libertarians and some lawmakers since it was revealed last year, Matthew Hay Brown reports for the Sun.

SUPREME COURT WON’T HEAR FREDERICK CASE: The U.S. Supreme Court declined Monday to review a Frederick County case in which a woman challenged local authorities’ power to arrest her on an immigration violation, cementing her victory in a case that has been closely watched by both sides of the immigration debate, Colin Campbell reports in the Sun.

FOLLOW THE MONEY: Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew follows the money in the most controversial Baltimore City project to come around in a long time, Harbor Point, which is slated to be built over a chromium dump, and finds interesting correlation between when City Council votes on the project were being taken and when the developer donated money to which members’ campaigns. He also interviews some council members. He does not, however, secure a comment from Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

DOLAN BANKRUPTCY DETAILS: Danny Jacobs and Lizzy McLellan of the Daily Record report on the bankruptcy filing of the Record’s parent company, the Dolan Company, which officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Sunday, three days after announcing it had reached an agreement with its creditors on a reorganization plan.