April 1, 2014

State Roundup, April 1, 2014

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HEALTH EXCHANGE DEADLINE: As consumers rushed to sign up for insurance on the last day of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, Maryland’s health exchange website slowed to a crawl and all circuits were busy at the call center. That worsened a bottleneck of consumers who have tried for months to overcome glitches on the troubled website to be able to buy a private plan or sign up for Medicaid, report Meredith Cohn and Andrea Walker in the Sun.

PROTECTIVE ORDERS: The Maryland Senate sent a bill to the governor Monday night that would end the state’s distinction as the only one in the country that requires victims of domestic violence to meet a higher standard of “clear and convincing evidence” to obtain a protective order, writes John Wagner for the Post.

BAIL REVIEW REVAMP: The Maryland Senate late Monday approved a measure to streamline the state’s method of setting bail by creating a new agency under the governor that would use computers instead of District Court commissioners to determine who should go free pending trial, report the Post’s Frederick Kunkle and John Wagner.

RX FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Determined to revamp the state’s defunct medical marijuana program, key state lawmakers have begun hashing out differences between the different programs approved by the Senate and the House, Erin Cox of the Sun writes.

POT DECRIMINALIZATION: With a House Judiciary Committee hearing set Tuesday for a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of pot, two civil rights groups Monday called on committee chairman Joe Vallario to allow a vote on the bill, reports Alex Jackson for the Annapolis Capital. Last year, Vallario refused to call a vote after the Senate passed similar legislation.

NEEDLE EXCHANGE: The General Assembly passed legislation Monday night allowing Baltimore City to distribute an unlimited number of syringes to drug addicts in the city in the hope that access to clean needles will help curb the spread of AIDS, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

SPEED CAMERA FIXES: State lawmakers are poised to approve reforms to speed camera programs across Maryland, reports Erin Cox for the Sun. The House of Delegates on Monday advanced a bill that would put tighter rules on the when the automatic tickets could be issued and make it easier for motorists to appeal bogus citations without going to court.

DEFICIENCY JUDGMENTS: Supporters of bills aimed at reducing the time lenders have to file for a deficiency judgment against foreclosed homeowners are worried that time is running out to pass legislation in this General Assembly session, reports Adam Bednar for the Daily Record.

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A NOT-SO-HOSTILE BUSINESS CLIMATE: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes that Maryland Democratic General Assembly members are not as anti-business as Republicans and business people continue to say. Would a state with a hostile business climate roll back an estate tax that will benefit millionaires? Or push through a tax break for Lockheed Martin? Or adopt a transportation and infrastructure spending plan that most statewide and regional business organizations lobbied for? Or offer ample tax breaks to billionaire casino owners? Or work hard to nurture myriad high-tech businesses?

CABINET SECRETARY RESIGNS: The Sun’s Erin Cox is reporting that Maryland’s secretary of higher education will leave her post later this month for a private foundation that works to increase the number of people with college degrees across the country. The governor’s office announced Monday that Danette Howard would end her 2 1/2-year tenure as the cabinet secretary who oversees policy and growth at the state’s colleges and universities.

POLITICAL FOOTBALL: The board of directors for Maryland’s health exchange are meeting this afternoon to decide what to do with the state’s problem-plagued website, writes Christopher Connelly for WYPR-FM. The vote will likely go for replacing the system – possibly using Connecticut’s highly successful system — but even though the exchange is likely on its way to the trash heap, it remains a political football in the race for governor.

FACT-CHECKING: Mark Newgent of Red Maryland writes about the new “fact-checking” website that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s gubernatorial campaign has created. At Factcheckmd.com, Brown has three “fact checks” of his primary opponent Attorney General Doug Gansler. Newgent writes of a couple of issues the website omitted.

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES: The Maryland Senate reversed itself Friday, and rejected a proposed ban prohibiting members of the school board in Anne Arundel County from running for higher office, writes the MarylandReporter.com. The proposal by Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel, had set off an unusual debate on a local bill that many senators saw as a bad precedent for the state.

OPEN SPACE RAID: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks goes after the legislators for their continuing raids on the Program Open Space money funded by a tax on real estate transfers.