April 3, 2014

State Roundup, April 3, 2014

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MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: The Senate Finance Committee approved a $10.10 minimum wage for most Maryland workers, but extended the increases over the next four years, rather than three as the House of Delegates had done. The bill also ties the minimum wage to increased state reimbursement for disability support workers, who currently average $9.82 per hour, reports Margaret Sessa-Hawkins for MarylandReporter.com.

NO POT DECRIMINALIZATION: A committee in Maryland’s House of Delegates on Wednesday killed legislation that would have legalized or decriminalized the use of marijuana in the state, choosing instead to form a task force to study the issue, writes Frederick Kunkle in the Post.

COMMON CORE: The Maryland Senate took action Wednesday on three bills that address concerns over the implementation of new Common Core curriculum standards across the state, reports Margaret Sessa-Hawkins in MarylandReporter.com. Two of those bills will immediately head to the governor’s desk for signature.

RAIN TAX ALTERNATIVE: A measure that would institute an alternative to the hotly debated stormwater management fee stalled during Wednesday’s budget conference committee negotiations, writes Jeremy Bauer-Wolf for MarylandReporter.com.

HEALTH EXCHANGE REPLACEMENT: A decision to replace components of Maryland’s glitchy health exchange website with a model used in Connecticut prompted head-shaking from two Frederick County lawmakers, writes Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.

DISTRACTED DRIVING: Proponents of “Jake’s Law,” a Maryland bill that would increase penalties for drivers who cause serious or fatal accidents while using a hand-held cell phone, gathered in Annapolis on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to reverse changes in the legislation that were passed by the state Senate, writes Jenna Johnson in the Post.

FRICK & ‘CARDS’ GAME: Legislative life mimicked legislative fiction last week when Del. Bill Frick successfully introduced an unforeseen amendment to the budget that stipulates the state could seize the property of “House of Cards” if its producers abandon the state, as they have threatened, writes Jeremy Bauer-Wolf for MarylandReporter.com. Frick freely admits that the measure to use eminent domain was a stunt, and unlikely to survive negotiations with the Senate. But there’s a question if the use of this power is even legal.

PROTECTING WILDLANDS: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post writes that it is good news that the state has included another 948 acres of Cunningham Falls State Park in the state’s Wildlands protection program. That means that these acres will be off-limits to most commercial activity, as well as man-made structures, roads, and the use of vehicles and boats.

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS: Maryland’s heated primary race for governor could get another twist if Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision also strikes down the state’s cap on how much residents can donate to state political campaigns, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. Minutes after the Supreme Court struck down aggregate contribution limits in federal races, Jared DeMarinis’ phone at the Maryland Board of Elections began ringing off the hook.

‘SAVE THE DATE:’ In Maryland, lawmakers and statewide officials are prohibited from soliciting campaign contributions during the 90-day session of the General Assembly. But, asks John Wagner in the Post, is it OK to tell supporters to “save the date” for an event that will happen after lawmakers adjourn next week? The rival Democratic gubernatorial campaigns of Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown are sparring over the answer.

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MIZEUR BLASTS BROWN: Del. Heather Mizeur, who is seeking to become Maryland’s first female governor, on Wednesday harshly criticized a plan to help women that was released this week by a leading rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, writes John Wagner in the Post.

JESUS PRAYER CONTROVERSY: Challenging a judge’s restrictions on prayer at Carroll County government meetings, a resident invoked the name of Jesus Christ before the county commissioners this week — raising new questions about free speech and religious liberty in a bitterly fought lawsuit, Ian Duncan writes in the Sun. A video of the man speaking tops the article.

  • Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times writes that attorneys for the people suing the commissioners over their practice of opening meetings with prayers to Jesus Christ filed a motion of contempt Tuesday in the U.S. District Court of Maryland. The motion seeks fines of $30,000 from the commissioners and requests that Judge William D. Quarles Jr. also rule that any further violations of a preliminary injunction forbidding sectarian prayers at public meetings result in an additional $10,000 fine for each violation.