April 4, 2014

State Roundup, April 4, 2014

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BUDGET AGREEMENT: House and Senate negotiators working out their differences in the $38.7 billion state budget reached agreement Thursday evening, eliminating provisions on stormwater fees and “House of Cards” property, writes Jeremy Bauer-Wolf for MarylandReporter.com.

CAPITAL BUDGET: The House of Delegates on Thursday passed its version of the capital budget for fiscal 2015. The House voted 100-38 to pass Senate Bill 171. Moments later, the Senate rejected the House’s amendments, sending the measure to a conference committee that must work out the differences, writes Alex Jackson for the Annapolis Capital.

WAGE HIKE: A bill to gradually raise Maryland’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour won approval Thursday from a second Senate committee, clearing the way for a vote in the full chamber before lawmakers adjourn on Monday, writes John Wagner for the Post.

HEALTH EXCHANGE SWITCH: Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein, who is chairman of the health exchange board, told local lawmakers on Thursday that he expects federal funds to cover most of the cost of switching to the Connecticut exchange system. As of Thursday, however, federal authorities had yet to approve Maryland’s plan for the future of the exchange, reports Jenna Johnson for the Post.

DOG BITE LEGISLATON: The Maryland General Assembly on Thursday gave final approval to legislation that would slightly shift the legal liability toward pet owners whose animals bite a person and undo a controversial court decision that singled out pit bulls as an inherently dangerous breed, writes Frederick Kunkle in the Post.

POT DECRIMINALIZATION: A move is on in the House of Delegates to resurrect a measure to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in Maryland. When Senate Bill 364 hits the House floor Friday for a final vote, several amendments are expected to be proposed to the bill. One amendment being considered would strip the bill of amendments added Wednesday by the House Judiciary Committee to study decriminalization, reports Alex Jackson for the Annapolis Capital.

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RIGHT TO COUNSEL: Sen. Bobby Zirkin on Thursday called for an indefinite hold on his proposed constitutional amendment to undo a Maryland high court ruling that people have a right to counsel at initial bail hearings before court commissioners, saying he remains confident the lawmakers will vote to preserve Maryland’s two-tier system of pretrial hearings at reasonable cost to the state, the Daily Record’s Steve Lash reports.

DOMESTIC ABUSE: Perpetrators who commit domestic abuse in the presence of a child would be subject to harsher penalties under legislation approved by the General Assembly Thursday, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

SPEED CAMERA PROTECTION: The Maryland General Assembly approved legislation Thursday that will provide new protections for motorists from erroneous tickets and other speed camera abuses, sending the bill to the governor for his expected signature, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

SCHOOL CLOUDS: The House gave preliminary approval Thursday to a measure intended to allow Maryland schools to use cloud computing services while protecting student data, writes Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital.

CORPORATE TAXES: Guess what northeast state just eliminated its corporate income tax for manufacturers. Would you believe New York? The creation of reduced-tax zones is among elements of an economic development agenda proposed by Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch that has been moving through the Maryland General Assembly this session, writes Don Fry for Center Maryland. However, legislative leaders have declined to move any of 10 bills that proposed various reductions in Maryland’s corporate income tax. New York’s action may change that.

MO CO PRIORITY A NO SHOW: Maryland has three days left in its legislative session and as the state works to wrap up its budget, pass a minimum wage and medical marijuana and close a loophole for sexual conduct with students, Montgomery County’s top priority for the session appears to be headed nowhere, writes Kate Alexander for the Gazette. Montgomery County has been pushing since the outset of the 90-day session in January to establish a dedicated program that would provide the county with school construction funding.

TUTU WEIGHS IN: Maryland’s proposed legislative condemnation of an academic boycott of Israel has drawn criticism from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, reports Kate Alexander for the Gazette.

BEER AT FARMERS MARKETS: Visitors to farmers markets would be able to sample and purchase beer made by small Maryland brew pubs under a bill that received final General Assembly approval Thursday, Michael Dresser blogs in the Sun.

VAPORTINI BAN: Melanie Balakit of CNS, writing in the Cecil Whig, reports that Maryland may become the first state to ban the use of Vaportinis, a relatively new device that allows users to inhale fumes from heated alcoholic drinks, if a measure approved by the General Assembly is signed into law.

COMMON CORE SURVEY: Results of a survey of principals and teachers addresses the new Common Core standards have been released. A full report on the survey has been obtained by MarylandReporter.com. There is one discrepancy in the report that raised the attention of the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, writes Glynis Kazanjian.

CAMPAIGN NEWS

ON JULIUS HENSON: Gazette columnist Blair Lee takes us on a tour of Julius Henson’s history, street smart and down in the dirt political operative who has worked for Democrats and Republicans alike and has a 90% win rate for those he worked to get elected.

HARRISON GRANDSON PLEADS GUILTY: The grandson of the late Del. Hattie Harrison, of Baltimore City, pleaded guilty Thursday to felony theft of campaign funds. Philip Harrison II, 35, of Salisbury, who was his grandmother’s treasurer from 2006 to 2009, admitted to stealing $17,600 of campaign funds, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

DELS. DEBOY & MALONE: Together, Dels. James Malone and Steven DeBoy have represented District 12A in the Maryland General Assembly for more than a decade. When the session ends April 9, it will be their last. The two, who have known each other since attending Ascension School in Halethorpe together, announced their decision not to seek re-election in April 2013, reports Lauren Loricchio in the Sun.

BROWN FILES COMPLAINT: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s campaign for governor filed a formal complaint against his chief rival Thursday, alleging Attorney General Doug Gansler broke state law by organizing fundraisers during the General Assembly session, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

GANSLER CRIME PLAN: Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler released a wide-ranging public safety plan on Thursday that he pledged would end Maryland’s standing as one of the nation’s most violent states, once fully implemented, reports John Wagner for the Post.

HOGAN ON TV: Larry Hogan on Thursday became the first Republican candidate for Maryland governor to debut a television ad. In a 30-second spot airing in the Baltimore market, Hogan, who runs a real-estate company in Anne Arundel County, touts his leadership of Change Maryland, a group that he founded in 2011 to monitor Maryland government, writes John Wagner for the Post.

CARROLL PRAYERS: Carroll County residents expressed their support for the commissioners’ rights to publicly pray to Jesus Christ after the filing of a preliminary injunction ordering the board to stop its practice of saying sectarian prayers at meetings, reports Christian Alexandersen in the Carroll County Times.