April 9, 2014

State Roundup, April 9, 2014

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SPENDING TRANSPARENCY: Some people don’t like how much Maryland spends or how it spends it, but an outside group says the state is getting a little better at reporting on where taxpayer dollars go. Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that at the same time, a bill passed unanimously and signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley is designed to make more of Maryland’s government data more available and searchable to everyone through creation of a new Council on Open Data.

ELECTION PERFORMANCE: Maryland was a top performer in a review of 2012 election data released Tuesday by the Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit research organization. Of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Maryland ranked 7th overall. In 2008, its rank was 13th, reports Bret Jaspers for WYPR-FM. The review ranked voter registration, voter participation and voter registration rejection among other election-related actions.

WILL ‘HOUSE OF CARDS’ FOLD? The breakdown in Annapolis over boosting incentives for films and television series shot in Maryland has left the state without enough money to give Netflix’s “House of Cards” what it was seeking to produce its next season here, officials acknowledged Tuesday, Tim Wheeler and David Zurawik report for the Sun.

MENTAL HEALTH WORKERS & THE WAGE HIKE: In guest commentary for MarylandReporter.com, Herbert Cromwell of Community Behavioral Health Association of Maryland, writes that events in Tucson, Aurora, Newtown and recently here at the Columbia Mall have prompted policymakers everywhere to decry inadequate access to mental health care. Outrage is one thing, financial support is another. The hike in the minimum-wage omitted direct care workers who serve those with psychiatric disabilities.

SIGNING LEGISLATION: Just hours after the General Assembly wrapped up its 90-day session, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation Tuesday that will expand pre-kindergarten education and lift the “inherently dangerous” legal stigma from the pit bulls of Maryland, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

O’MALLEY’S LEGACY: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Andy Green of the Baltimore Sun talk about the end of the 2014 General Assembly session and what Governor O’Malley’s eight years in office reveal about his skills and style as a leader.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE SO-SO: The editorial board for the Sun offers up a click-through gallery of pictures and text to outline what it says is the good, the bad and the so-so legislation that passed or didn’t pass the General Assembly this session.

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SENSIBLE POT DECRIMINALIZATION: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post writes that the bill to decriminalize marijuana possession was a rushed piece of legislation passed by some clearly conflicted lawmakers. It does finally establish some sense of proportion between the “crime” and its punishment. Paradoxically, it retains as a criminal offense the possession of paraphernalia such as marijuana pipes and rolling papers. Fixing that will have to wait till next year.

MO CO SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: Montgomery County will not get more school construction money for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, but Annapolis leadership is not willing to let the issue stagnate, writes Kate Alexander for the Gazette.

LOWER SHORE BILLS: A bill that could have installed crosswalks at intersection across divided highways, like the one in Berlin where a teen was killed last year, was among the bills that did not pass the Maryland General Assembly this year, reports Jennifer Shutt in the Salisbury Daily Times.

GANSLER SEEKS SPECIAL COUNSEL: Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler, the attorney general, on Tuesday called on Gov. Martin O’Malley to appoint a special counsel to investigate the state’s online health insurance exchange, in his latest attempt to call attention to its shortcomings, writes John Wagner for the Post.

GOODBYE: Monday night wasn’t just Sine Die for the Maryland General Assembly. It was also Auld Lang Syne for more than one-quarter of the legislature’s members, writes Josh Kurtz for Center Maryland. Kurtz runs down a list of some of the members who are leaving and ranks them with a plus or a minus for their tenures in Annapolis.

POWER SHIFT IN ARUNDEL: Tim Prudente of the Annapolis Capital writes that redistricting and the retirement of three Anne Arundel delegates may shift power away from county Republicans next year. Republicans Bob Costa, Steve Schuh and Ron George saw their last “Sine Die” as delegates on Monday night, the final day of the General Assembly.

CLINTON ENDORSES BROWN: John Wagner of the Post reports that Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown picked up an endorsement Tuesday from former president Bill Clinton, adding some star power to a list of other Democrats who have announced their backing of Brown’s gubernatorial bid.

CARROLL SUSPENDS JESUS PRAYERS: A divided Carroll County board of commissioners voted Tuesday to no longer invoke Jesus Christ in prayers before government sessions, a measure one commissioner said “binds me to an act of disobedience against my Christian faith,” Blair Ames and Colin Campbell report in the Sun. A video of the vote tops the story.