April 10, 2014

State Roundup, April 10, 2014

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ANNAPOLIS PARTY POOPED OUT: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks hates to be a party pooper but, he writes: I declare myself underwhelmed by the “accomplishments” of the 2014 Maryland General Assembly — a minimum wage increase so gradual it will have no effect on the standard of living for the working poor, a $431 million tax break for the heirs of millionaires, marijuana “decriminalization” that is hardly that, a paltry $4.3 million for pre-kindergarten education, and a broken promise on fully funding public employee pensions.

THE ‘WILL LEAVE’ ARGUMENT: Opinionator Fraser Smith of WYPR lays out the single argument lobbyists use to push their agenda: It’s part of the playbook that always seems to work. Higher taxes on the wealthy means millionaires will leave. Less money for the movie industry means the movie industry will leave. A higher minimum wage for workers means employers will leave. Works every time. Lobbyists don’t need much more than a “will leave” sentence.

PART I: HEALTH EXCHANGE MESS, A CLOSER LOOK: In a two-part series today and Friday for MarylandReporter.com, retired auditor Charles Hayward delves into the problems that led to a disastrous launch of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange in fall 2013. For today’s article, Hayward writes that whenever ineffective planning, poor judgment and lousy communication intersect with really bad technology in a large-scale, high profile, IT development project, a “perfect storm” of catastrophic failure is the predictable result.

POT DECRIMINALIZATION BILL QUESTIONED: Frederick County State’s Attorney Charlie Smith said a marijuana decriminalization bill that was passed in the final hours of the Maryland General Assembly session Monday is fraught with difficulties for police and prosecutors, reports Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News Post.

AN EQUITABLE STORMWATER FEE: Frederick and Carroll counties have been exempted from the mandate to collect stormwater fees in the same manner as other jurisdictions. However Frederick County decides to raise funds to meet its requirement for the stormwater fee, opines the editorial board for the Frederick News Post, the amount a property owner must contribute should be as commensurate as practical with the stormwater runoff his property is generating. Any other method of raising these funds will not only be inequitable, but also will fail to adequately encourage property owners to reduce their stormwater runoff.

MOVE OVER LAW: Jane Bellmyer of the Cecil Whig reports that William Cain has had some close calls and so have his drivers. So it goes without saying that Cain is pretty happy with the expansion of Maryland’s “Move Over” law. “I’ve nearly been hit, my truck has nearly been hit,” said Cain, who owns Chesapeake Service Center on Nottingham Road in Elkton.

BUYING GUNS: Erin Cox is reporting for the Sun that more than 300 people banned from owning guns were able to buy them last year because the state police were overwhelmed with background check requests, police said Wednesday. People with histories of mental illness or convictions for violent misdemeanors, felons and fugitives were able to obtain and keep guns for three months or longer before state police reviewed the sales.

MINIMUM WAGE IMPACT: C.J. Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writes that opinions were mixed this week about the effects of Maryland’s approval of an incremental minimum-wage increase to $10.10 over the next few years, with some saying it will have little bearing on businesses, while others believe it may have a drastic impact. Several officials said on Wednesday that Washington County may fare differently than other counties in the state due to its proximity to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where mandated minimums wages would remain lower.

FARM VEHICLE BILLS: Timothy Sandoval of the Carroll County Times writes that two bills passed by the Maryland General Assembly toward the end of this year’s legislative session would loosen vehicle restrictions for farmers and would give milk haulers time to upgrade their trucks in order to carry more weight on state roads.

ARUNDEL SNAGS $9.6M: Anne Arundel County snared $9.6 million during the 2014 General Assembly session,Tim Prudente reports for the Annapolis Capital. Some $3.5 million for turf fields at Annapolis and South River high schools, $250,000 for a new National Sailing Hall of Fame office in Annapolis, $75,000 to install running water at a Severn food bank — all were included in the $9.6 million county lawmakers grabbed for local projects.

THE ANNAPOLIS BRAWL: Krishana Davis of the Sun gives the details of the fight in the Lowe office building on the last night of the session that was between two brothers, one a legislative aide to state Del. Mary Dulany James, in which alcohol was involved.

UM COMPUTER PROBE: The FBI is investigating a former University of Maryland contract worker who said he took College Park administrators’ personal information from the campus network and posted online about the stunt to draw attention to major security flaws, reports Scott Dance for the Sun, who interviewed the contract worker.

HIGHER ED PLAN: The body overseeing higher education in Maryland unveiled a new four-year plan Wednesday intended to help serve the low-income, first-generation and nontraditional students that make up a growing segment of the academic population, reports Carrie Wells for the Sun.

CHANGING DELEGATION: When the Washington County state legislative delegation returns to Annapolis next year, some familiar lawmakers will not be part of the group, writes Kaustauv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Del. LeRoy Myers is not seeking re-election to the House of Delegates, while Sen. Ron Young and Del. Michael Hough — or those elected from the seats they currently represent — will not be part of the group due to redistricting.

ANTI-SMOKING CAMPAIGN: A coalition of health advocacy and anti-smoking groups launched a campaign in Maryland on Wednesday to make support for a $1 per pack increase in the state’s tobacco tax a major election issue this year for legislative candidates, reports John Wagner in the Post.

HOW’D THE CANDIDATES PERFORM?: Laslo Boyd of Center Maryland writes that with the end of the General Assembly session, candidates for statewide office can now focus all their attention on campaigning, including fundraising. If one of the significant ways in which a candidate demonstrates readiness for higher office is by doing a good job in the office she or he currently holds, the session provides some relevant insights about the candidates running for governor and attorney general.

GANSLER PICKS UP ENDORSEMENT: Attorney General Doug Gansler on Wednesday announced support for his gubernatorial bid from the Business and Clergy Partnership, a new organization making its first political endorsement and claiming 300 members across the Washington region, writes John Wagner for the Post.

GANSLER ROCKS THE BOAT: Karen Hosler of WYPR offers an historical analysis of Doug Gansler’s boat-rocking career in Maryland politics. At 51, Gansler is ambitious, accomplished and sharp-tongued, yet affable, admirers say. But friends and foes see a man who can be rudely impatient and clueless about the sting of his remarks; a loose cannon who suffers self-inflicted wounds.

BROWN TOUTS ADOPTION, FOSTER CARE: Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Anthony Brown’s latest television ad highlights his relationship with his adopted son, along with Brown’s practice of promoting adoption and foster care during church visits, writes John Wagner for the Post.

PRAYER FOR CARROLL COMMISSIONERS: The editorial board for the Sun smacks the Carroll County Board of Commissioners over its stance on saying prayers to Jesus: It’s a shame Carroll County’s Board of Commissioners felt it had to hold a formal vote to prevent members from violating a federal court order against sectarian or denominational prayers at the opening of its meetings. Is it too much to ask for elected officials to act like grown-ups and not deliberately break the law? Apparently it is for some Carroll County board members, who seem unable to conduct the public’s business without going on about their religious convictions as if they were in a revival tent.