May 22, 2014

State Roundup, May 22, 2014

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RIVALS BLAST HOGAN: Two rival Republican candidates filed a complaint Wednesday against Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Larry Hogan, alleging that his campaign has illegally benefited from Change Maryland, a grass-roots organization he founded, reports John Wagner of the Post.

HOGAN CAN GET PUBLIC FINANCING: Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan said Wednesday that he has cleared the threshold of $258,612 in small contributions needed to qualify for public financing of his campaign, reports the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

OPEN MEETINGS VIOLATIONS: The board that oversees Maryland’s troubled health insurance marketplace repeatedly violated a state law that requires such groups to fully explain their reasons for meeting behind closed doors, the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board concluded this week. John Wagner reports in the Post that the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board of Trustees failed to fully disclose and document its reasons for confidentiality.

DUI LAW FALLS SHORT: The editorial board of the Sun writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law legislation requiring that adults caught and convicted of drunk driving while transporting a child younger than age 16 be required to install an ignition interlock system — a device that won’t let them start their cars unless they pass a breath test. The problem with the law is that it doesn’t go far enough. The vast majority of drunk drivers don’t have kids in the back seat. But that doesn’t make them any less dangerous to pedestrians or the occupants of the vehicles they may hit while driving drunk

‘DRIVER EXPLOITATION:’ Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Maryland drivers are some of the most exploited in the nation, according to national rankings released by one motorist organization. The state ranks as the sixth-worst in the U.S. based on a number of public policies that affect drivers, including speed and red-light camera laws, tolls, gas taxes and rules banning cellphone use and texting while driving, according to the National Motorists Association.

UNCONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS: The key budget-balancing bill signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley last Thursday contained several unconstitutional provisions, including language exempting Carroll and Frederick counties from aspects of the rain tax, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. That’s what Attorney General Doug Gansler told O’Malley in a letter the day before he signed the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2014. But the AG still said O’Malley could sign the bill.

SOFT ECONOMIC RECOVERY: Anirban Basu, one of state’s leading economists, said Wednesday in Hagerstown that the economy is gathering momentum boosted by a booming stock market. But Maryland’s recovery from the recession continues to be soft when compared to some other states, and Washington County’s is softer than some other jurisdictions in the state, writes Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

DEPUTY COMMISSIONER MOVES: Karen Stakem Hornig, the deputy insurance commissioner for the Maryland Insurance Administration, has been tapped to lead a national organization for insurance producer licensing, reports Lizzy McLellan for the Daily Record. Hornig, also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, will relocate to serve as executive director of the National Insurance Producer Registry in Kansas City, Missouri.

TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW: Center Maryland columnist Laslo Boyd writes about the legacy of Brit Kirwan, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland who announced that he will retire as soon as a successor is named. By almost any measure, Kirwan has had a spectacular run as head of USM. He is widely respected by key policy makers in Annapolis and has led the system through some challenging times.

PELOSI TAPS CUMMINGS: House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday she would appoint Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore to lead Democrats on a controversial select committee to investigate the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, reports Matthew Hay Brown in the Sun.

PRIMARY VOTE: The deadline to register to vote in the primary for Maryland’s governor’s race is June 3, according to an AP report in the Annapolis Capital. The Maryland State Board of Elections announced Tuesday that June 3 also is the deadline to change party affiliation. It’s also the last day voters can update an address or request an alternate polling place for this election

DEM GALA NO TIME FOR CAMPAIGNING: The state Democratic Party’s annual gala was no place for campaign speeches on Wednesday night. That might seem odd to casual observers, writes Jeff Barker in the Sun. But the gala – a large fundraising event – was a time to talk about party unity and the need for voter turnout efforts in the primary and general elections. It was about tiptoeing around any infighting that primary elections can cause.

HOGAN FOR GOV: The editorial board for the Washington Post has endorsed Larry Hogan for the GOP nomination for governor, stating that “unlike Harford County Executive David R. Craig, who would start by declaring war on the state income tax, or Charles County businessman Charles Lollar, who would lead state government by attempting to eviscerate it, Mr. Hogan has a more modest agenda and a more realistic one.”

REALTORS BACK HOGAN, BROWN: Democrat Anthony Brown and Republican Larry Hogan won endorsements of their Maryland gubernatorial bids Wednesday from the Maryland Association of Realtors, John Wagner of the Post is reporting. “Both candidates demonstrated keen knowledge of housing issues and the important role real estate plays in Maryland’s economy,” said Ilene Kessler, who chaired the interview committee for the association.

LOLLAR’S TAX CUT PLATFORM: The AP’s Brian Witte, in an article in the Salisbury Daily Times, writes that for Charles Lollar, the best thing the next governor of Maryland can do is cut taxes to make the state friendly for businesses and promote job growth. Nearly everything else is secondary, besides a major reorganization of the state’s executive branch that he contends will make state government more efficient.