May 23, 2014

State Roundup, May 23, 2014

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SMOKE TAX HIKE BACKED: Advocates backing a $1 tax increase on every pack of cigarettes sold in Maryland say they’ve lined up more than 200 General Assembly candidates to support the hike, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

BAIL ATTORNEYS SOUGHT: Maryland’s district courts are hoping to find attorneys willing to represent poor defendants at bail review hearings, according to an AP story in the Annapolis Capital. The court system announced that a new program will pay $50 an hour to attorneys who offer their time and legal expertise to represent defendants who can’t afford them. They’ll also be reimbursed for mileage and tolls. It’s expected to launch on July 1.

POLICE TO GET DISABILITY TRAINING: Maryland will be the first state to teach all law enforcement officers about people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in training sessions led partly by disabled people, the chairman of a commission developing the program said. The AP is reporting in the Daily Record that Timothy Shriver, who also chairs the national Special Olympics, said lessons taught by those whom the program aims to serve will have more impact “because they don’t just teach it with words, they don’t just teach it with exercises, they teach it with relationships.”

LATER SCHOOL START DATE: In arguing for the state to consider moving the start date of pubic schools, the editorial board of the Carroll County Times writes that educators complain about the brain drain they encounter with students at the beginning of each school year. Parents and businesses that cater to the tourism crowd complain that their season is cut short because of the school calendar. Welcome to the arguments for and against starting school after Labor Day, a topic that comes up just about as regularly as the tide rolling in at the beach in Ocean City.

STATE’S STRENGTHS: Maryland’s elected leaders underestimate the state’s ability to compete, Greater Baltimore Committee President and CEO Donald Fry believes. In an article for the Daily Record, Lizzy McLellan quotes Fry as saying, during a speech at GBC’s annual meeting that, “Many elected policymakers in Maryland remain to be convinced that the state’s significant strengths — superior education, savvy workforce, research and technology and a high quality of life — are not enough by themselves to remain competitive in today’s economy.”(Fry didn’t actually give the speech, but much of its content is in the column below.)

O’MALLEY KEYNOTES: Gov. Martin O’Malley told graduates of the University of Maryland, College Park on Thursday to be ready for a world in the midst of rapid transformation spurred by climate change, technological advancement and global connectedness, writes Carrie Wells for the Sun.

O’MALLEY RETURNS TO N.H.: Gov. Martin O’Malley, who continues to eye a 2016 White House bid, is headed back to New Hampshire next month, writes John Wagner in the Post. O’Malley has been booked as the “special guest” June 13 at an annual Flag Day Dinner hosted by the Manchester Democrats, the organization announced Thursday.

SEN. CARDIN GOES TO UKRAINE: WYPR’s Joel McCord and Karen Hosler talk about Sen. Ben Cardin’s trip to Ukraine this weekend to monitor elections, and what a delegation of U.S. nationals hopes to accomplish with the trip. Cardin says he knows the trip is dangerous.

MAKING OF KINGMAKERS: In its call for closing campaign finance law loopholes, the Sun editorial board opines that – for the third election in a row – a Baltimore County executive has the potential to play kingmaker in elections for other local offices, thanks both to what has been one of the most gaping loopholes in campaign finance law and the inability of the Republican Party to put up a credible candidate in what was once the key jurisdiction in its efforts at state-wide competitiveness.

POLITICAL NOTES: A League of Women Voters online Voters Guide and various campaign fund-raisers and events are part of the Political Notes column that Rema Rahman compiled for the Annapolis Capital.

COLLEAGUES BLAST CARDIN VOTE ATTENDANCE: Luke Broadwater reports in the Sun that 35 state lawmakers on Thursday issued a statement condemning Del. Jon Cardin for missing nearly 75% of his committee votes this year. “We have been trying to wrap our heads around his unacceptable attendance record and want to say clearly and unequivocally: under no circumstances should a member of the legislature selectively decide to skip 75% of his or her committee votes,” states a letter signed by lawmakers who support Cardin’s opponent in a race for attorney general, Sen. Brian Frosh.

FACT CHECK ON CURRIE MAILER: In MarylandReporter.com’s search for truth in campaign literature, Len Lazarick takes a look at the exaggerated claims in a mailer from state Sen. Ulysses Currie, which bears a picture of Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown with the quote, “I know Ulysses Currie. He was a leader in our efforts to raise the minimum wage. When we needed him to — HE DELIVERED.” There’s just a few problems with that claim.

GANSLER JOINS PROTEST: Under the marble columns of Baltimore City’s downtown courthouse Thursday, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler joined about three dozen court staff protesting the working conditions inside, reports Ian Duncan in the Sun. A video of the event tops the story. Workers at the century-old courthouse have been complaining for more than a decade about asbestos, lead paint, rodents and poor air quality in their offices.

GANSLER ON SCHOOL FIXES: Attorney General Douglas Gansler, a Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, believes that major problems with the state’s worst schools could be fixed by paying certified teachers more money, increasing tenure standards and allowing administrators to more easily fire underperforming teachers, among other changes, reports Jenna Johnson for the Post.

GANSLER ON LETTER TO O’MALLEY: Attorney General Gansler says he is not familiar with a letter his office sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley arguing part of a budget bill might not be constitutional, an issue that MarylandReporter.com brought up yesterday after a Conduit Street report. In an appearance on WBAL.AM’s Derek Hunter Show on Thursday, Gansler says he was not familiar with a letter he signed and sent to the governor last week arguing that parts of the bill the governor signed were likely to be found unconstitutional. Gansler said one of his assistants likely drafted the opinion, which he signed. You can also hear the audio version at the top of the story.

GUB CANDIDATES ON ISSUES: With the Democratic and Republican primaries just weeks away, WYPR-FM asked each of the candidates to respond to the five questions that the next governor will have to confront, including health of the Chesapeake Bay, hydraulic fracturing and middle class job creation among them.

PG BUDGET SHORTFALL: Prince George’s County is facing a $62.5 million budget shortfall with six weeks left in the fiscal year, officials said. Arelis Hernández of the Post reports that the deficit was driven primarily by higher-than-projected overtime pay for public safety officials, workers compensation payments and snow-removal operations during an unusually snowy winter.

END TERM LIMITS IN PG: In urging the end to term limits in Prince George’s County, the editorial board for the Gazette opines that term limits are a double-edged sword. As proved by politics in Prince George’s, where the good thing about term limits is the same as the bad: It prevents people from staying in office. Still, for better or worse, voters — not term limits — should decide how long an elected official remains in office.

NEUMAN DIVORCE RECORDS OPEN: A judge has denied a request to seal the divorce record of Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman. That denial comes after a court order to seal the case was temporarily overturned about three weeks ago, writes Tim Prudente for the Annapolis Capital.