June 2, 2014

State Roundup, June 2, 2014

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REBUILDING HEALTH WEBSITE: Maryland officials say they are close to finalizing a plan for paying to rebuild the state’s troubled online health insurance marketplace, a project that’s expected to cost $40 million to $50 million, Jenna Johnson writes in the Washington Post.

  • The Access Health CT Web site is everything that the Maryland Health Connection site had hoped to be, reports Jenna Johnson for the Post. The format is simple and easy to navigate, allowing Connecticut residents to browse health insurance plans before creating an account. More importantly, the system properly relays enrollment information to insurance companies and the federal government, making real the Affordable Care Act’s vision of quickly insuring tens of thousands of previously uninsured people.

REFERENDUM SIGNATURES: Andrea Walker of the Sun reports that the conservative group trying to force a referendum on a transgender rights law scheduled to take effect this fall did not get the required signatures needed to bring the issue to a vote.

MARIJUANA POLICY REFORM: Rachelle Yeung responds to commentator Barry Rascovar’s recent column on marijuana, writing that a closer, more rational examination leads to the conclusion that Mr. Rascovar’s concerns would be addressed by taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol. The piece appears in MarylandReporter.com.

STATE OF HORSE INDUSTRY: MarylandReporter.com columnist Barry Rascovar takes a look at the state’s horse industry, which has seen its fortunes deteriorate with competition from other states but now is on the upswing. But problems could lie ahead – in Annapolis, he writes.

BUCKING THE SMOKING TREND: A move to increase Maryland’s cigarette tax by $1 per pack is already gaining momentum for the 2015 Maryland General Assembly session after failing to get enough support from state lawmakers earlier this year, opines the editorial board for the Carroll County Times. On Wednesday, a coalition of health care advocates claimed to have signed up more than 200 candidates running for state office this year who pledged their support to raise the cigarette tax by a buck. That’s enough signatures, they say, to almost virtually ensure the tax hike will be approved next year.

MARYLAND’S CLIMATE EFFORT: When the Obama administration unveils its plan today for fighting climate change by clamping down on power plant emissions, it will try to get the rest of the nation to join an effort already underway in Maryland and a number of other states, writes Timothy Wheeler in the Sun.

DISTRICT 1C: The two Republicans seeking the District 1C seat in the Maryland General Assembly agree on most of the issues, but have subtle differences in approach and differences in their personal backgrounds, according to a report in the Cumberland Times News.

BRINKLEY V. HOUGH: David Brinkley has no problem with being called an establishment Republican. He’s the party’s leader in the Maryland Senate, a master of the state budget process and a pragmatist adept at bringing tax dollars back from Democratic-dominated Annapolis to Frederick and Carroll counties. But the 20-year lawmaker is struggling to beat back an aggressive challenge from the tea party wing of the GOP. Del. Michael Hough contends that Brinkley is not ideologically pure enough for the General Assembly’s 4th District. Michael Dresser writes the story for the Sun.

Duffy Beyer Madaleno

From right: Sen. Rich Madaleno, challenger Dana Beyers and host Charles Duffy.

MADALENO, BEYERS DEBATE HOTLY: You hear a lot of talk about candidate debates during campaign season. But in fact there are few real debates, where candidates get to discuss issues back and forth without a lot of rules and you really learn something,.

Such a debate occurred last week between Sen. Rich Madaleno and challenger Dana Beyers on Charles Duffy’s Political Pulse cable program in Montgomery County. The District 18 Democratic incumbent was fired up about Beyers’ attacks on his progressive record, as ably recounted in Lou Peck’s summary of the confrontation. But you can also watch the whole argument on the posted half-hour video.

DISTRICT 33: In the Annapolis Capital’s ongoing series of giving candidates a chance to introduce themselves on the op-ed pages, Jamie Falcon, who is running for a District 33 House seat writes that in 2009, “Del. Ron George and I were the first to point to empirical evidence that at least three of the 2007 special session tax hikes were not yielding state revenue statistically different from zero when compared to our state’s neighbors. That is, if the tax hikes were supposed to raise revenues to pay for services, they failed.”

DISTRICT 36: Mud-slinging was virtually nonexistent Thursday, May 29, during a forum in Centreville for the slate of Republican candidates seeking General Assembly seats in Maryland’s 36th District, reports Daniel Divilio for the Easton Star Democrat.

UPCOMING DEBATES: Monday is a double-header for Maryland gubernatorial debates. The four Republican contenders are scheduled to meet in the studios of Maryland Public Television at 2 p.m. to tape their second televised debate within 48 hours. But viewers will have to wait until Friday to see it, writes John Wagner in the Post. The three major Democratic hopefuls will convene in the same place at 7 p.m. for their final televised encounter before the June 24 primaries. It is scheduled to be broadcast live both on MPT and WBAL-TV in Baltimore. Send your reactions to tonight’s debate to Len@MarylandReporter.com.

SATURDAY GOP DEBATE:The four Republican candidates for governor of Maryland focused their fire on the O’Malley administration and avoided criticizing each other as they met Saturday night in the first televised debate of this year’s GOP primary contest, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

HUGHES BACKS BROWN: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown picked up an endorsement of his gubernatorial bid Saturday from former Gov. Harry Hughes, who became the third person who has held the position to announce support for Brown, writes John Wagner in the Post.

BROWN-CURRIE CONNECTION: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Andy Green of the Baltimore Sun talk about why Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown is appearing on a mailer that praises State Sen. Ulysses Currie, despite Currie’s past indictment and censure for ethics violations.

CAMPAIGN TARGETING: Democrats and Republicans running in Maryland’s June 24 gubernatorial primary are embracing increasingly sophisticated digital targeting techniques that allow candidates to single out voters and aim specialized ads — as well as personal contacts — directly at them, write John Fritze and Catherine Rentz of the Sun.

AD SPENDING: When it comes to media spending, Democrats Anthony Brown and Doug Gansler are like distance runners intent on keeping their rival close. The two most visible candidates in the primary for governor each spent more than $2 million on television and radio advertising from early March until late May, according to documents and campaign interviews. But, writes Jeff Barker for the Sun, there is a difference.

HOGAN AD: Republican Larry Hogan’s second television ad in the governor’s race criticizes the O’Malley-Brown administration, not his opponents in the June 24 GOP primary, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

KAMENETZ FUND: A slate campaign account formed by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has directed the majority of its funds to the campaign committee of longtime County Councilman John Olszewski even though the Dundalk Democrat is not running for office, writes Alison Knezevich for the Sun. Campaign finance records released this week show the slate, A Better Baltimore County, transferred $90,000 to Olszewski’s campaign committee in January, a move that gives Olszewski discretion to use the money to support candidates of his choosing in a variety of election races.

THE MESSAGE: Columnist Rick Hutzell of the Annapolis Capital writes about the difference between the messages from the Republicans and from the Democrats and why they also are similar.

PROFILE OF SCHUH: Elisha Sauers of the Annapolis Capital writes that Steve Schuh peels a campaign sticker, presses it onto his button-down shirt and glances at the sky. Heavy clouds are bearing down. He’s determined to finish the street, even when he runs out of pamphlets. At each door on the cul-de-sac, he introduces himself — a Republican delegate running for Anne Arundel County executive where he thinks he can “get more done.”

PROFILE OF NEUMAN: Tim Prudente of the Annapolis Capital writes that the woman in the black dress steps out of her heels in an Annapolis restaurant. She stands up on a chair, the crowd cheering, loving her barefooted moxie. “I want to share a little bit about myself,” she says and they quiet. “I ended up dropping out of high school.” This begins the story of Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman.

MONTGOMERY LIQUOR SYSTEM: In the first of a two-part series, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes that an eight-decade old system of liquor control in Montgomery County is drawing criticism and calls for its elimination. Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat and Montgomery County resident, said the current system for beer, wine and liquor sales is antiquated, inefficient and hurts local businesses.

CARROLL COMMISSIONERS: Christian Alexandersen of the Carroll County Times writes that it doesn’t matter if the problem is aging infrastructure or inadequate services, people believe that economic development is always the answer to government issues. That’s because economic development brings in more companies and employees to help pay for the services, facilities and infrastructure provided by Carroll County government. Carroll has struggled to generate revenue because there has never been a large tax base. In a long piece for the Times, Alexandersen writes about the views of the candidates for Carroll County Commissioners on economic development. This is Part I of an eight-part series on the commissioners candidates.