August 11, 2014

State Roundup, August 11, 2014

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LIBERTARIAN GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: When you’re a Libertarian candidate in Maryland, garnering more than 1% of the vote on Election Day counts as a win. But for Shawn Quinn, candidate for governor, nothing short of toppling both the major-party candidates will feel like victory, reports Erin Cox for the Sun.

ELECTION REFORM: Two of three prongs of U.S. Rep. John Delaney’s proposed legislation will be familiar to anyone who’s been a diligent reader of The Frederick News-Post’s opinion page: open primaries and redistricting reform, according to the editorial board of the Frederick News Post. The third is a new one, but it makes a lot of sense: Make Election Day a holiday.

BIKE ACCIDENTS & CARELESS DRIVING: After a rash of high-profile bicycle accidents, Maryland’s General Assembly might consider strengthening laws that allow judges to punish careless drivers, Catherine Sheffo writes for the Annapolis Capital. Last month saw the sentencing of a Calvert County driver who hit and killed bicyclist Patricia Cunningham, of Annapolis, while she was riding on Riva Road last year. Cunningham was an assistant track and cross-country coach at Annapolis High School.

MD LEMON LAW: In Maryland, the lemon law is specific: The vehicle must be new, registered in the state and be less than 24 months old or have fewer than 18,000 miles. The vehicle should have a brake, steering or other problem that diminishes the value of the car, and the dealership should make at least four unsuccessful attempts to fix it (only one is required for brake and steering issues). Or the repairs keep the car out of service for at least 30 days due to such issues. Unfortunately for some car buyers, reports Laura Blasey for the Frederick News Post, Maryland is not one of the six states that have a used car lemon law.

UBER LEGISLATION: The AP is reporting in the Daily Record that a Maryland lawmaker says the legislature and not the state Public Service Commission should come up with policies to regulate Internet-based ride-sharing services like Uber, after the PSC ruled this week that such companies should be treated the same way that tax-cab companies are.

  • Opinionator Barry Rascovar, in his politicalmaryland.com blog writes that just because Uber is using innovative Internet technologies to reinvent the taxicab industry doesn’t mean it can arrogantly write its own dictum and thumb its nose at statutes that govern the way other common carriers operate. Companies like Uber seem to believe that because they are Internet-based, they can run their kingdoms according to their edicts and decrees.

PRE-TRIAL REFORM:A commission that includes state Sen. Christopher Shank, R-Washington, is working to generate ideas on pretrial reform in the state, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. The commission was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley at the end of May, after two bills that aimed to reform the pretrial system in response to a court ruling failed to pass.

FRANCHOT’S SCHOOL PROPOSAL: Comptroller Peter Franchot, who has earned a reputation as an agitator during his time in office, plans to launch a petition drive to persuade lawmakers to embrace a pet cause of his: delaying the opening of public schools until after Labor Day, writes John Wagner for the Post.

FLOOD AID: Erin Cox of the Sun is reporting that Gov. Martin O’Malley has announced that residents inundated by June floods in Western Maryland can apply for $5,000 in state cash.

TAX-FREE WEEK: Just in time for back-to-school shopping, clothing and footwear, priced under $100, are exempt from the state sales tax. Accessory items, such as jewelry, watches, watchbands, handbags, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, scarves, ties, headbands, belt buckles and backpacks are not exempt during tax-free week. School supplies are also not exempt from the state sales tax during the week, Blair Ames writes in the Carroll County Times.

TWO VIEWS OF SHARFSTEIN: Joshua Sharfstein, a Harvard-trained physician, is bright and incredibly diligent, but that was not always good enough to steer the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, an agency that has too much on its plate. It has a dozen major agencies under its umbrella, and several of those have chronic serious problems that the legislature’s auditors and budget analysts have pointed out time and again, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

MdTA K-9 PROBE: TheMaryland Transportation Authority says it has launched an investigation into its police K-9 unit after the dogs’ head trainer alleged problems with the drug-sniffing hounds, reports Ian Duncan in the Sun. The trainer said in a deposition that he had discovered deficiencies in the training of one dog, and that police had tried to pass off fake credentials for the animal in a court case after officers could not find the original records.

ON RAY RICE & CASINOS: Nobody asked me, writes Sun columnist Dan Rodricks, but … the fans who gave Ray Rice a standing ovation before Thursday’s preseason game apparently have not read the Ravens’ fan behavior policy — specifically, the part that says: “Fans help shape the Ravens’ image.” They also missed this: “Have fun, root hard, show respect for the fans around you, but don’t be a jerk!” No one asked him about the new Baltimore City casino either, but …

MILLION DOLLAR SLOT: Maryland Live! unveiled the first $1 million slot machine in the region Saturday night, offering gamers a chance to bet $500 for one chance, writes Zoe Read for the Annapolis Capital.

ACC-UM DISPUTE SETTLED: The AP is reporting in the Daily Record that the Atlantic Coast Conference and the University of Maryland have settled their legal dispute over the Terrapins’ exit from the league. Under terms announced Friday, the ACC will keep the roughly $31.4 million it had previously withheld from Maryland and the school will not owe the conference any more money. In addition, lawsuits filed by both sides will be dismissed.

PROTECTED MARINE HABITAT: Seventy miles off Ocean City, scientists aboard the federal research vessel Henry B. Bigelow are exploring a lush underwater landscape that until recently few would have imagined — colorful corals clinging to the rocky slopes of deep-sea canyons. Because of this, the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council could establish the largest marine habitat protected area ever in the Atlantic — a stretch of ocean bottom as big as Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania combined, reports Tim Wheeler for the Sun. A video of two sites tops the article.

ROUTE 40, KENNEDY & SEGREGATION: Yvonne Wenger of the Sun writes about the history of segregation along the Route 40 corridor and how then President Kennedy had to intervene to fight businesses that would not serve black diplomats, creating tension during the Cold War.

CARROLL DPW AUDIT: The performance of the Carroll County Department of Public Works will be audited over the next few months in an effort to identify improvements and efficiencies that can be made to the county’s largest department, reports Christian Alexandersen for the Carroll County Times.  The audit, which cost the county $100,000, will be completed in December or January.

BALONEY PLEDGE: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post takes on the no-tax pledge by a group of candidates, writing that the group of Republicans led by Frederick County Commissioners President (and county executive candidate) Blaine Young vowed to block any tax increase if elected in November. We know what some of you are probably thinking: “Wow, that’s great. Government is already taxing me too much. I need tax relief. Whoopee!” The problem is, it’s a bunch of baloney because the candidates aren’t being entirely truthful.