August 14, 2014

State Roundup, August 14, 2014

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STATE HEALTH PLANS: Maryland officials approved $16 billion in contracts Wednesday that are intended to change the way state employees use health care by offering rewards for taking steps to stay well — and imposing penalties for refusing to comply, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. Rewards would come in the form of free doctor visits and procedures, while penalties for failing to follow medical advice could go as high as $375.

DRUGS AS HEALTH, SAFETY ISSUES: Prescription opioid abuse and the associated rise in the popularity of heroin is so common the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference will include two workshops on the issue. The two sessions will be dedicated to examining how counties can deal with the crisis as public health and public safety issues, writes Adam Bednar for the Daily Record.

ONLINE VOTING LAWSUIT: A federal lawsuit to require the state of Maryland to provide online absentee ballots designed to protect the privacy of blind and disabled voters went before a federal judge on Wednesday. The AP is reporting in the Daily Record that the ballot-marking system enables the blind to mark their voting selections on a computer. Then, they would print out their ballot as a bar code that could not be read by someone who mails the ballot in for them.

GUN IRRATIONALITY: Laslo Boyd of Center Maryland opines that “we are collectively, totally irrational about guns. We have found the means to cut down dramatically on traffic fatalities. We have made major advances on all sorts of diseases that used to kill enormous numbers of people. We spend billions of dollars on national security to counter the threat of terrorists attacking somewhere in the country. But we seem indifferent to the tens of thousands of people in this country who are killed annually with firearms. The examples of other nations having figured out how to keep their citizens safe from this scourge seems to have no impact on our policy makers.”

SILLY SALES TAX HOLIDAY: The left-leaning Citizens for Tax Justice called the idea “silly.” The right-leaning Tax Foundation deemed it “poor policy.” So why do 16 states — including Maryland — continue to offer sales tax holidays during the August back-to-school shopping season? The most likely answer is that these policy gimmicks are popular among consumers and a certain set of retailers, especially big chain stores. But they aren’t in the public interest. The states that still stage sales tax holidays should do what the District did a few years ago: Get rid of them. so urges the editorial board for the Washington Post.

POLICE UNION BACKS BROWN: The Maryland Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown for governor Wednesday, siding with a Democrat for the first time in 12 years. In a statement, the group’s president-elect, Vince Canales, cited Brown’s military service, as well as his work in the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley, which has overseen a significant drop in crime, writes John Wagner for the Post.

SPENDING CASINO MONEY: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital is backing a proposal by Anne Arundel County Council member Daryl Jones to require the county to seek recommendations from the Local Development Council before money from Maryland Live! casino is spent.

MINORITIES IN MONTGOMERY: Most of Montgomery County’s 1 million residents are minorities, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and while recent elections have begun to reflect that change, some say more progress is needed.  A record-high 32 black candidates — according to one candidate’s website — from the county ran in state and local races during the June 24 primary.  Yet despite the number of black candidates who ran for office, the face of Montgomery’s elected leadership looks to remain largely white following the Nov. 4 general election, writes Kate Alexander for the Gazette.

PEROUTKA NO CONSERVATIVE: In a short piece by Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland, he writes that Anne Arundel County Council candidate “Michael Peroutka is running as a conservative Republican when he in actuality hates conservatives and, based on his run as a Constitution Party candidate in 2004, seems to only find an arrangement of convenience in being a registered Republican. I’m desperately trying to understand why some mainstream conservatives don’t have a problem with that.”