September 29, 2014

State Roundup, September 29, 2014

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NEW LAWS TO TAKE EFFECT: This year the House of Delegates and Senate introduced nearly 2,700 bills and passed 368. On Wednesday, a large portion of the 328 bills signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley will take effect, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The most controversial of these will make possessing a small amount of marijuana — less than 10 grams or about one-third of an ounce — punishable by a civil citation for the first offense rather than a criminal penalty.

AMAZON ONLINE SALES TAX: Maryland consumers who shop online at Amazon.com after Tuesday will be paying more — 6% of the sale. The new taxes are expected to boost the state’s total collection of sales taxes by $50 million in the current fiscal year, according to the state Board of Revenue Estimates. Overall sales taxes are expected to rise 5.2% to $4.15 billion, Lorraine Mirabella report in the Sun.

INADEQUATE PROCEDURES: Meredith Cohn of the Sun is reporting that the state’s Mental Hygiene Administration didn’t have adequate procedures to ensure consumers given care were eligible, according to audit by the Department of Legislative Services during fiscal 2013. The state funds in question totaled $16.4 million. The total budget that year was $788 million when federal funds were counted.

GAS TAX TRANSIT SOLUTION: Former U.S. transportation Secretary Ray LaHood urged leaders to consider following Virginia’s lead and rethink transportation funding, writes Alexis Webb for MarylandReporter.com. LaHood, a 36-year public servant, proposes a higher federal gas tax to fund nationwide projects, but also suggested that the solution for a broken transportation system could be something like what Virginia did when it moved from a gas tax to a wholesale sales gas tax.

STORMWATER TAX CUTS: The watchword for opponents of stormwater fees seems to have shifted from “repeal” to “return,” reports Pat Furgurson for the Annapolis Capital. As the Nov. 4 general election closes in, some stormwater fee opponents have stopped talking about repeal of the fees and instead are arguing for returning the money taken from property owners in the form of a tax cut.

SLOW TEACHER PROBES: Every year, hundreds of school system employees are immediately escorted out of Baltimore-area schools when they are accused of misconduct and are told they can’t return to the school until an investigation is completed, reports Liz Bowie in the Sun. Those investigations can take more than a year to be concluded, and in the meantime taxpayers pay the bill for both their salaries and the substitute teachers’.

LANDSLIDE AID IN PG: Maryland officials have offered $2.2 million to Prince George’s County to help pay for the restoration of a Fort Washington neighborhood damaged by a landslide in May, reports the Post’s Arelis Hernández.

RURAL PRESERVATION: The state’s program to preserve rural lands depends on private landowners voluntarily giving up their rights to develop the property they own. The state pays them for a permanent easement that preserves the rural character of the land. Matthew Bieniek of the Cumberland Times News reports that Allegany County Commissioner Creade Brodie doesn’t like the program, and cast a vote Thursday against the county accepting a grant agreement with the state of Maryland to participate.

HEROIN PROBLEM: A Baltimore community group is seeking to raise awareness of the city’s heroin epidemic through congressional hearings. WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Roberto Alejandro of the Afro talk about the changes residents want and what city and state officials said in response.

REPLACING SEN. STONE: Campaigns on Baltimore County’s eastside are still in full swing, but one outcome is already certain: For the first time in nearly half a century, voters get a new state senator. Democratic Sen. Norman Stone, who took office in 1967, is retiring from the General Assembly. Fellow Democrat John Olszewski Jr., currently a state delegate; Republican Johnny Ray Salling, a steelworker; and unaffiliated candidate Scott Collier are competing to replace him, Alison Knezevich reports in the Sun.

MSEA BACKS HAYTHE: The Maryland State Education Association has endorsed Democrat Keasha Haythe in the race for Maryland’s House of Delegates representing the District 37B, according to the Easton Star Democrat. Haythe was born and raised in Talbot County. Her personal and professional commitment to the region is evident in her family background, career and community service, according to a press release.

BAD NEWS FOR BROWN: OUCH! That’s the sound coming from Anthony Brown’s campaign headquarters after hearing of a $405 million drop in expected state revenue over the next 21 months. This is bad news for the lieutenant governor’s gubernatorial drive, writes Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. The shrinking revenue forecast not only buoys Republican Larry Hogan’s campaign, it powerfully reinforces Hogan’s central theme: Maryland’s budget is out of kilter and in need of serious overhaul.

DAUGHTER DEFENDS HOGAN IN NEW AD: As Larry Hogan continues to be attacked in television ads that paint him as an extreme conservative with a “dangerous Republican agenda” that would take Maryland backward if he were elected governor, a new defender has stepped up: His daughter, Jaymi Sterling, writes Jenna Johnson for the Post.

ABORTION STAND FACT-CHECK: Thirty-second TV spots by Democrat Anthony Brown and the Democratic Governors Association deliver remarkably similar messages portraying Larry Hogan as someone opposed to abortion even in cases of rape or incest. The ads tie Hogan to long-ago proposals. But are they correct, are they current? Michael Dresser of the Sun is reporting the fact-check.

BROWN, HOGAN ON BAY CLEANUP: To hear Larry Hogan tell it, the multibillion-dollar effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay has been a dismal failure — and the biggest problem is getting Pennsylvania and New York to stop sending sediment pollution down the Susquehanna River. His Democratic opponent, Anthony Brown — and most scientists — say it’s more complicated than that. They say Maryland needs to reduce homegrown pollution of its rivers and streams to help the bay. Tim Wheeler writes the story for the Sun.

Chesapeake Shakespeare

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company opened “Midsummer Night’s Dream” last week as the first production in its new theater, a $6.5 million renovation of the historic Mercantile Trust and Deposit building in downtown Baltimore. State taxpayers helped fund the renovation, and the company’s ongoing operations receive funding from the Maryland Arts Council.

O’MALLEY STUMPS: Following a speech here Friday night to a dinner gathering of 200 Democrats, Gov. Martin O’Malley received a standing ovation and a book called “Outtastatahs: Newcomers’ Adventures in New Hampshire.” The book, the chairman of the local Democratic party explained, was a token of appreciation for O’Malley’s appearance, given with the assumption that there will be more trips to the nation’s first presidential primary state. O’Malley, who is preparing for a possible 2016 White House bid, was making his fourth visit to New Hampshire over the past year, reports John Wagner for the Post.

O’MALLEY VS. CLINTON: In the rare moments when he speaks candidly about running for president, Gov. Martin O’Malley uses phrases such as “fundamentally newer” and “new way of leadership” to describe his approach — language intended to highlight the data-driven management style for which he is widely recognized. John Fritze of the Sun writes that it isn’t hard to read another, more subtle message between the lines: The young, guitar-slinging governor represents a more youthful crop of Democrats, while the presumed front-runner for the nomination in 2016, Hillary Clinton, might struggle to do so.

BOE SAYS LEGGETT MISUSED FUNDS: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett improperly used $9,200 in campaign funds for trips to El Salvador, Ethi­o­pia and China between 2011 and 2013 as part of the county’s “Sister Cities” program, the Maryland State Board of Elections has ruled, Bill Turque reports for the Post.

LEGGETT GROUNDS DRONES: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has grounded Montgomery’s plans to experiment with drones as a tool for firefighters and police, calling the idea “not ready for prime time,” writes Bill Turque in the Post.

STATE’S ATTORNEY INCUMBENT BACKED: In backing John J. McCarthy for Montgomery State’s Attorney, the editorial board for the Gazette writes that this race pits a seasoned, no-nonsense, prosecutor — incumbent Democrat  McCarthy — against an earnest newcomer to politics, Republican Dan Gaskill, a defense lawyer.

NEUMAN PUSHES LAST-MINUTE MEASURES: Twenty-five measures are on the Anne Arundel County Council agenda next month — 17 of them coming from County Executive Laura Neuman’s administration before she leaves office, reports Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital.

HO CO COUNCIL CAMPAIGN COMPLAINT: Kevin Forrest Schmidt, the Republican candidate for the Howard County Council’s first district seat, has filed a formal campaign finance complaint against opponent Jon Weinstein, arguing that a contributor’s donations “[violate] our community’s emphasis on free and equal speech and the spirit of the law,” reports Amanda Yeager in the Sun.

  • MTA000

    the maryland sales tax is not new. very basic thing to get wrong.

    • lenlazarick

      Their new on Amazon purchases which is the basic point of the story. Readers need to click through to the entire story, and not rely on summary in roundup.

      • MTA000

        no. the sales tax has always applied to amazon purchases.

        • lenlazarick

          Amazon has not collected it. Now they will. You mean the “use” tax that people generally don’t pay when they buy something out of state?

          • MTA000

            “Amazon has not collected it. Now they will.”

            the actual story is so much less exciting when you write about it truthfully. probably why you invented a story about a new tax.