November 17, 2014

State Roundup, November 17, 2014

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FILM TAX CREDIT: A tax credit used to reward “House of Cards” and other productions for filming in Maryland costs taxpayers far more than they get in return and should be scrapped, according to a new report to the General Assembly. John Wagner reports in the Post that the report, drafted by non­partisan legislative staff, is likely to rekindle a debate that played out in dramatic fashion during this year’s legislative session over how much public assistance state officials should offer to entice the popular Netflix series about a scheming politician.

TESTING DEBATE: Liz Bowie of the Sun reports that even as public school systems in Maryland and other states prepare to give longer and more challenging standardized tests this spring, a national debate has erupted over just how many hours students should be tested in a year.

STREAM RESTORATION: Timothy Wheeler of the Sun reports that the debate over the merits of stream restoration has taken on significance as such projects have become a favored tool of local governments in the Baltimore area as they work to meet tough federal mandates to reduce sediment and nutrient pollution fouling the bay and its tributaries.

CHURCHES ON GREEN BANDWAGON: After months of negotiation with Prince George’s County environmental director Adam Ortiz, local pastors emerged with a rebate deal that will significantly cut stormwater fees if churches adopt programs and equipment that will curb runoff, lessen pollution and help bolster the environment, such as installing rain barrels, building rain gardens, planting trees and, perhaps, replacing blacktop with permeable pavement. Arelis Hernandez writes the story for the Post.

POT LEGISLATION: State legislators will head to Annapolis Jan. 14 and soon after will likely consider a number of bills related to marijuana policy in Maryland. Those topics are likely to include a possible revision of marijuana decriminalization laws as they relate to paraphernalia; making it illegal to smoke marijuana in public; and the legalization of the drug — commonly referred to as regulation and taxation — similar to what has happened in Colorado and Washington state, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

TRANSIT LINE TROUBLE: For many years, the Arlington, Va., area has planned to build transit lines, particularly the Columbia Pike streetcar and Maryland’s Purple Line, to promote economic development without worsening traffic congestion. Now both projects are endangered. In Maryland, voters elected a new governor, Larry Hogan (R), who thinks the state can’t afford the Purple Line, writes Robert McCartney in a column for the Post. He speaks with business owners in the area.

DELANEY ON W.MD: Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that U.S. Congressman John Delaney is putting together a plan for Western Maryland that he would like to see area lawmakers focus on during the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis, which begins Jan. 14.

TAX CUTTING: In Anne Arundel County, the property tax is on the chopping block. In Howard and Harford counties, the stormwater management fee — derided as the “rain tax” — is being targeted. Even in cash-strapped Baltimore — where a Republican hasn’t been mayor since the 1960s — a new mayoral task force is studying possible tax cuts. Luke Broadwater for the Sun writes that in the aftermath of Republican Larry Hogan’s victory in the governor’s race on an anti-tax message, fiscally conservative politicians from both parties see a carpe diem moment.

  • Opinionator Barry Rascovar, writing in MarylandReporter.com, says that the outlook for the Maryland state government Larry Hogan starts running in January is grim: A sea of red ink far into the future. Forget about major tax cuts or other campaign promises. That was a hope more than a firm commitment, and Hogan said as much to voters. His first priority then and now: getting Maryland’s financial house in order.

GROUP HOME VIOLATIONS: Maryland health regulators say they found serious violations at the group home for disabled foster children where a 10-year-old Baltimore boy died in July — including conflicting records on his care, and miscommunication between staff and the emergency responders and medical personnel who labored to save him — but nothing that contributed to his death, reports Doug Donovan in the Sun.

LESS CLOUT IN CONGRESS: Republican gains in the midterm elections mean Maryland’s Democrat-heavy congressional delegation will have far less clout when lawmakers gavel in a new Congress next year, casting doubt on prospects for a long list of state priorities from federal employee pay to environmental regulations that could affect the Chesapeake Bay, reports John Fritze in the Sun.

HOGAN’S BUSINESS: In addition to the people’s business, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan still has decisions to make regarding his personal business — whether he’ll move into the governor’s mansion, is he selling his house, what will he do with his business? David Collins reports the story for WBAL-TV.

NYTIMES ON HOGAN: Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times profiles Larry Hogan and his victory in the race for governor in a very blue Maryland. While there is nothing new here to all you Maryland Political hands, it’s interesting to see how others view the state.

THE REAL HOGAN: The editorial board for the Gazette opines that you can almost hear the tooth-gnashing and hand-wringing of Montgomery County’s largely Democratic electorate at the thought of a Republican occupying Government House in January. Gov.-elect Larry Hogan is anathema to county Democrats: A Republican hell-bent on cutting taxes, which will mean less government revenue, and by definition, fewer government services. But such consternation is premature. Yes, he wants to cut taxes, but there’s no sign Hogan is a tea party conservative straight out of Central Casting, who wants to shut down government.

HOGAN AGENDA: Katie Jones and Keith Meisel of Patuxent Publishing report that Republican incumbent state Sen. Joe Getty believes that transportation and taxes will be on the top of the agenda for Larry Hogan. And he also believes that Carroll County is in a good position with the new administration.

CABINET RUMORS: “Rumors, rumors, rumors” was the comment offered by Sen. George Edwards to reports, and rumors, not necessarily in that order, that he has been offered a Cabinet spot in the incoming administration of Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan. Edwards said Friday he has not talked to the governor-elect nor received correspondence from Hogan or his staff, according to the Cumberland Times-News.

GAY GROUP HONORS O’MALLEY: As his tenure winds down, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) was being honored Sunday by Equality Maryland, the state’s largest gay rights lobby, for his work on legalizing same-sex marriage and other causes championed by the group, writes John Wagner for the Post.

STEPHEN STILLS PLAYS O’MALLEY EVENT: As he ponders a 2016 presidential bid, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is continuing to raise money for his political action committee, including at an event in Baltimore County this week featuring music by rocker Stephen Stills, writes John Wagner in the Post.

NADER WANTS O’MALLEY TO RUN: Famed consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who’s run for president a few times himself, would like to see Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) make a bid for the 2016 Democratic nomination, writes John Wagner in the Post. During an appearance on Fox News Talk Radio, Nader said “it’s very bad for the Democratic Party to start a coronation of Hillary Clinton.”

ETHICS LETTER QUESTIONED: Wiley Hayes of the Carroll County Times reports on an oddly phrased letter from the Ethics Commission administrator to the several members of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee following the Nov. 4th election, in which he wrote in the subject line: “Upcoming Dennis Frazier situation – Let the games begin!”

REPEAL SUGARY DRINK BAN: Howard County Executive-elect Allan Kittleman said Friday that he plans to repeal a ban on sugary drinks and high-calorie snacks on county property as soon as he takes office. “It will not exist,” Kittleman said of the ban. “If I can [repeal] it on Dec. 2, I will.” The Republican, currently a state senator from western Howard County, will be sworn in on the evening of Dec. 1, reports Amanda Yeager for the Howard County Times.

NEUMAN, HUSBAND RENEW VOWS: Tim Prudente of the Annapolis Capital reports that the young girl in the blue dress stepped to the church lectern. She spoke loud and fast before her parents. “I am so happy Laura A. Neuman and Paul D. Volkman got back together. There were ups and downs, but more ups.” Avery Grace Volkman, age 8, then shared marriage advice. “For all the men out there, happy wife — happy life.” The county executive and her husband of 10 years renewed their wedding vows.