December 5, 2014

State Roundup, December 5, 2014

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MORE ON STATE CENTER: The Sun’s Michael Dresser also had a full blown account of the state debt and spending issues over the $1.5 billion State Center redevelopment project in Baltimore City. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration is expected to ask the Board of Public Works to approve the proposed changes in the state’s master agreement with the developer at the Dec. 17 meeting. But legislative analysts say the proposal would cost the cash-strapped state more and may violate state borrowing limits. And a key lawmaker is questioning whether it is appropriate for officials to act just weeks before Gov.-elect Larry Hogan takes office in January.

TUBMAN PARKS NEAR REALITY: A long-standing bipartisan effort to create a national park in Maryland and New York to honor abolitionist Harriet Tubman appears to be on the verge of congressional approval after it was tucked into a must-pass defense bill, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Language to create the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Parks was included in an $850 billion Pentagon bill approved Thursday by the House of Representatives.

  • The U.S. Senate is expected to vote its approval today, according to a representative of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski. The official designation of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park is expected to be approved as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, according to the Easton Star Democrat.

CURTAINS FOR FILM TAX CREDITS? Maryland’s film tax credits, enjoyed by local television productions like ‘House of Cards,’ was called “significantly more generous than other business tax incentives” by an analyst at the Department of Legislative Services. WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Erin Cox of the Baltimore Sun talk about the debate over the tax credits and why Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has not indicated whether he’ll work  to end or reduce them.

SCRAPPING THE RAIN TAX: GOP lawmakers from Frederick County are celebrating news that Maryland’s soon-to-be governor aims to scrap the stormwater fee requirement as one of his first orders of business, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.

BASU ON TRANSITION: Anirban Basu knows what he’d like to do as a member of  Gov.-elect Larry Hogan’s transition team: help put the state’s books in order and make it more attractive to businesses, Rick Seltzer writes in the Baltimore Business Journal.

SHANK ON TRANSITION: Washington County state Sen. Christopher Shank will be spending the weeks before the start of the Maryland General Assembly session next month as a member of Gov.-elect Larry Hogan’s transition team, focused on departments that deal with criminal-justice issues, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

HOGAN, FRANCHOT GO SHOPPING: Republican Larry Hogan has made outreach to Democrats a key part of his transition to becoming governor next month. The let’s-all-along style reaches a new level on Monday, when Hogan goes shopping with Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot in Easton and Cambridge. Patronizing local merchants and recognizing Maryland-owned business has been a major emphasis for Franchot, who collects the state’s 6% sales tax and all the dozens of other taxes Hogan railed against during the campaign, Len Lazarick writes in MarylandReporter.com.

Legislators by district photos

Here is a poster of the incoming Maryland General Assembly prepared for the freshmen orientation. Click on it, and it should display large enough to read the names.

GOP LOBBYISTS FIND JOBS IN ANNAPOLIS: One of the top lobbying firms in Maryland on Thursday announced the hiring of John Reith, a longtime Republican strategist who served as finance director for former Gov. Bob. Ehrlich (R) in all three of his campaigns, reports the Post’s John Wagner. Several other lobbying shops operating in the capital have recently touted new hires of Republican members or partnerships with firms that already employ people close to governor-elect Larry Hogan (R) and his team.

INJURY AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE: Ben Weathers of the Annapolis Capital reports that a woman in her 50s was taken by ambulance to a Baltimore hospital Thursday night after falling down steps at Government House, the governor’s mansion on State Circle, the Annapolis Fire Department said.

O’MALLEY PAC BRINGS IN CASH: Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who continues to eye a 2016 White House bid, on Thursday reported raising $581,550 for his political action committee during a roughly seven-week stretch. The O’ Say Can You See PAC said it had $938,190 in the bank, as of Nov. 24, in a pair of accounts that O’Malley maintains, writes John Wagner for the Post.

GOP SWEEP IN BALTIMORE COUNTY: In a commentary for MarylandReporter.com, longtime observer and perennial candidate Blaine Taylor writes about why Republicans carried Eastern Baltimore County and speculates on future candidates for county executive and governor.

EHRLICH WON’T RUN, RIGHT? Political prognosticator Fraser Smith continues his speculation on whether former Gov. Bob Ehrlich will run for president, saying, this time in the Daily Record: He won’t do it. You read it here first. …. Ehrlich is having fun — with us and with himself, right? He’s made a couple of trips to New Hampshire. People are polite to him. The group he meets with likes his message: loves the Constitution, hates Obamacare, hails the tea party.

HOWARD SWEET DRINK BAN OVERTURNED: Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has officially overturned a ban on the sale of sugary drinks and high-calorie snacks on county property and at events sponsored by the county, reports Amanda Yeager in the Howard County Times. Kittleman said the ban, signed into law by former Howard executive Ken Ulman with a 2012 executive order, “clearly overstepped” an “appropriate role” for government.

POT REFORMERS HONOR KITTLEMAN: A national organization advocating marijuana policy reform will recognize Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s support of decriminalization in Maryland in an awards ceremony today, reports Amanda Yeager for the Howard County Times. The award is a gesture of thanks from the Marijuana Policy Project, the largest organization of its kind according to its website, to several of the state’s Republican lawmakers who supported decriminalization in Annapolis last session.

KITTLEMAN REPLACES EXEC STAFF: With the installation of Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman earlier this week comes news of turnover among executive branch staff.  Wednesday evening, the county’s new press secretary, Andy Barth, confirmed the departure of several department heads, among others, reports Amanda Yeager for the Howard County Times.

ARUNDEL DELEGATES HEAR CONSTITUENTS:  The Anne Arundel County delegation held its legislative priorities forum Thursday night at the Joint Hearing Room in the Legislative Services Building in downtown Annapolis. Groups and residents had up to five minutes each to present their case to lawmakers. The Annapolis Capital runs a short photo gallery by Matthew Cole of the presenters and their issues.

SILVER SPRING TRANSIT CENTER COSTS: Repairs to the Silver Spring Transit Center will require another $21 million, Montgomery County officials said Thursday, bringing the cost of the beleaguered project — now four years behind schedule — to $141 million, more than $50 million over original estimates, reports Bill Turque in the Post.

MO CO UNION, GANSLER SETTLE: The Montgomery County teacher’s union reached a settlement Thursday with the campaign of former gubernatorial candidate Doug Gansler, ending a lawsuit over what the union said was deceitful apple-shaped literature distributed at the polls in the June primary, the Washington Post reports.

CONAWAY SR. BECOMES A REPUBLICAN: Baltimore City’s longtime Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway Sr. on Thursday announced he was switching parties to become the city’s first Republican to hold office since the 1960s, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

PG LEADER LOOKS TO ANNAPOLIS: The Prince George’s County Council has decided to retain the leadership, and that leadership is looking to the state legislature to hold on to recent gains, reports Jamie Anfenson-Comeau for the Gazette.  “We’ve got to protect some important priorities in Annapolis,” said Councilman Mel Franklin of Upper Marlboro, who was re-elected to a second consecutive term as the council’s chairman.

WICOMICO BUDGET CUTS: Six hours after being sworn into office, Wicomico County’s newly minted executive began a new era of fiscal conservatism. County Executive Bob Culver cut more than $4 million from the county’s capital improvement plan at Tuesday’s county council meeting, according to an AP report in the Daily Record. The cuts include a $1.25 million bond to replace a crumbling elementary school and $1 million to renovate a youth center.

BARNES REMEMBERED: Those who knew Jerry Barnes remember him as a tireless prosecutor, a willing mentor and a devoted friend, and they hope the legacy he leaves behind after 20 years as Carroll County’s state’s attorney will not be overshadowed by the manner of his death. Barnes, 66, died Saturday at Carroll Hospital Center after suffering a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his home, reports Heather Coburn for the Carroll County Times.The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner declared Barnes’ manner of death as suicide.