December 8, 2014

State Roundup, December 8, 2014

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HEROIN EMERGENCY: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan said he plans to declare a state of emergency regarding Maryland’s struggles with heroin addiction and create a task force to figure out why the number of overdoses has steadily increased, reports Jenna Johnson for the Post.  Lt. Gov.-elect Boyd Rutherford will oversee the efforts. “Every state on the East Coast has declared a state of emergency except Maryland — and Maryland has the worst problem,” Hogan told reporters Saturday morning.

HOGAN ON FILM TAX CREDIT? Has Gov.-elect Larry Hogan tipped his hand on whether to scrap a tax break for production companies that film in Maryland? John Wagner of the Post reports that an editorial from the Diamondback student newspaper at the University of Maryland that calls on the state to terminate the tax break was posted Friday on the “Change Maryland” Facebook page maintained by Hogan’s campaign staff.

REWRITING RAIN TAX: When political historians seek to disentangle the legacy of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s eight years in office and describe the low-water mark where voters finally had enough of the legislature’s imperious we-know-better-than-you attitude, they’d be well advised to consider a chapter on the 2012 “rain tax,” opines the editorial board for the Frederick News Post.

SLOW SPENDING: State agencies have been asked to reduce spending as legislators and a new governor face the challenge of dealing with a projected budget shortfall of nearly $300 million, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin J. O’Malley, said the “Department of Budget and Management has advised agencies to slow spending in order to help resolve the anticipated shortfall in the current fiscal year.”Legislators were told last month that the state faces a shortfall of nearly $300 million in the current budget year and a projected shortfall of $600 million.

  • Senate President Mike Miller said last week that a massive rollback of state taxes and fees is not likely. WYPR’s Fraser Smith and Bryan Sears of the Daily Record talk about what kind of relationship the Calvert County Democrat may have with Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and why a bigger question might be how the House of Delegates might react to proposed compromises.
  • In an op-ed for the Sun,  Donald  Kettl, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, writes that solving Maryland’s budget picture depends on building jobs through stronger economic growth that shifts Maryland away from the unpredictable roller coaster of the federal budget and toward growing the high-growth, high-wage jobs that are most in demand. Here, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has a strong hand to play. According to recent studies by the Census Bureau and the Brookings Institution, the region is second in the country in jobs that require STEM skills — science, technology, engineering and math — after San Jose.

STATE CENTER BOONDOGGLE: As Gov. Martin O’Malley winds down his second and final term as Maryland chief executive, he owes it to his successor — and to his legacy — not to push for approval of a new plan for developing State Center in mid-town Baltimore. It’s a boondoggle in both its current form and in its amended form, opines Barry Rascovar in MarylandReporter.com.

PRETRIAL ISSUES: Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Commission to Reform Maryland’s Pretrial System is expected to urge lawmakers this week to provide about $30 million to the Office of the Maryland Public Defender so it can replace the Judiciary’s  attorney-representation program and provide counsel at the 177,000 initial bail hearings annually before district court commissioners. The panel is also expected to urge the General Assembly to permit testing of a computerized risk assessment program to assist — and perhaps replace — commissioners in deciding whether to release or remand to custody a criminal defendant prior to trial.

PROCUREMENT BUDDIES: When Maryland voters elected Republican Larry Hogan governor last month they may not have realized they were also offering a glimmer of hope to the state’s Democratic comptroller on one particular issue — state procurement, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Comptroller Peter Franchot, at numerous times since being elected in 2006, has railed against the procurement system as a member of the Board of Public Works, a three-member panel that includes Gov. Martin  O’Malley and state Treasurer Nancy Kopp. The board, among other duties, approves contracts with state agencies.

ZIRKIN’S NEW ROLE: The editorial board of the Sun looks at the reasons why Sen. Bobby Zirkin was named to head the Judicial Proceeding Committee by Senate President Mike Miller instead of Sen. Jamie Raskin and addresses the money issue and campaign financing.

BOOSTING THE GOP: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan promised rank-and-file Republicans reveling in election wins this year that, his calls for bipartisanship notwithstanding, he plans to expand the state’s GOP during the next four years, reports Erin Cox in the Sun. “Obviously, to get things done here in Maryland, you have to reach across the aisle,” Hogan told a packed ballroom at the Maryland Republican Party Convention in Ellicott City on Saturday. But, he added, “don’t hesitate for a minute to think that I’m going to work side by side with you, as hard as I can, to try to help continue to build the Maryland Republican Party.”

  • Little more than a year ago, Maryland Republicans were in trouble. The party was in debt. Its leaders in the legislature had resigned or been pushed out, and its third executive director in as many years abruptly quit, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. Finger-pointing abounded as the GOP’s conservative wing wrestled with mainstream members. But as state Republicans gathered for their convention this past weekend, the party stands in its strongest position in decades.
  • John Wagner of the Post writes that the message at Saturday’s convention of the long-suffering Maryland Republican Party was not at all subtle. “WE’RE BACK!” screamed a large banner that hung behind the podium. The same phrase was emblazoned on T-shirts, bumper stickers and the cover of the program at a gathering where the delegates had plenty to celebrate — most notably Larry Hogan’s stunning victory in last month’s governor’s race.
Waterman were back

Diana Waterman was reelected chair of the Maryland Republican Party on Saturday, following the party’s victories Nov. 4.

HOGAN, OBAMA MEET: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan said Friday that his White House meeting with President Barack Obama along with six other newly elected governors had been a “very productive dialogue.” Speaking just outside the West Wing after meeting with the president for about 45 minutes, Hogan said he was very impressed with the administration team that took part in the daylong session with a bipartisan group that won statehouse races Nov. 4, reports Michael Dresser and John Fritze in the Sun.

HOGAN TOURS NEW HOME: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan got a glimpse Saturday of the Annapolis mansion that he will call home for at least the next four years. Hogan and members of his family were given a tour of Government House, the official residence of Maryland’s governors since 1870, by outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley  and members of his family, writes John Wagner for the Post. Afterward, they walked over to the State House to look at the suite of offices the governor and his staff occupy there, according to Hogan aides.

CONFUCIUS INSTITUTES: A U.S.House subcommittee is investigating whether academic freedom is being threatened at universities that are building campuses in China and partnering with the Chinese on “Confucius institutes” in the U.S, including the universities of Delaware and Maryland, reports Nicole Gaudiano of USA Today in the Salisbury Daily Times.

BEN CARSON’S RUN: Ben Carson had a modest plan in mind last year when he retired from Johns Hopkins Hospital after a celebrated, decades-long career in neurosurgery: He wanted to improve his golf game and learn to play the organ. But, writes John Fritze for the Sun, the 63-year-old has been too busy crisscrossing the country, raising money and elevating his profile to pursue his golf swing or his love for Bach. Nearly two years after he burst unexpectedly onto the national political scene, Carson is sending every signal that he’s interested in adding a presidential campaign to his bucket list.

SCHUH TACKLES ARUNDEL BUDGET: Steve Schuh shuts his eyes tightly and puts a hand on his forehead. A county budget overview sits in his lap. He’s talking money — crunching millions by memory. Schuh is in his third day as Anne Arundel County executive, and Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital writes about Schuh’s campaign promises, the challenges within the county budget and how the new county executive will address the challenges.

ANNAPOLIS PUBLIC WORKS: Jack Lambert of the Annapolis Capital is reporting that the city of Annapolis is considering buying  the former headquarters of Capital Gazette Communications and the Capital newspaper. The building could provide offices for city staff now working outside City Hall, including the Department of Public Works, which operates out of buildings on Spa Road. For fiscal 2015, Annapolis allocated about $4.4 million for construction at the condemned Public Works building at  Spa Road.  House Speaker Michael Busch of Annapolis said he does not want the city rebuilding the Public Works structure on Spa Road. Busch believes the land would be better used for homes.