December 11, 2014

State Roundup, December 11, 2014

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RE-ENROLLMENT:  Jenna Johnson of the Post is reporting that Marylanders who are receiving government assistance to pay for health insurance made possible by the Affordable Care Act have until Dec. 18 to re-enroll or risk losing that financial assistance next year. With eight days to go, only a quarter of those required to re-enroll have done so, said Carolyn  Quattrocki, executive director of Maryland’s health insurance exchange.

PURPLE LINE FUNDING: The $1.01 trillion federal spending bill that congressional leaders unveiled Tuesday night includes $100 million to build a light-rail Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs, Sen. Barbara Mikulski said Wednesday. Katherine Shaver reports the story for the Post.

TACKLING FISCAL CRISIS: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and his top fiscal advisor, Bobby Neall, are scheduled to meet with reporters Thursday afternoon, “outlining the status of the state’s current fiscal crisis.” Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com offers an analysis of what solutions could be addressed as Hogan begins to tackle this difficult situation.

NARCAN & THE HEROIN CRISIS: The Sun editorial board opines that the announcement by state officials Tuesday that 140 Maryland pharmacies will begin stocking a medication that can reverse the effects of heroin overdoses comes at a time when deaths from abuse of the drug are rising throughout the state. Making the overdose antidote Narcan more widely available could help save the lives of hundreds people addicted to opiates and help steer them into treatment and recovery programs. That should be the goal of the new administration that takes office in January, and they’re encouraged that Gov.-elect Larry Hogan reiterated his view this week that the upsurge in overdose deaths is an urgent statewide problem that demands a statewide response.

FROSH, HOGAN TO CLASH? Next month brings Maryland a new chief executive and a new top lawyer who differ sharply on important issues — particularly how to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. They’ve also clashed personally in the past. Timothy Wheeler of the Sun reports that as they prepare to meet Friday, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and Attorney General-elect Brian Frosh both say they want to turn the page and work together. But the two men could find themselves at odds.

FRANCHOT AGAINST STATE CENTER: State Comptroller Peter Franchot made it clear Wednesday he will vote against the State Center project in midtown Baltimore given the chance next week, writes Rick Seltzer for the Baltimore Business Journal.  State Center developer Caroline Moore is seeking permission from the state to reduce the size of the project’s parking garage from 980 spaces to 580 due to rising construction costs. That will require approval by the state Board of Public Works, which has scheduled a vote for Dec. 17.

Hogan Williams Getty

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan introduces his new chief of staff, Craig Williams, and his legislative director, Sen. Joe Getty.

HOGAN’S FIRST HIRES: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan on Wednesday announced the first hires of his fledgling administration, including Craig Williams, a former senior aide to the state’s last Republican governor, as his chief of staff. Hogan also tapped Sen. Joseph Getty  as his top legislative lobbyist, John Wagner writes for the Post.

FRANCHOT’S POLITICAL THEATER: Comptroller Peter Franchot has a finely tuned political ear – and little regard for political correctness, writes Fraser Smith in a commentary for WYPR-FM. This year, Franchot sounded like an orthodox Republican as he ran for re-election. His 63% victory led all tickets. And now he’s trumpeting a shopping trip with Gov.-elect Larry Hogan as bipartisanship. It will likely help smooth action on the Board of Public Works, but will it help Franchot should he decide to run for governor?

HARRIS FIGHTS D.C. POT LAW: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris re-emerged Wednesday as a leading opponent of legalizing marijuana after lawmakers included a provision in the $1 trillion federal funding bill that appeared to block the District of Columbia from loosening its pot laws. The controversial addition, which took D.C. officials and legalization advocates by surprise, also served to solidify the conservative Republican’s position as a top target of Washingtonians who believe Congress is meddling in the affairs of the nation’s capital — and ignoring the will of its voters, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

GARDNER CAUTIOUS ON DEFENDING AGREEMENT: The new Frederick County executive says she instructed legal staff not to appear for a recent court hearing over a contested agreement between the county and the developers of an 1,100-home project in Monrovia, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. County Executive Jan Gardner said the Dec. 3 court date on the Landsdale project came a couple of days after her inauguration, and she asked county attorneys not to attend because she needed time to “develop a thoughtful and complete policy on this case and others.”

WICOMICO PIO NIXED: Public Information Officer Tamara Lee-Brooks’ county cellphone is now disconnected, reports Phil Davis for the Salisbury Daily Times. Newly elected Republican Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver confirmed the county will no longer retain a dedicated press secretary to handle media requests. Lee-Brooks had handled media relations for Wicomico since 2012. Lee-Brooks is the latest county casualty to fall outside of Culver’s tightened budget.

NEW MO CO POLITICAL LEADERS: The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee and the county’s House delegation in Annapolis – two entities that have had an uneasy relationship with each other as of late – have both chosen new leaders in the past couple of days. Del. Shane Robinson was unanimously chosen to chair the county’s 24-member, all-Democratic House delegation. Former Washington Grove Mayor Darrell Anderson was chosen chair of the Central Committee by acclamation. Louis Peck reports on the changes for Bethesda Magazine.