December 15, 2014

State Roundup, December 15, 2014

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HOGAN EXTENDS HAND TO MONTGOMERY: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, in his first high-profile appearance in Montgomery County since his upset victory five weeks ago, Friday appealed for support from the county’s political and business leadership – often with a dash of humor, writes Louis Peck for Bethesda Magazine.

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: Something old, something new, something borrowed, something green. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that the fresh crop of legislators — more than a third of the 188 senators and delegates will be new to their positions — will debate environmental issues that preceded many of them, in addition to incoming Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Over 50 newly elected members of the Maryland General Assembly took a three-day bus tour of the state last week. They posed for a group photo at Baltimore's Shock Trauma facility. Many of them are identified in this photo from the Facebook page of Sen.-elect Cheryl Kagan (bottom row, far left)

Over 50 newly elected members of the Maryland General Assembly took a three-day bus tour of the state last week. They posed for a group photo at Baltimore’s Shock Trauma facility. Many of them are identified in this photo from the Facebook page of Sen.-elect Cheryl Kagan (bottom row, far left)

FRACKING’S FUTURE: The O’Malley administration has moved ahead with regulations intended to ensure safe drilling for natural gas in western Maryland. But it will be up to Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, though, whether they get imposed, writes Tim Wheeler in the Sun. On Thursday night, the Department of the Environment forwarded its 43-page proposal for new conditions on drilling to a legislative committee that reviews regulations. The move comes less than a week after an advisory commission took public comment on an extensive set of safeguards it recommended before gas exploration and extraction is allowed again.

FIXING THE HOLE: If Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R) has a secret plan to be flexible and compromise with Democrats over taxes and spending when he takes office next month, he’s doing an excellent job of hiding it, writes Robert McCartney in a column for the Post. In public comments last week and in an interview with me, Hogan stuck to the same hard line on the need to shrink government, the position that carried him to an upset victory in the November election.

GAME OF CHICKEN: Jenna Johnson of the Post reports that when Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) hits his last few days in office next month, he plans to enact dramatic new regulations for farmers who use chicken droppings to fertilize their fields. The move could further bolster O’Malley’s environmental résumé ahead of a possible run for president. But it is also likely to collide with the incoming governor, Republican Larry Hogan, who has promised to fight what he described as “politically motivated, midnight-hour” regulations.

FISH TRACKING APP: Yevgeniy Trapeznikoff of the Capital News Service reports in the Daily Record that a new website and smartphone app, on which a group of Maryland-area recreational anglers worked for months, is expected to enhance the quality of a federally run program that tracks and helps manage recreational fisheries.

BROWN GETS UNUSUAL LOAN: “Martin Watcher” of the Dagger writes that in the late days of the campaign for governor, Lt. Gov.  Anthony Brown’s campaign was desperate for money, so desperate he took a $500,000 loan from a labor union so that he could make payroll. But he also had another surprising donor: Republican Harford County Executive candidate Barry Glassman. The money didn’t come directly from Glassman. Instead, it came from a political action committee ostensibly controlled by the now county executive and his political team. The treasurer for the campaign is the same treasurer as Billy Boniface’s campaign and the campaign chairman of the Harford Leadership slate.

HARRY HUGHES REFLECTS: Max Bennett of the Capital News Service interviews former Gov. Harry Hughes, now 88 and retired from politics, in his home in Denton on the shores of the Choptank River. Hughes talks about the recent election — no surprise to him that Larry Hogan won — and his late wife Patricia who pushed him to attend law school. The story appears in the Salisbury Daily Times.

O’MALLEY WATCH: In a Washington Post article about Hillary Clinton’s likely run for president and her potential opponents, Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake downgrade the prospects for Gov. Martin O’Malley. They say, “O’Malley seems one of the most likely big-name politicians to run, but he’s hardly looking strong these days.”

HARRIS THE WEED-WACKER: Last month, voters in the District of Columbia approved a referendum that allowed residents to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and grow as many as three cannabis plants. But U.S. Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland has continued his opposition to pot legalization in the nation’s capital. WYPR’s Fraser Smith talks to Washington Post reporter Aaron Davis about efforts by Harris to block legalization in D.C. and why the issue is likely to end up in court.

RURAL COALITION PICKS PREZ: The Maryland Rural Counties Coalition has elected Douglas Howard, president of the Carroll County Board of County Commissioners, as its new chairman. Washington County and 10 other counties are part of the coalition. That’s among a few items by Kaustuv Basu in his Political Notebook for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

TRICKLE DOWN DEFICIT: The newly elected Frederick County Council was quick to bring up budget security during the first public hearing held by the county’s delegation to the 2015 General Assembly, reports Jeremy Arias for the Frederick News Post. County Executive Jan Gardner took the lectern first at Saturday’s hearing in Winchester Hall to express the county’s concern that a $300 million deficit inherited by the state — coupled with a projected $600 million deficit predicted for fiscal 2016 — will trickle down to county and municipal levels. Based on Gardner’s calculations, the county is already facing a $3.4 million deficit of its own heading into fiscal 2016.

BA CO HIRED FLA. LAWYER: Baltimore County shelled out as much as $42,000 for a $350-an-hour Florida lawyer to appeal a long-running pension dispute to the Supreme Court. It lost, and now the county may be on the hook for millions of dollars, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. While Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Democrat from Reisterstown, said she thought hiring outside lawyers was a good idea at the time, “now I’m not so sure it was the right thing to do.”

PRAYERS FOR CARROLL: The Carroll County Commissioners have voted to continue a disputed policy allowing members to open their meetings with sectarian prayers, according to an AP report in the Daily Record. Thursday’s 3-2 decision leaves it to the courts to decide whether the practice violates the First Amendment’s prohibition on state-sponsored religion.

KEEP CHRISTMAS IN CALENDAR: The father-daughter combo of Sen. Bryan and Del.-elect Meagan Simonaire have put together their first joint announcement on legislation, reports Chase Cook in the Capital. Their proposed Christmas Protection Act of 2015 would require local jurisdictions that want to rebrand or remove the Christmas holiday from school calendars to bring that decision before the state.

HARFORD ROOM TAX PROPOSED: Harford County Executive Barry Glassman introduced bills Tuesday night that would repeal the 18-month-old stormwater fee and add a hotel occupancy tax that would levy 6% of the rent paid, for stays of up to 30 consecutive days, in an inn, motel, cottage, hostel, rooming house, guest house, bed-and-breakfast or tourist home, Bryna Zumer reports in the Aegis.

HARFORD SHERIFF DEFENDS HIRE: Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler on Wednesday defended the appointment of a key aide to disgraced former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold as his top legislative and community outreach employee. Aaron Cahall of the Dagger writes that Gahler on Tuesday announced the appointment of Erik Robey, Leopold’s former chief of staff, as community and legislation liaison. In that role, Gahler said Robey will be his primary link to Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and the Harford County Council and advance the sheriff’s legislative agenda, as well as spearhead the agency’s community outreach efforts.

HYATTSVILLE COULD LOWER VOTING AGE: Hyattsville is considering a charter amendment that would lower the voting age to 16 as part of its effort to encourage more voter participation, reports Arelis Hernández for the Post. If adopted, the Prince George’s County city — home to 18,000 people less than a mile from the District of Columbia border — will follow Takoma Park in neighboring Montgomery County as the second municipal government in the nation to extend voting rights to minors.

***EDUCATION CONFERENCE LIVE STREAMED TODAY: In advance of the legislative session, on Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. education leaders will hold a discussion of the policies, issues, and challenges that face public education in Maryland. Sponsored by the Maryland State Education Association, panels will focus on school funding, Common Core, the role of teachers, and connecting K-12 to higher ed and business. The entire session is live streamed here and will also be archived here an hour after each session. At 10:30 a.m. Maryland Reporter editor Len Lazarick moderates a panel of legislators that includes Sens. Richard Madaleno and Paul Pinsky, Dels. John Bohanan and Anne Kaiser.***