January 21, 2015

State Roundup, January 21, 2015

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INAUGURATION DAY: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan will be introduced at Wednesday’s inauguration by another blue-state Republican governor — New Jersey’s Chris Christie, whose enthusiastic embrace of Hogan during the campaign helped propel his underdog victory, write Robert Costa and Jenna Johnson for the Post.

State House with Thurgood Marshall

The statue of a young Thurgood Marshall looks on as 1,600 empty seats await the swearing in of Larry Hogan.

 

JUST A REGULAR GUY: How the heck did this happen? At noon, a 58-year-old real estate developer with no previous experience in elected office, a bit of a paunch and a lifelong involvement in Republican politics will be sworn in as Maryland’s governor. To get there, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com, he had to beat a younger, leaner Democrat with two Harvard degrees, 30 years of military service including a stint in Iraq, 16 years in elected office, five times as much money, and the backing of the entire Democratic establishment, including his chief patron, the current governor getting ready to run for president.

WHAT’S IN, WHAT’S OUT: Here is John Wagner and Jenna Johnson’s take on what will be in and out with a new administration in town. In? A kimchi refrigerator, of course. Out? Celtic rock. You can add to the list by posting in the comments section.

TACKLING PENSION SYSTEM: Carrie Wells of the Sun reports that as Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and his team begin tackling the state’s budget, they will soon turn their attention to one of its most pernicious challenges: Maryland’s underfunded employee pension system.The $45.4 billion system, which provides monthly benefits to about 143,000 retired teachers, state police, judges and other former employees, is expected to gobble up a growing share of the state’s budget in the coming years.

PURSUE THE RED LINE: James Smith, the outgoing transportation secretary, in an op-ed for the Sun, defends state plans for the Red Line writing that the Red Line is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will generate thousands of jobs, spur economic development throughout the Baltimore Metropolitan Region and create an integrated transit system that will better connect people to jobs, schools, businesses and Baltimore’s ever-growing entertainment venues.

DEATH ROW COMMUTATIONS: Acting on the last full day of his tenure, outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley on Tuesday formally commuted the sentences of Maryland’s four remaining death-row inmates to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

PAROLE DECISIONS: State legislators from Baltimore City will introduce a bill to take parole decisions away from the governor, saying Maryland chief executives from both parties have bowed to political pressure and gone 20 years without adopting any Parole Commission recommendation to release a prisoner sentenced to life in prison, the Daily Record’s Steve Lash is reporting.

CASINOS SEEK MORE TABLE GAMES: The state’s two largest casinos — Maryland Live and Horseshoe Baltimore — each proposed eliminating 300 slot machines and adding additional table games, from which the casinos keep more of the revenue, reports Jeff Barker in the Sun. Maryland Live, which has 4,222 slots and 189 table games, recently submitted a request to the state to remove 300 machines and add at least 13 table games.

PAPER BALLOTS: Even with the technology available today, Maryland will go back to a paper-based voting system in 2016. The state Board of Public Works last month approved a $28.1 million contract to replace the current touch-screen voting system with machines that scan paper ballots, which can be marked by voters using a pencil or pen, CJ Lovelace reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

STORMWATER FEES: Baltimore County was the first jurisdiction to announce it planned to revamp its stormwater remediation fees system, but it isn’t the only jurisdiction looking to make adjustments, Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports. The executives in Harford and Anne Arundel counties expressed their intent to look at how the fees are collected and how businesses and residents are charged.

PHOSPHORUS REGS: Regulations on phosphorus output from Eastern Shore farms are set to go into effect next month, reports Phil Davis for the Salisbury Daily Times. The Maryland Department of Agriculture signed the “Notice of Final Action” for the Phosphorus Management Tool, which is meant to limit the amount of phosphorus that leaks into the Chesapeake Bay.

‘D’ FOR TOBACCO CONTROL: When it comes to learning how to control tobacco use, Maryland is far from getting straight As, reports Jon Kelvey for the Carroll County Times. In fact, according to a new State of Tobacco Control Report Card release by the American Lung Association on Wednesday Maryland earns a grade of D in tobacco taxation, a D in access to smoking cessation services and an F in funding tobacco prevention programs

O’MALLEY’S STABLE TAX LEGACY: The editorial board for the Sun writes about outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley’s legacy, saying that O’Malley will almost certainly be remembered for raising taxes. But consider this: Before O’Malley took office, according to the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, Marylanders paid 10.6% of per capita income in state and local taxes. According to the foundation’s most recent report, that figure now stands at … 10.6%.

BIBLE STUDY: Wrapping up Tuesday’s session in good spirit, or in this case under a good spirit, members of the House of Delegates were invited to attend a Bible study by Del. Andrew Serafini of Washington County, Rebecca Lessner writes in MarylandReporter.com.

DECLINE OF MEDIA COVERAGE: Center Maryland columnist Josh Kurtz talks about the alarming decline in the resources that Maryland’s mainstream media devotes to coverage of state legislative and political issues. He also highlights some online resources that are trying to fill in the gaps but fails to mention MarylandReporter.com. So we’ll just fill in that gap.