February 4, 2015

State Roundup, February 4, 2015

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SICK LEAVE PROPOSAL:  One of the most intense battles that business will fight in the Maryland legislature this year began Tuesday as the Senate Finance Committee took up Sen. Catherine Pugh’s bill to require many businesses to offer paid sick leave and many more to offer unpaid leave, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com.

PUGH ON HER LEADERSHIP: Sen. Catherine Pugh continues her conversation with Center Maryland, discussing her roles as Maryland’s Senate majority leader and president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. Pugh also describes some of her goals for this legislative session, including her plans to continue working across the aisle to make Maryland more business-friendly.

ED BUDGET OPPOSED: Maryland Democrats, demoralized by their party’s losses in November, have found a rallying cry: protect education spending, writes John Wagner in the Post.

Busch MSEA

House Speaker Michael Busch speaks at a press conference asking for increased education funding organized by the state teachers union. More than two dozen legislators attended.

SEEKING CONFIDENTIAL HELP: Those in abusive relationships seeking mental or physical treatment can request confidential communications with their health providers so that the abusers are unaware of it even if they share health insurance, according to a law passed last year in the General Assembly. Leaders are hoping to make people aware of the law so that people can seek help. WMDT reports on a legislative briefing.

LOCAL HIGHWAY FUNDS: Gov. Larry Hogan took a step toward keeping a campaign promise Tuesday as he found $25 million to switch into highway aid for local jurisdictions,. Doug Mayer, Hogan’s deputy communications director, said the money would come from a pool of cash that has not been otherwise allocated, the Sun reports.

RED & PURPLE LINES: The new secretary of transportation Pete Rahn told lawmakers Tuesday that he opposed suggested budget language that would tie his hands on shifting money from the proposed Red and Purple light rail lines without the approval of the legislature, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

TOBACCO TAX: Members of a Senate budget committee today will consider a bill that will increase taxes and related licensing fees on tobacco products by $95 million annually, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The bill is part of a promised effort to add $1 per pack of cigarettes to increase efforts to cut smoking in the state. The bill also seeks to increase fees related to Internet sales and increase most licensing fees by as much as 10 times the current rate.

CONOWINGO DAM: A bill in the Maryland Senate is urging Congress to act on the state of the Conowingo Dam so groups can address sediment accumulating at the dam, Phil Davis reports in the Salisbury Daily Times. The sediment, said to carry harmful nutrients such as phosphorus downstream into the Chesapeake Bay when the dam floods, has been a major point of contention for both agricultural and environmental advocates.

STATE OF STATE: Gov. Larry Hogan will deliver his first State of the State speech today, an address that often sets a tone for an administration. Erin Cox of the Sun offers five things to watch for as the new Republican governor gives his remarks to the Maryland General Assembly at noon. Maryland Public television will live stream the speech. So will the legislature’s website, and several broadcast outlets will carry it live as well.

STATE OF STATE CENTER:  Baltimore City’s spending board is set to vote on a tax break for the developer of the proposed $1.5 billion State Center redevelopment, Adam Bednar reports in the Daily Record. The Board of Estimates is scheduled to vote on a Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement with State Center LLC for the first phase of development of the property.

STREAMING SENATE PANELS: The legislature has taken another small step for transparency in its proceedings this year. Senate committees are now video live streaming their hearings online, and saving them for later viewing, Len Lazarick is reporting for MarylandReporter.com.

UNWELCOME SIGNS: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post weighs in the state’s new welcome signs bearing Gov. Hogan’s name and the slogan “We’re Open for Business.” The board doesn’t call it “cheesy” like Sun columnist Dan Rodricks did, the board prefers the word “tacky.”

FILLING GOP COFFERS:  In the months after his surprise victory, Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland Republican Party raised an eye-popping $2.4 million, some of it from Annapolis insiders and business interests that bankrolled the campaign of his Democratic opponent, writes John Wagner for the Post.

MARYLAND WOMAN THANKS OBAMA: In an effort to draw attention to the end of this year’s enrollment period for health insurance, President Barack Obama met Tuesday with 10 people — including a Maryland woman — who wrote letters to thank the administration for signing the Affordable Care Act, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

STATE OF WA CO: Expediting building permits and widening Interstate 81 were just a few of the topics discussed during Washington County’s annual State of the County address Tuesday, writes Dan Dearth in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. About 175 people gathered at Fountain Head Country Club on Tuesday morning to watch the recorded presentation on two large projection screens.

MICROBREWS IN ARUNDEL? The Anne Arundel County Council is considering a bill to allow microbrewery businesses in rural areas and low-density residential areas by special exception. The measure would also make farm breweries a conditional use in rural areas. The bill is up for a public hearing Feb. 17, reports Rema Rahman in the Annapolis Capital.