February 6, 2015

State Roundup, February 6, 2015

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WHISTLEBLOWERS: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh unveiled a bill that would encourage and reward whistleblowers who report fraud committed by private contractors, Arelis Hernández writes in the Post.

TEMPORARY STOP ON FRACKING: A group of Maryland General Assembly members introduced a bill Thursday that would temporarily halt hydraulic fracturing, the controversial natural gas drilling method environmentalists and health officials say requires closer investigation, reports Arelis Hernandez in the Post.

BLACK HERITAGE MUSEUM: The first of two hearings on a bill seeking operational funding for the Doleman Black Heritage Museum in Hagerstown was held Thursday before a Senate committee, reports Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail. In 2014, the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Matters Committee passed the measure, which supporters say is the first step toward getting a permanent home for the museum collection. But the bill then stalled in the House.

LATINO CAUCUS: Six state lawmakers on Thursday announced the formation of the Maryland Latino Legislative Caucus, vowing to bring a Hispanic perspective to the State House that will benefit the state’s fastest-growing demographic group, the Post’s Arelis Hernandez is reporting.

HUNTERS RALLY: Orange neon colored hats livened up the windy courtyard of Lawyers Mall Thursday morning, as hunters wearing camouflage greeted legislators walking into the General Assembly session. They were passing out baseball-caps inscribed with the words “Blaze & Camo Day” to senators and delegates who stopped by. “Wearing your blaze” is a hunting term for wearing neon-orange vests or hats, reports Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com.

HOGAN’S AGENDA TO FAIL? Still fuming at what they consider the partisanship of Gov. Larry Hogan’s State of the State address, the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders predicted Thursday that most of the governor’s legislative agenda would fail, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

Miller Hogan Busch

It was all smiles and good cheer before Gov. Hogan began his State of the State speech and then ….

ASSESSING STATE OF THE STATE SPEECH: The editorial board for the Post opines that Gov. Larry “Hogan … has overstated the case and risks overplaying his hand. In a State of the State address Wednesday, he described what sounded like a dire economic emergency, then offered a prescription notable mainly for its caution.” He did propose tax cuts, but those amounted to only $27 million, the board writes.

SAVING THE BAY: As his predecessors have done for the past three decades, Gov. Larry Hogan declared Wednesday that a healthy Chesapeake Bay will be a top priority of his administration, writes Timothy Wheeler in the Sun. But environmentalists found little comforting in the Republican governor’s pledge, made in his State of the State address to Maryland lawmakers in Annapolis.  Activists disputed Hogan’s assertion that the cleanup effort isn’t working and questioned his prescription for saving it.

  • The editorial board for the Sun opines that “this entire “debate” over the “rain tax” is a big, fat nothing-burger of a political conversation. Local governments in Maryland’s largest subdivisions must reduce stormwater pollution or face serious sanctions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s the crux of the matter. It’s fair to debate the best manner to pay for it, but nothing changes the fact that it has to be done.”

SERVICE PROVIDERS ‘DESPERATE:’ Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that community service providers to the developmentally disabled are “honestly at a desperate point” in continuing to operate, Laura Howell of the Maryland Association of Community Services told the Senate Budget Committee Thursday.

STOP EBOLA WEBSITE: The state has launched a new website to help corral donations for areas in West Africa afflicted by the Ebola virus, Natalie Sherman writes in the Sun. The first donations as a result of the partnership between the Department of Business and Economic Development, other state agencies, nonprofit and private groups shipped last week, according to DBED.

TEACHER PENSION COSTS: The Conduit Street blog of the Maryland Association of Counties reports that teacher pension costs for counties will be going up.

UM TUITION HIKE: A 5% tuition hike is likely in the University of Maryland system next year, top administrators said Thursday. Erin Cox is reporting in the Sun that Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget calls for such an increase to make ends meet, and school officials say they see no way to avoid it unless the system gets more from the state.

LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: The nation’s largest organization for conservative-minded members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community has launched a new chapter in Maryland. The formation of the Log Cabin Republicans of Maryland comes on the heels of Gov. Larry Hogan’s election, Kevin Rector of the Sun is reporting.

STATE CENTER COST TO CITY: The approval by the Baltimore City Board of Estimates of a PILOT tax break for the developer of State Center could cost city taxpayers about $44 million in lost property tax revenue over the course of the 20-year agreement, Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew has found.

FREDERICK CHANGES SIGN SLOGAN: Within his first month in office, Gov. Larry Hogan updated the state’s welcome signs so they proclaim that “We’re Open for Business.” The same words are soon to disappear from signs welcoming motorists to Frederick County, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. County Executive Jan Gardner on Thursday kicked off a contest for a slogan to replace the “Open for Business” tagline emblazoned on local signs by the prior Board of County Commissioners.

BLACK GUERRILLA FAMILY CASE: A federal jury convicted five people and acquitted three others Thursday in a Baltimore jailhouse corruption case, ending a two-month trial that saw a parade of inmates, disgraced corrections officers and law enforcement officers describe an “upside-down world” where criminals were in charge.