February 10, 2015

State Roundup, February 10, 2015

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MILLER DIGS IN: Senate President Mike Miller, despite a cordial breakfast with Gov. Larry Hogan to smooth over friction from Hogan’s State of the State speech, continued to offer grim prospects for the new governor’s legislative agenda. Erin Cox of the Sun writes that Miller told reporters that repealing part of the state’s gas tax would jeopardize years of state projects in the pipeline and cause more painful budget headaches for Hogan.

CABINET APPOINTEES: A legislative committee is recommending that the full Senate confirm seven Cabinet-level appointments made by Gov. Hogan, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The new round of recommendations comes three days after the full Senate delayed for a week a vote on five other senior Hogan appointees who appeared before the Senate Executive Nominations Committee a week ago.

REDMER SINGLED OUT: A joke made last week by Senate President Miller during a Senate Executive Nominations Committee hearing may end up being more serious than anyone would have guessed, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Miller noted a number of Cabinet secretaries appointed by Gov. Hogan and singled out Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer. “Redmer’s going to get a lot of questions,” Miller joked with the Republican delegate.

MCMILLAN ON THE BUDGET: Del. Herb McMillan, R-Annapolis, sat down with Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital to discuss his views on the budget and the legislation he hopes to pass. McMillan has been a loud critic of Democrats who say key budgets are being cut with Gov. Larry Hogan’s spending plan, which aims to reduce the structural deficit to zero. There’s a short video interview atop the article.

PETULANT REACTION: The Sun editorial board opines that it doubts that Gov. Larry Hogan intended to make Senate President Mike Miller’s head explode with his State of the State speech last week, but it might wind up working out for him politically, if not for the people of the state substantively. The governor’s address was heavy on recycled bromides from his stump speech and not equal to the occasion, but it looks downright statesmanlike in comparison to the ensuing petulant overreaction from the Senate president and his loyal lieutenants.

SEPARATION ANXIETY: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes that Gov. Hogan’s speech started off badly. Was it really wise for the new Republican chief executive to spend the first quarter of his televised speech tearing the state down? On the other hand, it’s fair to say the Democrats in Annapolis have overreacted.

POT LEGALIZATION: Maryland could see millions of dollars in new revenue from the legalization of marijuana, but the unanswered questions and a legislature in which nearly one-third of the members are new could delay passage of a bill this year, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

CITY SCHOOL FUNDING: Some lawmakers said Monday that the General Assembly should change a school funding formula that gives great weight to property values — and is projected to cost Baltimore City millions of dollars in lost state aid for next year. But others say a city with a waterfront ringed by pricey new buildings would have more money for schools if it hadn’t handed out so many tax breaks to developers. And a key Baltimore City legislator called on businesses who have gotten such breaks to consider stepping up to the plate, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

ANNAPOLIS CITY LEGISLATION: Jimmy DeButts of the Annapolis Capital reports that the Annapolis City Council wants the state’s help to resolve local issues with alcohol sales on election days, Uber and parking. Resolutions asking for the General Assembly to amend state law to permit Annapolis to create a Parking Authority and changing the definition of taxicabs were introduced during Monday’s City Council meeting. A third resolution asked the General Assembly to scrap an antiquated law that forbids the sale of alcohol at liquor stores on election days.

REDISTRICTING REFORM: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post is backing Gov. Larry Hogan’s pursuit of redistricting reform. Hogan announced last week that he will set up a bipartisan commission to explore ways to reform Maryland’s disgraceful and undemocratic redistricting process. Maryland’s current redistricting process is an embarrassment to the Free State and needs to be replaced, the board writes.

MINORITIES REPORT: David Lublin of Seventh State writes that minorities compose a greater share in the Maryland House of Delegates than the Senate. While whites form three-quarters of all senators, they comprise two-thirds of all delegates. All minority groups are better represented in the House than the Senate.

JAILHOUSE CORRUPTION BATTLE: The courtroom drama from the Black Guerrilla Family’s lust- and drug-fueled reign at the Baltimore City jail is all but over, now that the last of 40 convictions was secured last week. But Maryland’s new corrections secretary says the battle against crime and corruption at the state-run facility hasn’t ended, reports Ian Duncan for the Sun.

FRACKING IN MARYLAND: The O’Malley administration officials released draft regulations for hydraulic fracturing, concluding that, with proper regulation, fracking for natural gas in Western Maryland could be done safely. But are the risks worth the rewards? To discuss the issue, Dan Rodricks of WYPR-FM hosts Paul Roberts, citizen member of the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission; Terry Engelder, professor of geosciences at Penn State; and Robert Oswald, professor of molecular medicine at Cornell and co-author of “The Real Cost of Fracking: How America’s Shale Gas Boom is Threatening Our Families, Pets and Food.”

OFFSHORE CASH: Just as success has a thousand fathers, the concept of using almost $2 trillion in offshore corporate cash to bail out the beleaguered federal trust fund for roads, bridges and transit seems to have lots of parents on Capitol Hill these days, writes Ashley Halsey for the Post. The father to that idea, however, comes from U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland.

FROSH WAITS: Attorney General Brian Frosh has waived the state’s right to reply to a convicted rapist’s request that the Supreme Court overturn his conviction and rule the Maryland State Police violated his constitutional rights by surreptitiously checking the DNA in the perspiration he left on a chair during a voluntary interview at an MSP barracks, reports Steve Lash in the Daily Record.

CHARLES TRANSIT CHIEF IN PLANE ACCIDENT: One of the men seriously injured in a plane crash Sunday near Fort George G. Meade is a transportation chief for the Charles County government. Jeff Barnett, chief of transportation and community programs for the Charles County government, was in fair condition, Tim Pratt writes in the Annapolis Capital.

O’MALLEY BREAKS ELBOW: Former Gov. Martin O’Malley just had an unlucky break — literally. O’Malley shared on Twitter on Monday that he had broken his elbow while lifting weights at the gym over the weekend, blogs John Wagner for the Post.