February 12, 2015

State Roundup, February 12, 2015

Print More

HOME BIRTHS: Susannah Kipke, wife of House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, say she had a wonderful experience when she gave birth to her first child at home with the help of a midwife 10 weeks ago. It wasn’t a legal experience, however. Maryland is one of six states that forbid midwives who aren’t nurses to practice their ancient profession, writes the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY: Joe Burris of the Sun writes that thanks to the low tuition and financial aid at the Community College of Baltimore County, Ifechukwudeli Okafor told state lawmakers Wednesday, her first year of college has cost $164. That includes just $4 for second semester. Dozens of community college students went to Annapolis for the annual Student Advocacy Day, which comes as state funding for community colleges is expected to take a hit from lawmakers working to address a two-year budget deficit projected at $1.2 billion.

CITY SCHOOL CUTS: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Wednesday defended the city’s economic growth strategies that include awarding tax breaks to developers — and said Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s decisions are largely to blame for a proposed $35 million cut to state aid for city schools, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

ONLINE HOTEL BOOKING: Maryland brick and mortar hotels are attempting to close a loophole in Maryland law that allows online travel booking sites to pocket a portion of the state and local sales taxes, hiding under the term “taxes and fees.” Sen. Richard Madaleno asked the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Wednesday to modernize the state sales tax in order to include online commerce.

COMBINED REPORTING: Proponents of “combined reporting” for corporate income taxes say the change will benefit small businesses in Maryland, but business groups opposing the legislation say it will harm Maryland’s business climate, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com. “There are over 260,000 companies that submit separate personal property filings and pay taxes, over 240,000 of those have 10 or fewer employees,” said Sen. Paul Pinsky. “At the same time, a couple dozen of companies among them, with the largest payrolls in the state, pay no corporate tax at all.”

THREE CABINET APPOINTEES: Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed three more cabinet secretaries, with only two more of the top jobs left to fill, MarylandReporter.com reports.. Hogan named Carol Beatty as secretary of Department of Disabilities, David Garcia as secretary of Department of Information Technology; and Jennie Hunter-Cevera as secretary of Maryland Higher Education Commission, where she is already acting secretary.
Barbera Miller Busch Hogan

Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera addresses the Maryland General Assembly as Senate President Mike Miller, House Speaker Michael Busch and Gov. Larry Hogan listen.

STATE OF THE COURTS: It was the best State of the Judiciary speech in 10 years, quipped one wag. It was also the first since 2005. Mary Ellen Barbera, chief judge of the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, addressed a joint session of the Maryland General Assembly Wednesday, updating them on how the state’s courts are moving into the 21st century with technology. “Marylanders want and deserve a court system they can trust: one that treats them fairly and with respect in their dealings with the courts,” Barbera said. “Studies show, and by now it is well understood, that people will accept judicial outcomes, even if adverse to their side of the case, if they believe they have been treated fairly and with respect. Put simply, process counts.” The full text of the speech is at http://mdcourts.gov/coappeals/speeches/soj2015.pdf.

ACCESSIBLE JUDICIARY: Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that Maryland’s top judge called for lawmakers’ help Wednesday as the judicial branch strives to use emerging technologies to make courts more accessible to Marylanders, especially those of low income or who do not speak English.

***Buck Showalter, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, is the speaker this year at the Society of Senates Past, an annual dinner for former and current members of the Maryland Senate. The dinner is Thursday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. in Annapolis. Tickets are $80. For more information contact former state senator Sandy Schrader at (410) 935-1637.***

PAID SICK LEAVE: A General Assembly bill that would guarantee paid sick leave for many Maryland workers has official support from half the members of Howard County’s delegation to Annapolis, who say the legislation will benefit workers and businesses alike. Some local business owners, meanwhile, say they feel the proposal represents an unnecessary intrusion by the state, reports Amanda Yeager for the Sun.

FRACKING LIABILITY STANDARDS: Companies looking to drill for natural gas could face stricter liability standards under a bill introduced in the Maryland Senate, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Senate Bill 458 seeks to establish what Sen. Bobby Zirkin  and drilling advocates say is arguably one of the toughest liability standards for hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, in the country.

NO FRACKING AT ALL: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that Maryland should follow in New York state’s footsteps and ban fracking, then acknowledge there are some kinds of economic development for which the price paid is outweighed by the ramifications to our health and environment.

PUBLIC’S RIGHT TO KNOW: The editorial board for the Sun is strongly backing the proposed changes to Maryland’s Public Information Act, writing that the General Assembly must recognize that the citizens of this state have a right to information that belongs to them — access that’s too easily thwarted under the current law.

HOTEL TAX REVENUE: A bill being proposed by the Washington County Board of Commissioners would give the county control over the distribution of hotel rental tax instead of half of the revenue going to the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Kaustuv Basu reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

RESTRAINING ORDER RULING: Wiley Hayes of the Carroll County Times reports that a Carroll County Circuit Court judge said he would rule “soon” on whether a temporary restraining order should be issued prohibiting the Carroll County Republican Central Committee from submitting more than one name for the vacant delegate seat in District 5.

MAD POL DISEASE: Laslo Boyd of Center Maryland points out a worrisome epidemic that haunts Maryland borders: Mad Pol disease has affected the likes of N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, both of whom have taken a cautious approach to vaccinating children against measles. Boyd adds that Gov. Hogan’s “rash comments” during his State of the State are a different kind of rash.

DISABILITY INSURANCE: Congress is in the early stages of negotiation over the Woodlawn-based agency’s disability insurance program. Without intervention, some 11 million beneficiaries, including about 150,000 in Maryland, will be hit with a 19% cut in benefits late next year, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

TUBMAN PARK CELEBRATION: Officials in Cambridge kicked off Black History Month by holding an official celebration of the creation of the new Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park with U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris among the dignitaries, reports Chris Polk for the Easton Star Democrat.

EX-SEAL CHALLENGES HOYER: Kristin Beck, a former Navy SEAL who gained attention in 2013 when she came out as a transgender woman, will mount a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer in Marylands Fifth Congressional District, reports the Sun’s John Fritze.

HARRIS’S WINKS: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris has received a barrage of attention Wednesday for a video that shows him repeatedly winking at a camera as Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, speaks at the lectern, John Fritze writes in the Sun.