February 13, 2015

State Roundup, February 13, 2015

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CHANGING BUSINESS CLIMATE: A report by the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission identified 10 challenges holding the state back economically, including a scattered and ineffective economic development strategy, too much reliance on federal jobs and a culture where government officials often seem more interested in enforcing rules than fostering growth, writes Jenna Johnson for the Post.

HEROIN TASK FORCE: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Thursday that the state has joined an East Coast task force focused on stopping the flow of inexpensive heroin across their state lines, reports Jenna Johnson in the Post.

RESTORE LEGISLATURE ROLE: Todd Eberly, in his Freestate blog, writes that instead of offering what are largely hollow pledges to “fight spending cuts,” legislators should focus on an amendment to the state constitution that would restore the legislature’s proper role in the budget process. SB 660 would restore the legislature’s role while still respecting the power of the governor.

REDISTRICTING REFORM: While many business climate issues are currently being debated in Annapolis, there is one where the business-government consensus appears to be strong – redistricting reform, Donald Fry writes for Center Maryland. Gov. Larry Hogan’s vow in his recent State of the State address to create, by executive order, an independent bipartisan commission to reform Maryland’s redistricting process reflects a key priority for competitiveness shared by business advocates across the state.

U.S. SENATE REPLACEMENTS: Two Montgomery County Democratic legislators have introduced legislation that would strip the governor of the power to name a long-term replacement to the U.S. Senate in the event of a vacancy and instead fill the post through a special election, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.  For the next four to eight years, the bill would have the effect of preventing Gov. Larry Hogan from naming a fellow Republican as more than a temporary placeholder if either of Maryland’s two Democratic senators leave office.

ASSISTED SUICIDE: CNS’s Grace Toohey, in an article for the Daily Record, writes about some of the people and the reasons behind the latest attempt to fashion an assisted suicide bill in Maryland.

INCOME TAX ON RETIRED VETS: Gov. Larry Hogan pledged Thursday to make Maryland more welcoming to veterans, though he acknowledged it might prove tough to pass some of his proposals to help them, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.

Hogan veterans

Gov. Larry Hogan greets veterans at an American Legion hall in Greenbelt, where he announced his proposal to stop taxing military pensions.

BRIDGE INSPECTIONS: Maryland’s top transportation official on Thursday ordered immediate inspections of 27 aging, state-owned bridges after a chunk of concrete fell on a Prince George’s County woman’s car from the bottom of the Interstate 495 overpass in Morningside, report Colin Campbell and Mark Puente for the Sun.

HISTORIC ANNAPOLIS: Anne Arundel County delegates are looking for a way to keep Historic Annapolis regularly funded so the organization doesn’t have to come back each year seeking more money from the local legislators. Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes that Historic Annapolis is a private nonprofit that maintains historical buildings for the state and advocates the restoration of others. It receives state money for its budget and supplements that by holding fundraisers and collecting rents.

RENTERS TAX CREDIT: There is a tax credit in Maryland that officials in the Department of Assessments and Taxation fear not enough taxpayers are taking, Jane Bellmyer writes in the Cecil Whig. The Renter’s Tax Credit is available to those who are 60 or older, or disabled, or if younger than 60 have a dependent child 18 or younger in the home.

RAW MILK CHEESE PRODUCERS: After a successful five-year pilot program that enabled five dairy farms in Maryland to produce raw milk cheese from cows, goats and sheep, legislators on the Senate Finance Committee were easily in support of changing the program to be a more long-term business opportunity, CNS’s Katelyn Newman writes in the Easton Star Democrat.

UKRAINE AMBASSADOR VISITS: Rebecca Lessner of MarylandReporter writes that the House chamber bustled Thursday morning as the first final-reading bills were given to Speaker of the House Michael Busch and the tally board began to light up green. Then Ukraine Ambassador Olexander Motsyk listened as delegates began their first bills for final passage on third reading this session, before giving speech that blessed Maryland for its strong ties with the Ukrainian community.

DEVELOPMENT, NOT SCHOOLS: Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts in July, calls for some $35 million in cuts to public education funding. Fraser Smith of WYPR-FM speaks with the Baltimore Sun’s Luke Broadwater, who looked into the numbers and found that 40% of the cuts — $14 million worth — is tied to new downtown development that makes the city appear wealthier than it was last year.

MTA AUDIT: Charlie Hayward of MarylandReporter.com writes where there’s smoke there’s fire. This is the message from a report just issued by legislative auditors describing a laundry list of serious findings about the Mass Transit Administration, leading them to make a criminal referral to the Attorney General’s Criminal Investigations Division.

CARROLL PANEL GIVES IN: The Carroll County Republican Central Committee voted to recommend three names to fill the vacant delegate seat in District 5, just hours after a Carroll County Circuit Court judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would have prohibited the committee from doing so, reports Wiley Hayes for the Carroll County Times.

SCHALL JOINS DELANEY STAFF: Justin Schall, a Democratic political operative who ran Anthony Brown’s unsuccessful campaign for governor last year, is taking a job as Rep. John Delaney’s chief of staff, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Schall managed Delaney’s improbably successful campaign for Maryland’s 6th Congressional District in 2012 before signing up with Brown.