February 19, 2015

State Roundup, February 19, 2015

Print More

HEALTH CONNECTION’S 2ND YEAR: The second year of Maryland’s health insurance marketplace was much more successful than its first, writes Jenna Johnson for the Post. During its second enrollment period, which began Nov. 15 and ended Sunday, the Maryland Health Connection enrolled 119,096 people in private insurance plans and 145,149 in Medicaid, the government-funded insurance program for the poor.

TOUTING CHARTER SCHOOLS: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan took his pitch to expand charter schools on the road Wednesday, appearing alongside the Obama administration’s top education official at a Baltimore City school at a time when both seek increased funding for charters, Erin Cox and Timothy Wheeler of the Sun report.

BALTIMORE SCHOOLS DEFICIT: Baltimore City Council members expressed shock Wednesday that the Baltimore school system has run up a deficit of more than $60 million — even before $35 million in proposed state budget cuts, The Sun’s Luke Broadwater and Liz Bowie report. Members said they were largely kept in the dark about the scale of the system’s financial troubles.

BACHELOR’S DEGREE DISAGREEMENT: While a majority of the Southern Maryland delegation is pushing forward a bill that would allow the College of Southern Maryland to offer bachelor’s degrees, the legislation’s vague nature and possible encroachment on four-year universities has disenchanted higher education professionals and lawmakers alike, reports Jeremy Bauer-Wolf for SoMdNews.com.

ATTORNEYS FEES: A Maryland high court judge joined civil rights attorneys Thursday in urging the General Assembly to pass legislation enabling people whose state constitutional rights are violated by a government agency or employee to collect attorneys’ fees, saying the measure is needed to provide indigent Marylanders greater access to state courtrooms, Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes.

WAR ON WEED: Tom Coale, in an op-ed for Center Maryland, writes that regardless of what cuts Gov. Hogan and the legislature agree to this year, inertia and lack of political courage are likely to protect one obvious instance of waste: the remnants of Maryland’s war on weed. This is despite the fact that marijuana is a drug that most Americans, and most Marylanders, believe should be legal.

Lord Baltimore fish

There’s always something fishy going on at the State House. His name is Lord Baltimore, overwhelmingly chosen by a ballot, and he is the “mascot” of the Legislative Information Desk on the ground floor of the State House.

RASKIN VS CITIZENS UNITED: This afternoon, the Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs will hold a hearing on SB 153, Corporations-Political Expenditures-Stock Holders.  The lead sponsor, Sen. Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County, hopes to stem the torrent of unregulated campaign contributions that was unleashed by the U.S. Supreme Court through their decision “Citizens United v. FEC,” writes Laslo Boyd for Center Maryland.

ONLINE HOTEL TAXES: Online travel sites are challenging legislation that claims their companies, such as Expedia and Orbitz, “buy and sell hotel rooms” and as such, they should be paying the state and Maryland counties more sales and hotel taxes, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com. Howard County lawmakers are sponsoring their own bill similar to statewide legislation heard by a Senate committee last week.

BPW CHALLENGES SPENDING: Nearly $50 million in state spending requests were temporarily delayed after members of the Board of Public Works raised questions about the bids, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. In all, the board voted to delay action on six requests, including construction projects, lab services and equipment to make it easier for first responders around the state to communicate with each other.

  • Among the items that got Gov. Larry Hogan’s attention at his second Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday was a $90,000 contract to search for a new chief investment officer at the State Retirement and Pension System, Rebecca Lessner of MarylandReporter is reporting.  “As I understand it, there’s a $90,000 contract for an executive search firm to recruit one person,” Hogan exclaimed. “I’m a guy who just put together 24 cabinet members, did national searches, and brought several hundred people into state government and we didn’t spend one penny.”

NANCY KOPP, OF COURSE: It was a foregone conclusion that the Special Joint Legislative Committee to Select the State Treasurer would recommend that Nancy Kopp get a fourth four-year term in one of the most powerful jobs in state government. Len Lazarick reports that even the only other candidate interviewed by the committee, Bill Campbell, the Republican nominee for comptroller in the last two elections, expected that outcome. But it didn’t happen without a little drama at the end of the hour-long meeting Wednesday night.

PLAINTIFFS APPEAL: Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Carroll County Republican Central Committee have appealed a Circuit Court judge’s ruling to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland, and early Wednesday filed paperwork requesting the Court of Appeals — the state’s highest court — hear the case, Wiley Hayes reports in the Carroll County Times. Meanwhile, the committee is moving forward with the process to fill a seat in the House of Delegates vacated when now-Sen. Justin Ready accepted Gov. Larry Hogan’s appointment as former Sen. Joe Getty’s replacement.

ANTI-GAY ROBOCALL STILL PROBED: An unattributed robocall that went out to Anne Arundel County voters in the days leading up to this fall’s elections — disingenuously urging them to call and thank the mother of a gay County Council candidate for her son’s support of transgender legal protections — remains under investigation by the state prosecutor’s office, according to the candidate. The Sun is reporting.

O’MALLEY SUMMIT: Former Gov. Martin O’Malley is pulling together an “issues summit” next month, one of several planned gatherings aimed at keeping his supporters engaged as he continues to ponder a long-shot 2016 presidential bid, writes John Wagner in the Post.

CONAWAY SERVICES: The Sun is reporting that funeral services for Frank M. Conaway Sr., clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, will be held at 11 a.m. Monday at Morgan State University’s Murphy Fine Arts Center, 2201 Argonne Drive. A wake preceding the funeral will be held from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.