February 23, 2015

State Roundup, February 23, 2015

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PURPLE LINE DELAY: Maryland transportation officials have pushed back by five months a major bid deadline for private companies seeking to build and operate a Purple Line, saying the firms requested more time to find cheaper ways to do the $2.45 billion light-rail project. Katherine Shaver reports in the Washington Post. The March 12 deadline has been pushed back to Aug. 19, said Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation. She said state officials notified the four bidders Friday evening.

EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE: Gov. Larry Hogan may have campaigned on a pledge to bring more transparency to government in Annapolis, but his lawyer has urged agency heads and staff to stamp a claim of “executive privilege” — the civilian equivalent of “top secret” — on all their internal correspondence, emails and documents, reports Timothy Wheeler in the Sun.

HELPING CAREGIVERS: In a column for the Sun, Susan Reimer writes about a bill in the Maryland legislature that would help caregivers of loved ones, first by giving her an official designation — named by the patient and recognized by the hospital. The exchange of medical information, often locked behind privacy laws, would therefore be possible. Critically, she would be given the instruction she needs by nursing staff at least 24 hours in advance of that release. Plus, the hospital would provide contact information for community support services.

CHARTER SCHOOLS: Gov. Larry Hogan wants to loosen requirements over charter schools with legislation that would give charter schools greater oversight of hiring and firing, more power to set admissions criteria, and increased access to public funding, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

HOTEL TAXES: Sometimes a simple, sensible-sounding tax reform runs smack into sticky realities. The result is a puzzle for Maryland legislators trying to do the right thing, opines columnist Barry Rascovar in MarylandReporter.com. That’s the case this session with bills (SB190, HB209) designed to clarify state law regarding the “taxable price” of discounted hotel rooms sold over the Internet by travel websites.

FEDERAL HIGHWAY FUNDS: As drivers travel aging roads and crumbling bridges, federal highway funding is failing to keep pace with inflation in nearly every state — and some such as Maryland are suffering a sharper decline than others, according to an analysis of transportation spending, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

BRIDGE WORK: The Maryland State Highway Administration has completed 69 emergency inspections of bridges across the state, including nine in Washington County, writes CJ Lovelace for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

Government House in the snow

Government House in the snow (Photo by Rebecca Lessner, MarylandReporter.com)

RENEWABLES: The lead sponsor of legislation to increase the use of renewable energy sources in Maryland said he will offer an amendment to reduce the goals originally proposed in his bill, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The House Economic Matters Committee on Friday heard testimony on a bill that would increase requirements on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. The bill as proposed calls for the state to increase use of those sources to 25% by 2020 and reach 40% by 2025.

POT DECRIMINALIZATION: A bill to remove convictions for marijuana use or possession of less than 10 grams from criminal records received a lukewarm response from the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Thursday, CNS’s Anjali Shastry and Katelyn Newman writes in the Daily Record.

FIRST RESPONDER SAFETY: A bill proposed in the General Assembly would make assault on a first responder a felony crime punishable by a 10-year prison sentence, Dave Collins reports WBAL-TV.

SPEED CAMERAS: State speed cameras in work zones will be a thing of the past if Del. Haven Shoemaker of Carroll County has his way. Wiley Hayes of the Carroll County Times writes that Shoemaker’s bill would repeal the state’s authority to use work zone speed control systems to enforce specified highway speed laws within work zones. Shoemaker has first-hand experience with these cameras.

CITY SCHOOLS DEFICIT: Liz Bowie, education reporter for the Sun, joins WYPR’s Fraser Smith to discuss the mounting deficit at the Baltimore City Public School System. If Gov. Hogan’s budget is approved, the city school system would face nearly $100 million deficit.

GREEN BAG APPOINTMENTS: Gov. Larry Hogan named budget adviser Robert Neall and transition chief James T. Brady to the state university system’s Board of Regents on Friday as he submitted 331 “green bag” appointments to the Senate for approval, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

LEGISLATIVE NOMINEES: In a case that could affect how party central committees nominate candidates to fill vacant seats in the state legislature, the Maryland Court of Appeals on Friday decided to hear a Carroll County case that could require that only one name be sent to the governor for appointment, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. It was unclear Friday if the decision could prevent Gov. Larry Hogan from asking for more than one nominee from the county GOP committee to fill the delegate seat.

HOGAN, MILLER & THE TERPS: Gov. Larry Hogan and Senate President Mike Miller have sparred over education funding and tax cuts. But come Tuesday, there will be a cause both can support: the Terps. The two powerful Maryland pols are planning to sit together at Tuesday night’s college basketball game between the Maryland Terrapins and Wisconsin Badgers, John Wagner writes in the Post.

COPS & DOCS: Baltimore City’s police commissioner wants to team mental health professionals with police officers and deploy them on emergency calls involving disturbed individuals to calm tense situations and decrease the need to use force, write Michael Dresser and Justin George for the Sun.

DELANEY JOBS PLAN: Infrastructure can be revitalized and jobs can be created when a bipartisan government works with private companies, U.S. Rep. John Delaney said at a Public-Private Partnership Symposium last week. Alician McElhaney of CNS, writing in the Hagerstown Herald Mail, says that Delaney, D-Md., highlighted his signature bipartisan infrastructure bill when he spoke at his alma mater, Georgetown University Law Center, as an example of a public-private partnership.

  • john bernhardt

    I like the speed cameras in work zones for I-695 beltway. People do respect the speed limit when encountering the cameras. I favor an trial experiment extending speed cameras to the entire beltway on a continual basis. It might turn out that the cameras would dramatically cut down on the number of accidents and reckless driving behaviors, including and especially trucks.