February 24, 2015

State Roundup, February 24, 2015

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TRANSIT CHIEF NOMINEE GRILLED: Democrats on a Maryland Senate panel grilled Gov. Larry Hogan’s nominee for transportation secretary Monday about the future of the Purple Line light-rail project and decided to call him back for more questions before voting on his confirmation, writes John Wagner in the Post.

CHICKEN POOP RULES: A month after blocking hotly disputed environmental regulations drawn up by his predecessor, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that he is putting out his own rules to curb Chesapeake Bay pollution from farms — including an immediate ban on spreading poultry manure on some Eastern Shore fields where the water-quality threat is greatest, Timothy Wheeler reports in the Sun.

Hogan Mathias Shelton

State Sen. Jim Mathias of the Lower Eastern Shore, far right, praises Gov. Larry Hogan on the new phosphorus management rules at a press conference Monday with Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder and Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton.

PROPERTY SEIZURE: The chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee is sponsoring a bill that will prevent police officers from confiscating property without having proof that the owner was involved in drug law violations, Rebecca Lessner is reporting in MarylandReporter.com. Currently, police may seize items like cash, weapons, vehicles or houses if they believe they are involved in violation of drug and gambling laws, regardless of whether an arrest has been made.

HANDY SHOTS: A bill working its way through the General Assembly would make self-defense adequate justification for obtaining a concealed carry permit. Under current law, applicants qualify only if a Maryland State Police investigation finds a “good and substantial reason” to carry a handgun, including a determination that the permit is “necessary as a reasonable precaution against apprehended danger,” SA Miller reports in the Washington Times.

BOOZE DAY: It’s an annual rite known as “Alcohol Day” among insiders, and it took place in Annapolis yesterday afternoon – as the House of Delegates’ Economic Matters Committee held a hearing on nearly 60 separate pieces of legislation affecting the alcoholic beverage control regimens of local jurisdictions across Maryland, reports Louis Peck for Bethesda Magazine.

PRIVATE RETIREMENT SYSTEM: Maryland legislators should create a mandatory pension system for private-sector employees, according to report issued by a task force created to study the issue. Bryan Sears reports that a draft copy of the report obtained by the Daily Record makes a number of recommendations about the creation of a mandatory system that could be managed by the state and would apply to companies with five or more employees.

ATTORNEY VACANCIES: Maryland’s chief public defender and the attorney general urged the General Assembly on Monday to hold the line on their proposed budgets for fiscal 2016, saying financial constraints already prevent them from filling vacancies, Steve Lash writes in the Daily Record. “It’s just simple math,” Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe told a Senate Budget and Taxation subcommittee. “When we don’t hire, attorneys’ caseloads go up.

One degree temperature thermostat

How cold was it? At 7:17 a.m. this morning it was 1 degree in Columbia, Md. and below zero in other parts of the state.

WESTERN MARYLAND: Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that some Western Maryland state legislators and U.S. Rep. John Delaney sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, state Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch outlining priorities for Western Maryland. “We believe that significant action must be taken on behalf of the people of Western Maryland. Our paramount goal is to guarantee that a child growing up in Oakland, Frostburg or Smithsburg has the same opportunities to succeed as any other Marylander,” the letter said.

REDISTRICTING CONUNDRUM: Fraser Smith of WYPR-FM  and Todd Eberly of St. Mary’s College discuss the possibility of more redistricting in Maryland. Will the state’s new Republican governor – and the new Republicans in office – initiate more gerrymandering?  Will the people choose their representatives or will the representatives get to choose their constituents?

RESCIND ADVISORY: The Sun editorial board urges the Hogan administration to rescind the the email advisory from  Gov. Larry Hogan’s chief legal counsel, which told officials at various state agencies and departments to routinely label all written communications as “CONFIDENTIAL, FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY – PROTECTED BY EXECUTIVE PRIVILEGE.” Otherwise, it is likely to have a chilling effect on the openness of government regardless of its legal effect.

NEW HOTEL TAX: Steve Shur of the Travel Technology Association writes, in an op-ed in the Sun, if Maryland implemented a new tax that made hotel rooms more expensive — a tax that not one surrounding state had on the books, would price conscious travelers still stay in National Harbor over price-competitive Old Town Alexandria when visiting Washington, D.C.? Would beach-goers stay in Ocean City over the more competitive Delaware beach?  In a region with so many options, of course travelers could drive the short distance to less expensive destinations.

ELECTION BOARD SWING: The balance of power on each county election board is set to sway from Democrat to Republican with the change to a new governor, although board members are supposed to keep their party loyalty in the background, Josh Bollinger reports for the Easton Star Democrat.

SPEED KILLS: At its core, writes the editorial board for the Sun, the business of setting highway speed limits is about striking a balance between convenience, a goal served by allowing traffic to move as quickly as possible, and safety, which argues for slower speeds. Just because roads and vehicles are capable of sustaining 70, 80 or 90 mph traffic doesn’t mean it would be wise to allow it.

DELANEY BACKS OBAMA FINANCIAL PLAN: U.S. Rep. John Delaney, who spent a career in financial services before running for Congress, joined President Barack Obama on Monday in calling for tougher regulations on brokers who help people plan for retirement — offering his endorsement of a plan that is unlikely to sit well with some on Wall Street, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

BEN CARSON: Denise Koch of WJZ-TV interviews retired doctor and current politician Ben Carson about his future presidential plans.

CONAWAY FUNERAL: Hundreds of people, including top city and state officials, turned out Monday to remember longtime Baltimore Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway Sr. at a funeral held at Morgan State University’s Fine Arts Center. Speakers included U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who all paid tribute to the colorful politician known for his maverick streak and catchy slogans. Luke Broadwater covered the funeral for the Sun.

BALLOONING CONTROVERSY: The Frederick News Post editorializes on an Annapolis event attended by local legislators in which balloons were released in memory of little girl. The event was good idea, it said, the balloon release was a bad one.