February 25, 2015

State Roundup, February 25, 2015

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ATTACKING HEROIN PROBLEM: Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled Tuesday what he called a “holistic” strategy to deal with Maryland’s growing heroin problem, but stopped short of declaring the state of emergency he vowed last year to put in place. Hogan’s four-pronged approach involves no dramatic breaks from the policies followed by former Gov. Martin O’Malley. Hogan put much of the substantive policy development in the hands of a task force that will report to him by Dec. 1.

PENSION CHANGES: The legislature’s staff is recommending that lawmakers make another major change in pension funding, eliminating extra payments into Maryland’s underfunded pension system and returning to full actuarial funding, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

1M WITH NO SAVINGS: On the private-sector retirement front, Erin Cox is reporting in the Sun that more than 1 million working Maryland residents have virtually no retirement savings, contributing to a looming public calamity that report released Tuesday called a “silver tsunami.”

RAPE KITS: Advocates testified Tuesday in favor of Del. Karen Lewis Young’s proposal to take stock of untested sexual assault evidence throughout the state. Lewis Young said timely testing of rape kits is essential to convicting sexual predators and preventing future crimes, writes Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.

10 TONS OF POACHED FISH: The editorial board of the Sun addressees the poaching problem in the Bay, saying that it’s not just a few fish that are being illegally harvested, but is instead tons of fish that change the nature of the Bay and harm the livelihoods of legal fishermen.

CHICKEN POOP RULES: Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to curb poultry manure runoff from Eastern Shore farms sparked spirited debate Tuesday, as environmentalists, administration officials and farmers sparred over whether the rules would finally resolve the longstanding problem, or let pollution keep washing into the Chesapeake Bay for years to come, Timothy Wheeler is reporting in the Sun.

Clean Water rally 4

Environmentalists rallied for clean water rules at Lawyer’s Mall in Annapolis Tuesday.

RAIN TAX REPEAL: Repealing the storm water remediation fee, what opponents call the rain tax, was a rallying cry for Republicans in the November election. But nearly four months later the controversial state law continues to vex both local officials and legislators in Annapolis, John Lee of WYPR-FM reports.

SHIFTING FUNDS: Lawmakers are moving to restrict the ability of future governors to shift money between special and general funds during the operating budget creation process, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com. The Dedicated State Funds Protection Act (HB 787) would amend Maryland’s constitution to prohibit the governor from relocating special funds to the general fund, which is often done during the budget-balancing process and then often not repaid.

CAR DEALERS: A prominent Maryland car dealer says manufacturers muzzle him and his colleagues, forbidding them from telling customers about potential safety problems until they develop into full-fledged recalls, Erin Cox reports in the Sun. Jack Fitzgerald asked a state Senate panel Tuesday to pass a bill granting free speech for dealers to warn customers.

NEW TOBACCO FEES: A bill to increase taxes on tobacco and create new fees for shipping related products into Maryland met with stiff opposition from retailers and delivery companies, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.

PUSH ON FOR FBI HQ: Gov. Larry Hogan hosted a meeting Monday with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern  Baker and members of the state’s congressional delegation to devise a strategy to lure the FBI headquarters to Maryland, Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post. “We’re talking about making sure we have a united front,” Hogan said.

GOV. ENIGMA: Most Maryland residents don’t know what to think about Gov. Larry Hogan, according to a new Goucher College poll released Wednesday. Erin Cox reports in the Sun that more than 45% said they have neither a favorable or unfavorable view of the new governor. And 43.3% say they don’t know what they think about the job he’s done during his first month in office. That view largely comes from Democratic and independent voters.

2018 CHALLENGE: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes that with a deadlock between the new governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature almost assured in Annapolis, antsy Democrats are now looking for someone to challenge Gov. Hogan in 2018. But who will that be?

THE UNWANTED BILL: Whether it’s controversy, or just conversation — Cecil College administrators have a multitude of concerns about a bill Del. Kevin Hornberger (R-Cecil) introduced even after college officials asked him not to introduce it. House Bill 778 would authorize Cecil College to offer a Bachelor’s degree in nursing with an effective date of July 1. Cheryl Mattix writes the story for the Cecil Whig.

SUMMERTIME BILL: In a column for Center Maryland, Goucher professor Mileah Kromer addresses Marylanders’ views on the “Let Summer Be Summer” bill that would push vacation time past Labor Day and why it is so strongly supported in polling.

FEDERAL COLLEGE REGS: Some of the nation’s top university officials, including the chancellor of the University System of Maryland, are calling on Congress to roll back what they see as a byzantine and ever-expanding system of federal regulations that is costing schools millions of dollars each year, reports John Fritze for the Sun. School officials say they are swimming in thousands of pages of rules that take millions of hours annually to sort through.

CIVILS RIGHTS IN MONTGOMERY: The Montgomery County Council asks community members who helped forged civil rights in that county to tell their stories in a 90-minute session. In the not too distant past, the now-liberal bastion bore its own racist streak, writes Bill Turque for the Post.

TABITHA ABRAMS: Tabitha Abrams, the wife of Dave Abrams, a former State House reporter and now cable communications director for Anne Arundel County, died Saturday after a long battle with ovarian cancer. A memorial service will be held Saturday.