February 26, 2015

State Roundup, February 26, 2015

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FROSH BACKS FRACKING LIABILITY STANDARDS: Attorney General Brian Frosh entered the fight over hydraulic fracturing in Maryland on Wednesday, urging state lawmakers to pass a bill with liability standards so tough that critics and some supporters consider it a de facto fracking ban, Erin Cox writes in the Sun.

MENTAL HEALTH CARE RALLY: Shouting the slogan “keep the doors open,” several hundred supporters of Maryland’s mental health and drug treatment programs rallied outside the State House in Annapolis Wednesday to protest proposed cuts in the budget for compensating care providers, Michael Dresser writes in the Sun.

Behavioral health demo

“Keep the doors open” was the chant at the behavioral health demonstration in Lawyers Mall at the State House Wednesday.

HOGAN TO DECIDE PURPLE LINE IN MAY: While Maryland transportation officials recently extended a major bid deadline for building a light-rail Purple Line until August, Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to decide the project’s fate by mid-May, Katherine Shaver reports in the Post.

MILLER’S RAIN TAX PLAN: Two weeks after Gov. Larry Hogan rolled out legislation to repeal the so-called rain tax, Senate President Mike Miller offered a competing measure. Similar to Hogan’s legislation, Miller’s bill, introduced Thursday, would repeal the stormwater management fee mandate placed on nine counties and Baltimore City. But, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record,  it would require the 10 jurisdictions to submit plans that prove they will be able to pay for the required stormwater pollution mitigation projects.

VOTING RIGHTS FOR EX-CONS: A freshman delegate in the Maryland General Assembly is championing a bill that has a deep personal meaning to him: the restoration of full voting rights for ex-offenders. For Del. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), who has been arrested on the streets of East Baltimore more times than he can remember, he recognizes that he could have been one of them, writes Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.

CHEERS TO WATER: Health advocates moved to make water the “default drink of Maryland” by submitting a bill that would repeal the 6% sales tax on bottled water, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com.

TAX BREAKS FOR ANGELS: Investors in startup companies could receive state tax credits under a proposal being considered by the Maryland General Assembly. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that the Angel Investors Tax Credit would provide nonrefundable tax credits of 50% of an investment — up to $50,000 — in a qualified “innovation company” that is developing a technology, product, or service.

PAID SICK LEAVE: Professor Elizabeth Kennedy, in an op-ed for the Sun, writes that as the campaign for paid sick days gains national attention and public support, the business lobby continues to forecast doomsday scenarios should the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act become law. This opposition is not based, however, on any actual evidence emerging from cities and states across the country where paid sick leave standards are already in place.

CHARTER SCHOOL BILL: Gov. Larry Hogan’s education platform will face its first big test today when a House of Delegates committee will take up his plan to reform Maryland’s strict charter school law, reports Christopher Connelly for WYPR-FM. Although some Democratic lawmakers have signaled interest in seeing a reform to Maryland’s strict charter law, many say the bill goes too far. Public schools advocates say the bill is a giveaway to national charter operators.

HOGAN & HIGHER EDUCATION: Laslo Boyd of Center Maryland writes that it looks like Gov. Larry Hogan will not be following in the footsteps of either former Gov. Bob Ehrlich or current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in their willingness to slash huge chunks of money from higher education budgets.

STANDARDIZED TESTING: Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM looks at standardized testing in schools with Del. Eric Ebersole of the House education subcommittee and sponsor of a bill that would create a commission to review Maryland’s use of assessments and testing in public schools; Cheryl Bost, of the Maryland State Education Association; and Dr. Jack Smith, of the state Department of Education.

KOPP RE-ELECTED: The Maryland General Assembly re-elected Nancy K. Kopp to a fourth term as state treasurer during a joint session in the House chamber Wednesday, Ovetta Wiggins and Jenna Johnson report in the Post. Kopp defeated William H. Campbell, a Republican and former candidate for state comptroller, in a secret ballot vote.

Kopp Hogan

After she was sworn in for her fourth four-year term, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp signs the official register as Gov. Larry Hogan looks on. (MarylandReporter.com photo by Rebecca Lessner)

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Calling human trafficking a “vile and violent issue,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., joined her female colleagues before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday to call for more aid for victims and a crackdown on traffickers, CNS’s Alicia McElhaney writes in the Easton Star Democrat. Mikulski, along with the 19 other women serving in the Senate, sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee in early February calling for a hearing on sex trafficking.

COFFEE WITH DELANEY: About two dozen people showed up for coffee with U.S. Rep. John Delaney on Wednesday at Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown, writes Peggy McEwan for the Gazette. Each was there for a different reason, though transportation topped the list of questions and suggestions.

WA CO ED BILL DIES: A bill that would let the Washington County school board use private financing to borrow up to $10 million for short-term capital projects will not make any progress this year in the Maryland General Assembly, Stu Basu writes in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. The proposal was controversial from the beginning, with Sens. Andrew Serafini and George Edwards supporting the measure, and Dels. Neil Parrott and Mike McKay opposing it.

SUNDAY LIQUOR SALES: Prince George’s residents could soon be able to buy liquor in the county on Sundays, thanks to a legislative proposal that store owners say will help them compete with neighboring jurisdictions that already allow Sunday sales, Daniel Leaderman writes in the Gazette.

FACILITY SALE REVIEW: Councilmen Billy Shreve and Kirby Delauter have petitioned Gov. Larry Hogan to look favorably on the sale of a county nursing home and assisted living center, a transaction that failed to secure state approval under the prior administration. Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post writes that under the leadership of then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, the Board of Public Works tabled its review of the county’s plan to privatize the facilities.

TEAM MONIKER: It’s been more than year since Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said he intended to ask the County Council to go on record as urging the Washington Redskins to change the team’s name. He has yet to make the request, reports Bill Turque in the Post.

SCHUH FUND-RAISER: Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh has held a couple of fundraisers since he was sworn in Dec. 1. His latest effort to raise money was at a private breakfast Wednesday that brought home the bacon starting at $1,000 per plate. The event was hosted by Maryland’s top paid registered lobbyist Gerard Evans, who made $1.1 million in five months from some 40 clients, reports Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital.

VITALE REPLACEMENT: Gov. Larry Hogan wants multiple names to consider when he appoints a replacement for Cathy Vitale, the former Severna Park delegate sworn in this week as a county judge, Chase Cook reports in the Capital. But the chairman of the committee charged with recommending a nominee intends to send only one name, as required by the state constitution, and says his group hasn’t gotten a formal request from Hogan to do anything differently.