March 4, 2015

State Roundup, March 4, 2015

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BODY CAMS & PUBLIC INFORMATION: As the General Assembly weighs statewide standards on police body cameras, local law enforcement agencies are pushing to keep the public from seeing the resulting videos. Saying that they fear costly “fishing expeditions” for the recordings, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and other local officials have urged state lawmakers to amend Maryland’s Public Information Act to limit which ones authorities have to release and to whom, Timothy Wheeler reports for the Sun.

LIMITING GROWTH: Delegates grilled Budget Secretary David Brinkley on Tuesday, asking him to justify Gov. Larry Hogan’s plans to limit growth in school funding and curtail employee pay raises as they took up legislation that implements those decisions, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. Brinkley, a former senator, said the governor wants to “structurally balance the budget permanently.”

CHILD WELFARE LEGISLATION: Two contrasting child custody bills came before a state Senate committee Tuesday, one saying judicial decisions must focus solely on the child’s best interests and the other stating that judges should begin with a presumption that the estranged parents be given joint legal and shared physical custody of the child, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record.

RALLY AGAINST FRACKING: Lawmakers in Annapolis are wading once again into the heated debate over whether to allow hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, in Maryland. Timothy Wheeler of the Sun writes that environmentalists and Western Maryland business owners and residents worried about fracking’s risks held a rally outside the State House at noon Tuesday. They are pressing for legislative action to prevent the state from going ahead with the controversial drilling technique.

REPEALING RAIN TAX: Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign pledge to repeal Maryland’s so-called rain tax got a Senate hearing Tuesday, where a Republican county executive, a parade of business owners, and even one Democratic senator called the mandatory pollution cleanup fees unfair, burdensome and unnecessary, writes Timothy Wheeler in the Sun.

CHARLES COUNTY LIGHT RAIL: Jeff Newman of SoMdNews.com reports that, with Maryland facing yet another fiscal crunch and Gov. Larry Hogan weighing whether to fund the Purple Line and Red Line projects, Charles County’s light rail initiative represents a cheaper option for funding mass transit, project officials told the county commissioners last week.

Miller cat in the hat

For Read Across America week, Senate President Mike Miller posed with the Cat in the Hat in the State House lobby.

SAFE HOME BIRTHS: In a column for the Sun, Sarah Bregel writes about home births and making them a safe option for women. She writes that, “My son’s birth took place in the comfort of my home with two trained (but not yet licensed) midwives by my side. The birth was beautiful, supported and far safer than the circumstances surrounding my hospital birth, five years prior. I am fighting for home birth and the licensing of Certified Professional Midwives (CPM) in Maryland, a state that is largely under-educated about the reality of birthing at home.”

MILLER & BUSCH’S LONG VIEW: With 72 years of legislative experience between them, with 40 years’ collective experience as the presiding officers of the Maryland General Assembly, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch know how to take the long view. And in separate interviews by Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland, both Busch and Miller seemed relatively sanguine about the political developments of the past few months, even if they are hardly what the two lawmakers bargained for.

O’MALLEY WON’T RUN FOR MIKULSKI SEAT: Gov. Martin O’Malley said Tuesday that he will not run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated in 2016 by retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara  Mikulski, removing one well-known name from a long and growing list of possible replacements, John Wagner and Jenna Johnson write in the Post.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE TO DECIDE SOON: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake could decide “within weeks” whether or not to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by the retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

HOUSE SEATS COULD BE IN PLAY: The decision by Mikulski to retire in 2016 has created an unexpected contest not only for her coveted Senate seat, but it could put several House districts in play for the first time in more than a decade, John Fritze reports for the Sun. Seven of Maryland’s eight members of the U.S. House — six Democrats and one Republican — say they might run for the open seat, a rare opportunity in a state where congressional turnover is far slower than the national average.

  • CNS’s Anjali Shastry and Grace Toohey report in the Frederick News Post that Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, is “very likely to run,” an aide said. Both Reps. John Delaney, D-Potomac, and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville, have confirmed they are planning on exploring a campaign, while Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, both said they were giving the run “serious consideration.”

MIKULSKI’S LEGACY: Tom Schaller, in an op-ed for the Sun, writes that 30 years in the Senate and a half-century of public service to Maryland and the nation, Barbara Mikulski will retire from elected politics next year. She will leave a legacy as one of the state’s most admired politicians and among the most influential women ever to serve in Congress.

MO CO OFFICE BUILDING REHAB ON HOLD: The Montgomery County Council has set aside plans to renovate its aging office building, following protests from the school board president that the $31 million proposal sends the wrong message as the county attempts to secure more school construction money from Annapolis, Bill Turque of the Post reports.

E-CIG BAN IN MO CO: The Montgomery County Council on Tuesday passed a bill banning the use of electronic cigarettes in all places where traditional tobacco smoking is now prohibited, including county buildings, bars, restaurants and other businesses open to the public, the Post’s Bill Turque writes.

CARSON & THE PRESIDENCY: Retired Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has become a star among conservative Republicans, announced Tuesday he is formally exploring a run for president in 2016.

  • john bernhardt

    Body Cams article: If the state will not agree to make them public, then there is no sense in using the cameras in the first place. If the idea is to bring accountability (both by the police and by the citizen) or to sort out a difficult scenario, then the public needs to have ready access to the recordings. The whole idea is to prevent official cover-ups. There is no need to fear “fishing expeditions,” just broadcast them over the local TV news! Kamenetz’s is a bogus excuse.