March 9, 2015

State Roundup, March 9, 2015

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RAIN TAX REPEAL: A panel of Maryland lawmakers voted down one of Gov. Larry Hogan’s key campaign promises Friday — to eliminate the unpopular “rain tax,” Jenna Johnson and Ovetta Wiggins report for the Post.

CUTTING BEGINS: Michael Dresser of the Sun is reporting this morning that ever since Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled his budget for next year in January, leaders of the General Assembly’s spending committees have been sharpening their knives. This week they start cutting. House Appropriations subcommittees will begin the process with the aim of finding enough cuts to restore money for state aid to education and other programs. The full committee meets to make final decisions Friday.

RIGHT TO DIE: Terminally ill patients and those who have cared for them asked Maryland lawmakers on Friday to give people facing death the right to end their lives on their own terms, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.

GAS TAX HIKES: A representative of Gov. Larry Hogan faced tough questions from a House committee over a proposal to repeal automatic increases to the state’s gas tax, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The proposal to eliminate the automatic increases highlighted the sharp division between a legislature that passed the tax in 2013 as a way to pay for transportation projects and Hogan, a Republican who has made the repeal part of his legislative priorities for the year.

CITY SCHOOLS & ARMED OFFICERS: Officers in the Baltimore City school system’s police force won’t be able to carry guns inside schools any time soon. The city’s delegation in Annapolis effectively killed legislation Friday that would have lifted the prohibition, putting an end to a contentious debate that divided the community, reports Erin Cox and Erica Green for the Sun. So for the time being, Baltimore’s school police will remain the only police officers in the state forbidden to have firearms within public schools while classes are in session.

NANNY STATE: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post decries two recent examples of Maryland as a nanny state: One was a ruling of unsubstantiated child neglect by the Montgomery County Child Protective Services over the freedom to explore their world that two parents offer to their children, the other is a bill that would restrict the kind of drink your child can get with a fixed price meal at a restaurant.

DLLR AUDIT: The state paid unemployment benefits to some people behind bars, according to an audit that also found other problems in the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, Carrie Wells reports for the Sun.  The audit of the Division of Unemployment Insurance, which was released Friday, found that the agency did not periodically review whether people getting unemployment benefits were incarcerated, had the same address as others also getting benefits, or were DLLR employees

CABINET OKS: The Maryland Senate unanimously approved another batch of appointments to Gov. Larry Hogan’s Cabinet on Friday, including secretaries who will oversee the departments of transportation and the environment, Jenna Johnson of the Post reports.

Hogan Chesapeake Caledonian St patricks

Gov. Larry Hogan marched in the Annapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade Sunday, posing afterward with the Chesapeake Caledonian Pipes and Drums. (Photo from the governor’s office)

D.C. METRO EXEC: Robert McCartney of the Post is reporting that the recent damaging split on the D.C. Metro board over the choice of a new chief executive illustrates the difficulty of reforming the rail and bus system. That’s partly because of differences within the region over what kind of top executive is needed. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan want a turnaround specialist to shake up Metro, officials said. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe agrees that “a change agent” is needed but would accept a traditional transit executive.

MISHANDLING FUNDS: An Ellicott City man accused by federal prosecutors of mishandling money from employees of a nonprofit health organization has been working as a fiscal officer for the Howard County government. William “Kris” Hathaway, former CEO of Baltimore Behavioral Health, was charged Tuesday in federal court with one count of failing to account for employee taxes and one count of theft from the employee retirement plan, report Pamela Wood and Justin Fenton for the Sun.

MIKULSKI’S LEGACY: When Barbara Mikulski first stepped onto the Senate floor in 1987, she saw only one other female senator. They were required to wear skirts and were prohibited from using the male-only gym. But as the retiring Maryland Democrat prepares to relinquish the title of “dean of the Senate women,” she leaves a political environment that is fundamentally changed — from access to the treadmills to the possibility that a woman could ascend to the presidency, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

MIKULSKI’S SEAT: Benjamin Jealous, the former president of the NAACP, has told friends and supporters in Maryland that he is thinking about running for the U.S. Senate seat that Sen. Barbara Mikulski will vacate in 2016, according to two people with knowledge of these conversations, Jenna Johnson reports for the Post.

EDWARDS TO SEEK MIKULSKI’S SEAT: U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards plans to announce on Tuesday that she will run for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski, setting up a potentially bruising primary fight with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Arelis Hernandez reports in the Post.

REID ENDORSES VAN HOLLEN: U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, once considered the likely stand-in to House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, has abandoned leadership prospects there for a chance to serve in the Senate, securing a major endorsement from that chamber’s leading Senate Democrat, Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports.

VAN HOLLEN’S SEAT: Louis Peck of Bethesda Mag reports that Del. Kumar Barve, D-Gaithersburg, a former majority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates and now chair of its Environment and Transportation Committee, said he is considering a run for U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s District 8 seat, as is at-large Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen, who has joined at least two other County Council members in considering a run for the slot.

  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s decision to run for Senate in Maryland marks the likely start of a crowded Democratic primary for Senate — and for his newly open House seat too. Van Hollen represents Maryland’s 8th District, a reliably Democratic district bordering Washington, D.C. Members of the state Senate, House of Delegates and Montgomery City Council have little to risk by running because they are not standing for re-election until 2018, Alexis Levinson writes in Roll Call.

O’MALLEY MOVE THE NEEDLE: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes: “Nobody asked me, but I’m pretty sure the chances of Martin O’Malley being the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee moved from no-way to just far-fetched in the last week. (Definition of “far-fetched” from vocabulary.com: “Highly imaginative but unlikely.”)

IS O’MALLEY READY? John Wagner of the Post writes that as the media spotlight started to turn his way, former  Gov. Martin O’Malley left New Hampshire this weekend with a crucial question still unanswered about his 2016 political ambitions: Is he ready for Hillary?

EVERYBODY DOES IT: Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to catch heat for her extensive use of a private email account to conduct official business while she was secretary of state. But the Democrats’ 2016 presidential favorite isn’t the only White House hopeful whose transparency has come into question. Others, including former Gov. Martin O’Malley, have also used it, Bill Barrow of the AP writes in the Sun.

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME: Sun media columnist David Zurawik writes that Ben Carson’s recent performance on radio, TV and social media during a 12-hour period Wednesday — starting at CNN and ending with an apology on his Facebook page — was so contradictory that it raised new and serious questions about whether he has the media skills to be anything but an uber-fringe candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.