GAS TAX DEBATE: Even with the price of oil slowly inching up, gas prices at the pump are still some of the lowest we’ve seen in years. But whatever it costs to fill up your tank, in Annapolis there’s a debate simmering over how much the state should add to the gas tax, Christopher Connelly reports for WYPR-FM.
HELP FOR CAREGIVERS: Legislators are hoping to empower home caregivers by requiring hospitals to provide instruction on caring for discharged patients once they reach their homes, where family members are often left unprepared to administer medicine, writes Rebecca Lessner in MarylandReporter.com. According to AARP, 770,000 Marylanders are caring for an aging parent or loved one.
HEROIN PROBLEM: The Senate Finance Committee is considering a bill that will expand a program that allows ordinary people to learn how to administer Naloxone, an emergency drug administered to reduce fatalities from overdose. The Overdose Response Program has been in place for a year but doctors are hesitant to prescribe the drug, worried they could be sued if something goes wrong. Meanwhile, deaths from overdoses of heroin and fentanyl are growing, Rebecca Lessner of MarylandReporter.com reports.
- Meanwhile, in Congress, the chief of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration put a spotlight on Maryland’s heroin problems during a hearing Thursday. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart spoke of the state’s rising number of overdose deaths in testimony before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. She said a DEA task force focusing on heroin problems in Baltimore City is a model for other communities, Alison Knezevich reports for the Sun.
AIR POLLUTION REGS: Timothy Wheeler of the Sun is reporting that a House committee was scheduled to hear testimony yesterday on a bill that would impose an air pollution regulation that Gov. Larry Hogan withdrew when he took office. The bill, sponsored by Del. Dana Stein, would require Maryland’s coal-burning power plants to curb smog-forming emissions of nitrogen oxide.
EX-FELONS & THE VOTE: A bill is moving forward in the General Assembly that would restore an ex-felon’s voting rights while he is on parole or probation. The AP is reporting in the Daily Record that senators debated the bill for an hour on Thursday, weighing the appropriate time for the restoration of someone’s voting rights.
TAX CREDIT FOR SHELTER PETS: Forget an expensive suit or a flashy watch — on Thursday, advocates in Annapolis were wearing fur. They were also sniffing the ground and trailing leashes. Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News Post writes that the two advocates in question, beagles named Dover and Scout, visited State Circle to promote legislation sponsored by their owner, state Sen. Michael Hough. The bill would provide tax credits of up to $100 for each dog or cat adopted from an animal shelter or rescue facility.
FRACKING LIABILITY: A watered-down version of a bill that would have imposed strict liability standards on companies seeking to drill for natural gas in Western Maryland shale deposits will head to the full Senate for a vote, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.
GUN-TOTING FOR SELF-DEFENSE: A bill that would add “self defense” as a reason to wear, carry or transport a gun in Maryland was among firearm-related measures heard Thursday by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, Kaustuv Basu reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. The measure is sponsored by Sen. Wayne Norman, who said at a news conference before the hearing, that his bill was necessary “because the state police have limited criteria when they can issue a permit …. Anybody who feels they are in danger … the state police will be able to look at allegations … and then the state police can rule or determine based on their investigation.”
ED, PAY FUNDING: The House Appropriations Committee on Friday afternoon is expected to find $250 million in Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed $40 billion budget to fully fund education aid formulas and a state employee pay bump. Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com that state employees already began receiving the 2% cost-of-living pay increase in January, and this will continue it through the year.
JUDICIARY SEEKS 10% MORE FUNDING: Maryland’s top judge pressed lawmakers Thursday to approve more than $549 million for the Judiciary in fiscal year 2016 — a nearly 10% increase from the half-billion dollars appropriated for the judicial branch this fiscal year, which ends June 30, Steve Lash is reporting for the Daily Record.
CAMPAIGNING JUDGES: The editorial advisory board for the Daily Record makes the case for ending the practice of having judges stand for contested campaigns and elections.
HEALTHY DRINK OPTION: Restaurants could be required to offer healthy drink options — not just soda — with kids’ meals under legislation that has pitted public health advocates against the beverage and dining industries in Annapolis. Andrea McDaniels of the Sun reports that the original legislation would have banned the sale of sugary drinks in kids’ meals, but a committee quashed that bill this week, prompting a behind-the-scenes scramble by health advocates who crafted a compromise proposal.
POST-LABOR DAY SCHOOL: A proposed state mandate to start school after Labor Day saw its most contentious moment in the Maryland state Senate on Wednesday afternoon, reports Phil Davis for the Salisbury Daily Times. Senate Bill 455 would require that all the state’s public schools to begin the day after Labor Day at the earliest. Several lawmakers said the bill overstepped boundaries of state influence.
KAMENETZ’S SAD MOVE: The Sun editorial board opines that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s attempt to pit one set of county residents against another to get his way on a tax credit bill under consideration in Annapolis was “unusually tone-deaf, clumsy and counter-productive. It made a mockery of the legitimate concerns of parents in the central and northwest portions of the county about the conditions of aging schools and set up a false conflict.”
HOGAN & PG LIQUOR BOARD: Gov. Larry Hogan wants the longtime chairman of the Prince George’s County liquor board to immediately cede his gavel to Charles W. Caldwell III, a retired federal worker who was chosen by the governor to head the panel, Hogan’s spokeswoman said Thursday. Former board leader Franklin D. Jackson has refused to step aside, reports Hamil Harris for the Post.
TESTING STATE’S BUSINESS CLIMATE: The Greater Baltimore Committee’s Don Fry, in a column for Center Maryland, writes that Maryland is dragging its feet over the proposed merger of utilities Pepco and Exelon while three other states in their coverage area have approved it. It certainly provides a test of Maryland’s new business climate, he writes.
BROWN ANNOUNCES RUN FOR CONGRESS: The Sun’s Erin Cox reports that, with pundits still chattering about why his last campaign ended in a stunning defeat, former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown announced Thursday that he is running for Donna Edwards’ 4th Congressional District seat. The 53-year-old Democrat’s decision to jump back into politics four months after losing the governor’s race sparked a raging debate among Maryland’s political class: How could Brown’s move for redemption shape one of the most competitive congressional primaries in the state?
O’MALLEY ALSO USED PRIVATE EMAIL: Martin O’Malley, who has been loathe to criticize Hillary Rodham Clinton for using her personal e-mail account to do government business while secretary of state, often used his own private gmail account when he was governor of Maryland to communicate with staff and Cabinet officials. Aides said Thursday that O’Malley’s use of the account was not at an attempt at secrecy. The private e-mails were subject to the same state public records laws as O’Malley’s government account — a point O’Malley himself alluded to during an appearance Wednesday at the Brookings Institution, reports John Wagner for the Post.
O’MALLEY LOOKING UP: Colby Itkowitz of the Post writes that former Gov. Martin O’Malley seemed quite pleased with the results of a poll that put him only 75 points behind Hillary Rodham Clinton. And a little dubious. Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning, presidential hopeful O’Malley beat back conventional wisdom that Clinton has sealed the Democratic nomination for president.
- John Wagner of the Post writes that when pressed about a New York Times story suggesting that Democrats see no alternatives to Clinton, O’Malley, who’s barely registered in early polling, conceded “maybe that’s the way it is today. But our history as a party is one of always wanting to have a robust discussion about the better choices that will give our kids a better future.”
- An AP story in the Sun reports that former Gov. O’Malley says he’s not worried about any presumption that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. O’Malley says “every year, there is the inevitable front-runner.” He says he’ll decide this spring whether to run and that he expects “a robust conversation” within the party.
SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE: A senior National Cancer Institute official says the Montgomery County Council’s decision on a proposal to ban cosmetic lawn pesticides will have to be based on public policy and “community values,” because scientific evidence of the danger such chemicals may pose to humans remains inconclusive, reports Bill Turque for the Post..