March 18, 2015

State Roundup, March 18, 2015

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HEROIN DEATHS: Politicians, parents, treatment advocates and addicts told their stories Tuesday to a panel formed by Gov. Larry Hogan and offered ideas on how to stem the growing rate of heroin deaths. Hogan assembled the panel in response to the growing heroin problem in the state. Heroin-related deaths rose 95% from 2010 to 2013 as the drug has become easier to find and cheaper than prescription drugs, reports Meredith Cohn for the Sun.

Rutherford MD_Heroin_Summit2

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford chairs the first meeting of the Heroin and Opioid Task Force held in Cecil County.

PURPLE LINE PROBLEMS: Randal O’Toole of the Cato Institute writes, in an op-ed for MarylandReporter.com, that the Purple light rail line that is proposed between Bethesda and New Carrollton will be slow, it will increase congestion and it will use more energy than all of the few cars it takes off the road. The project’s own environmental impact statement and related background documents for the line prove this in black and white.

NEW LIFE FOR EX-FELONS: WYPR’s Fraser Smith talks to Bryan Sears from the Daily Record about the various bills in front of the General Assembly that affect those with a criminal record.  One bill allows for the expungement of criminal convictions that are no longer crimes – it’s passed the state Senate and is on the way to the House of Delegates.

FRACKING LIABILITY BILL: A bill that would impose stricter liability standards for fracking is “jumping the gun” and should be delayed, according to a Republican senator from western Maryland. Sen. George C. Edwards said the bill should not pass until Gov. Larry Hogan has finalized regulations governing the use of hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from Marcellus Shale deposits, Bryan Sears writes for the Daily Record.

PUBLIC FINANCING: Taxpayers may see an extra donation check-off box next year on their Maryland tax forms, with public financing falling alongside several advocacy funds on the income tax return form, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com. The Fair Campaign Financing Fund passed 134-6 in the House Tuesday morning, allowing taxpayers to donate up to $500 each to a fund that will finance the campaigns of future governors and lieutenant governors.

CAR INSURANCE HELP: Maryland state lawmakers are considering legislation designed to help low-income drivers afford insurance, Dave Collins reports for WBAL-TV.

CRAFT DISTILLERIES: Craft distilleries are up and coming businesses making whiskey and other spirits in Maryland. They are growing fast enough that they formed the Maryland Distillers Guild this week. And the General Assembly has caught on to the growth with some lawmakers proposing legislation they think would help the businesses prosper and expand in the state, reports Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital.

PESKY BLACK FLIES: Two Washington County lawmakers in Annapolis want to begin a pilot program in Washington County to control the spread of black flies in the area, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE: The House Economic Matters Committee defeated legislation Friday that would have prohibited an electric utility from removing a tree on private property unless it was considered hazardous and the property owner had consented to its removal, reports Louis Peck for Bethesda Magazine.

RETIRING JUDGES: Most Americans cannot be forced to retire, but in Maryland, judges must give up full-time work when they hit 70. Rebecca Lessner of MarylandReporter.com writes that Senate President Mike Miller, now 72 himself, led a panel of Maryland judges telling the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee Tuesday they want to change that and add five years to when fellow judicial baby boomers should be forced into retirement.

HOGAN NOMINEE IN DOUBT: Gov. Larry Hogan’s nomination of Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera to be Maryland’s secretary of higher education has run into trouble in the General Assembly, Timothy Wheeler is reporting in the Sun.  A key Senate committee has twice postponed votes on Hunter-Cevera’s nomination to review complaints about her leadership years ago of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute.

MOTOR-VOTER REGISTRATION: Kate Alexander of the Gazette reports that state efforts to address Montgomery County’s concerns with voter registration handled by Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration are insufficient, according to the county Board of Elections. The elections board requested a state audit of how MVA handles voter registrations after people made claims of unauthorized changes to their party affiliation.

THE MIKULSKI SCRAMBLE: Fraser Smith talks to WYPR’s State House reporter Christopher Connelly about the buzz in the General Assembly regarding who is jockeying for congressional seats left open when those politicians jockey for U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s seat.

GUEST WORKERS & MARYLAND: Lawmakers from Maryland and the Obama administration are scrambling to fight a federal court order that has shut down the guest worker program that connects foreigners with crab-picking jobs on the Eastern Shore and other low-paying, seasonal work around the country, John Fritze reports in the Sun.