March 26, 2015

State Roundup, March 26, 2015

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MILLER ON HOGAN: Maryland’s Senate president said Wednesday he wants to work with Gov. Larry Hogan on some of his tax relief proposals, as Democrats who control the Legislature work to compromise with the Republican governor on the state’s $40.4 billion budget, the AP’s Brian Witte reports in the Washington Times. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller’s comments marked a change in tone from seven weeks ago. That’s when legislative leaders were angered by the governor’s State of the State speech for saying the state’s economy was “floundering,” and they doubted much of Hogan’s agenda would pass the Democratic-led Legislature.

  • “I’m just asking the General Assembly to continue to work with the administration so the House can declare victory, the Senate can declare victory and, closing the session, the governor can say to the people who voted for him that he can declare victory as well,” Miller said, in the story by Jenna Johnson in the Washington Post.

CHARTER SCHOOL BILL GUTTED: A key state Senate panel spent Wednesday dismantling Gov. Larry Hogan’s bill to expand charter schools, redrafting it to allow for only small changes to Maryland’s program for alternative schools, Erin Cox writes in the Sun. Democratic senators on the Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee stripped out the Republican governor’s proposals to exempt charters from the teachers’ union, to require local school systems to send more cash to charters, and to give their operators more leeway in hiring teachers and principals.

RETIREMENT DEBT: In a Sun op-ed, Sheila Weinberg of Truth in Accounting writes that Maryland has $20 billion in undisclosed retirement debt.

PALCOHOL BAN: The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that comptroller Peter Franchot said Wednesday that the state’s alcoholic beverage distributors have agreed to a voluntary ban on the sale of powdered alcohol — a substance that can be dissolved in water to create a potent drink.

PORT TAX BREAK: An unexpected provision inserted into next year’s state budget package could cost Baltimore millions of dollars by exempting four giant cranes at the port from city taxes, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. The measure — which would benefit a single private corporation — received preliminary Senate approval Wednesday. A spokesman for the administration of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the city had not been informed.

GUNS ON APPEAL: Attorneys for the state of Maryland squared off with gun rights advocates in federal appeals court Wednesday over the constitutionality of Maryland’s 2013 ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, Jenna Portnoy reports in the Post. The law is being challenged by a group of gun stores, gun-ownership organizations and individuals. They argue that the ban on commonly owned guns violates their Second Amendment right to bear arms.

PG PROPERTY TAXES: Sen. C. Anthony Muse, D-Prince George’s, on Wednesday proposed a state law that would block an attempt by Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) to raise property taxes for the first time in more than three decades, reports the Post’s Arelis Hernandez. Senate Bill 939 would forbid the county’s “governing body” to set a property tax rate higher than limits enshrined in its charter — which means a 1978 voter-imposed cap of $0.96 per $100 of assessed value.

PHOSPHORUS ON THE SHORE: Legislation restricting phosphorus use on Eastern Shore farms may be on its dying breath after a Senate bill was referred back to committee Wednesday — clearing the way for the larger compromise, Phil Davis reports in the Salisbury Daily Times. After Gov. Larry Hogan and Assembly Democrats announced the sides had reached an agreement last week on a new version of Hogan’s regulations, Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-22-Prince George’s, referred his bill back to the Health, Education and Environmental Affairs committee Wednesday.

Peabody Conservatory’s Elation Brass Quintet in Lawyers Mall Tuesday evening. The musical performance followed dancing by the Maryland Ballet Theatre earlier that morning.  Both cultural mini-shows were organized to help alleviate mid-session stress.

Peabody Conservatory’s Elation Brass Quintet in Lawyers Mall Tuesday evening. The musical performance followed dancing by the Maryland Ballet Theatre earlier that morning. Both cultural mini-shows were organized to help alleviate mid-session stress.

SENATE RACE: Columnist Richard Cross in the Frederick News-Post says “few things have baffled me more than Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s boneheaded attempt to wade into Democratic primary waters in the upcoming race to replace the retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Shortly after Rep. Chris Van Hollen jumped into the race, Reid quickly endorsed him, thereby alienating two key Democratic constituencies: African-American voters and women (always a key component of the constituency of Mikulski, who was reportedly angered by the move).

VAN HOLLEN, EDWARDS ON ISRAEL: The Washington Jewish Week says Reps. Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards are seen very differently in their views toward Israel and their relationship to the Jewish community, in this piece by Dmitriy Shapiro. Van Hollen is seen is much more pro-Israel.

BMORE CANDIDATE WANTED: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake made clear Wednesday she thinks it’s imperative a candidate from Baltimore run for Senate, the Sun’s Yvonne Wenger reports. What she didn’t confirm was whether she wants to be that person.

REPUBLICAN FOR SENATE: An attorney and former legal aide to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. told supporters in an email Wednesday he is considering a run for Senate in Maryland — adding his name to a relatively short list of Republicans who are considering the contest, John Fritze writes in the Sun. Chrysovalantis P. Kefalas, a 35-year-old Parkville resident who served as deputy legal counsel to Ehrlich, said in the email that he has been meeting with business and political leaders to discuss a possible campaign.

SALISBURY METRO AREA EXPANDS: Employers in the Salisbury metropolitan area miraculously added about 100,000 workers between December 2014 and January 2015, writes Jeremy Cox in the Daily Times, but that’s because the Labor Department expanded the area to include Sussex County in Delaware and Worcester County in Maryland.

BLACK HISTORY IN HAGERSTOWN: With less than three weeks remaining in the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly, some Washington County lawmakers are stepping up their efforts to get funding for the Doleman Black Heritage Museum in Hagerstown, Stu Basu reports in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. A bill seeking operational funding for the museum has cleared the Senate. But in a replay of 2014, A House Committee still hasn’t voted on it.

FLY BILL SWATTED DOWN: A Senate committee has voted down a measure that would have started a pilot program to control the black-fly population in Washington County, writes the Herald-Mail’s Stu Basu. The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee voted 7-4 against the bill sponsored by state Sen. Andrew Serafini and Del. Neil Parrott.

VOTING NO ON STATE BUDGET: The House version of the $40.4 billion budget passed last week by a vote of 129-10, writes Jason Babcock for the Calvert Recorder. All 10 nay votes came from Republicans, including Matt Morgan.

IS UBER SAFE? To me at least, Uber has always felt like planning my own kidnapping: I enter a strange person’s car under the cover of night, opines Maive Dunigan for the Diamondback. He finds Uber unsettling because he doesn’t know who will show up in the car.

SNOW DAY WAIVERS: The Maryland State Department of Education may make things a bit easier for some school systems, writes Henley Moore for the The Star. The state board of education announced Tuesday, March 24, that local school systems may apply for waivers of up to three days from the 180-instructional day requirement due to snow days.

OYSTER MANAGEMENT: There is a bill in the General Assembly that starts the dialogue on sustainable oyster harvesting, writes Josh Bollinger for The Star. A ten-fold increase in the oyster population in the Bay would remove 10 million pounds of nitrogen each year.

FAILED DRUG PENALTIES BILL: Baltimore City lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee have successfully mobilized their colleagues to defeat a bill that would have increased criminal penalties for distributing heroin in cases where it contributed to the death of a user, writes Roberto Alejandro for the AFRO.

O’MALLEY FOR PRESIDENT? Martin O’Malley is running for President and with the latest Hillary Clinton stumble, many Democrats are finally giving him a first look, opines Martin Watcher for the Dagger. Watcher gives his thoughts on why Martin O’Malley can’t become the next President of the United States with his past-record with African Americans.

BIKE FRIENDLY: 100 miles of bike lanes to be added over next 15-years to Baltimore City, reports WBAL. Baltimore lags behind other cities as a place that is bike-friendly, the city’s growing millennial population fuels the plan to catch up.

SEX-REASSIGNMENT: Maryland legislators have enacted a bill which impacts transgender people who seek to change their birth certificates, reports Fox 45. New sex-reassignment birth certificates would not be allowed to be marked as “amended.