March 27, 2015

State Roundup, March 27, 2015

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HOGAN’S BUDGET: The Maryland Senate voted unanimously Thursday to approve a $40.4 billion budget that wipes out nearly 75% of the state’s structural deficit and restores funding that was cut from education and state employees’ salaries in Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

  • For the first time in nine years, the Maryland Senate unanimously approved the $40.5 billion state budget in its first go-round, applauding their unanimity and congratulating each other for their bipartisan work. “This year is like no other,” said Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, who praised the Democratic leadership of the Senate Budget Committee for giving Republicans a seat at the table, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.
  • The Daily Record’s Bryan Sears reports that the vote marked the first time since Republican former Gov. Bob Ehrlich that the entire Senate voted in favor of the budget and perhaps more than a decade since the chamber agreed on the two-bill package that makes up the state’s operating budget spending plan, observers said.
  • Last week, the House of Delegates’ spending plan was approved on a 129-to-10 vote, which came just hours after the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee unanimously approved a similar spending plan that restores full funding for education and pay raises for state workers writes Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.
  • Ten Republicans in the Maryland General Assembly voted last week against the Republican governor’s budget, and one of them was one of Frederick County’s own, Del. Kathy Afzali.The budget plan that passed out of the House by a vote of 129 to 10 contained some significant differences from the original version proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan. And some of those changes were deal breakers for Afzali writes Bethany Rodgers in the Frederick News Post.

A SECOND HONEYMOON? Greater Baltimore Committee’s Don Fry, writing in Center Maryland, opines, what a difference seven weeks have made to the legislative atmosphere in Annapolis. The less-than-positive reactions by Democrats who control the General Assembly to Gov. Larry Hogan’s Feb. 4 State of the State speech prompted many to conclude that the post-inauguration honeymoon – punctuated by mutual pledges of bipartisanship and collaboration – was quickly evaporating. Nevertheless, it appears to have been somewhat revived.

BIPARTISAN TAX RELIEF: Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post that Maryland Senate President Mike Miller ­pledged Wednesday to work with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on some of Hogan’s struggling tax-relief proposals, including forging a compromise that would shrink a planned increase in the state’s gas tax.

MORE TROOPERS: Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday that he will ask the General Assembly to put an additional $8.2 million in next year’s budget to let the Maryland State Police hire 100 additional troopers and reopen the long-closed barrack in Annapolis, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.

Hogan robotics

Gov. Larry Hogan stands with the winners of a robotics contest at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Regional Manufacturing Institute. About 600 people from Maryland’s 3,680 manufacturing companies attended the event at Martin’s West in Woodlawn. “We’re open for business,” Hogan told the crowd. RMI has been headed since its inception by Mike Galiazzo, appointed by then Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen.

HUNGRY KIDS: Legislators are moving to dish out free meals to hungry schoolkids, who are too embarrassed by living below the poverty level to eat free lunches in front of peers, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com. The Hunger-Free Schools Act of 2015 would abolish the current enrollment process of singling out low-income students with paper applications.

FOR CHARTER SCHOOLS: The Post editorial board opines that Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to make it easier to establish charter schools has run into trouble in the General Assembly. The public education systems in much of Maryland are among the best in the country, so it is not surprising that lawmakers are wary of making changes. What legislators need to realize, however, is that public charter schools not only offer new possibilities to students but also can function as a useful complement to traditional schools. Lawmakers need look no further than the neighboring District to see how two school sectors can work in parallel to further students’ interests.

SELF ADVOCATE CENTER:  Patti Saylor brought photographs and vivid memories of her son to a Wednesday hearing before state lawmakers; she explained she wanted them to “know that Ethan was a real human being.” In the Frederick News Post, Bethany Rodgers writes that Saylor urged lawmakers to establish a statewide center to encourage interactions between police and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES BILL STOPPED: Kaustuv Basu reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail that a bill to study the use of self-driving vehicles in the state will not make any further progress during the current session of the Maryland General Assembly.

LEWIS STEPS DOWN: The Maryland Democratic Party Chairwoman Yvette Lewis plans to resign next Thursday, writes Jenna Johnson in the Post. Lewis wrote in a letter posted on the party’s website that her father recently died and her mother is having health issues, so she needs to spend more time attending to her family.

OBAMA COURT NOMINEE: President Barack Obama has nominated trial attorney Paula Xinis to become a U.S. District Court judge in Maryland. Xinis, a partner at the Baltimore law firm of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy, was an assistant federal public defender for 13 years, and previously was a clerk for Judge Diana Gribbon Motz in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Justin Fenton of the Sun reports.

BILL TOOHEY DIES: William J. “Bill” Toohey, a former spokesman for the Baltimore County police who was the face of the department during high-profile cases for more than a decade, died Thursday of intravascular lymphoma at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. The Canton resident was 69. Mr. Toohey went to work as the communications director for the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, a post he held at his death. Previously, he had worked for both Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Paul S. Sarbanes. Jacques Kelly writes the obituary for the Sun.

DICK TOMLINSON DIES: Richard L. Tomlinson Sr., a retired photographer who served at the News American and later was a press photographer for two of Maryland’s governors, died of complications from heart failure and chronic obstructive respiratory disease Monday at Gilchrist Hospice Care. The Lutherville resident was 79, writes Jacques Kelly in the Sun.

HALFWAY FOR JACKSON JR. Former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. arrived at a Baltimore halfway house Thursday night after being released from a federal prison in Alabama, two years after pleading guilty to spending $750,000 in campaign money on personal items. As he walked into the Volunteers of America Chesapeake facility on Monument Street after a 12-hour drive from Montgomery, Ala., he said he hoped his former constituents in Illinois would give him another chance when he completes his sentence, Colin Campbell of the Sun reports.