RAIN TAX UPROAR: Senate President Mike Miller’s bid to end the long-running political uproar over the so-called “rain tax” ran into some turbulence Wednesday, as witness after witness urged a House panel to retool the Democratic leader’s bill, reports Tim Wheeler for the Sun. Miller told members of the House Environment and Transportation Committee that his bill would solve the controversy over the three-year-old law imposing storm-water remediation fees to help clean up the Chesapeake Bay.
- A proposal to end state-mandated fees for cleaning pollution out of stormwater got another boost Wednesday when the chairman of a Maryland House committee said he would make the bill a priority, according to an AP report in the Easton Star Democrat.
FRACKING MORATORIUM: Senate panel voted Wednesday to impose a two-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Western Maryland, a pause to allow lawmakers to review any limits the Hogan administration might put on the controversial drilling practice, Timothy Wheeler writes in the Sun.
SAYLOR BILL: The state Senate is moving forward with a scaled-back version of a plan to connect law enforcement trainers with people who have developmental or intellectual disabilities, writes Bethany Rodgers in the Frederick News Post. The revised proposal presented to the Maryland Senate on Wednesday would establish the Ethan Saylor Alliance for Self-Advocates as Educators inside the Maryland Department of Disabilities.
NO DEATH WITH DIGNITY: Hope ended Wednesday for those who wanted Maryland to pass a “death with dignity” law this year, writes Erin Cox for the Sun. Leaders of two key committees considering a bill that would have allowed doctors to prescribe medicine to help terminally ill patients end their lives decided not to vote on the proposal, effectively killing it.
MUSE WANTS CAP ON PG ED TAXES: In response to complaints from citizens about Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker’s budget proposal, Sen. Anthony Muse has drafted legislation to cap property tax increases unless the school system cannot fund its maintenance of effort requirement writes Michael Sykes in the Prince George’s Sentinel.
BAIL REFORM: Senate President Mike Miller delivered a stinging lecture to the Judicial Proceedings Committee Friday, telling its members to “work your ass off” and find a solution to the thorny issue of bail reform, Michael Dresser writes in the Sun.
- Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that Miller is looking to relieve Maryland of the financial burden that followed a 2013 high court ruling that arrested individuals have a state constitutional right to counsel at initial bail hearings. “It’s been two years of hell,” Miller said, referring to what he regarded as the General Assembly’s failed efforts to find a legislative response to undo the Maryland Court of Appeals’ DeWolfe v. Richmond ruling.
POWDERED ALCOHOL: A state delegate plans to introduce a bill that would make the sale of powdered alcohol illegal in Maryland, at least for one year. Last month the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved the sale of the so-called “Palcohol.” That approval put state legislatures across the country on notice; many of them have banned the sale of the product. Del. Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County says Maryland should be next reports WMAR-TV.
LETTER TO INDIANA: Come to Maryland. That’s the message from Del. Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore City, in an open letter to Indiana businesses Wednesday, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.
NO INDIANA TRAVEL BAN: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday rejected a request by an openly gay state lawmaker to ban state-funded travel to Indiana until that state repeals its newly enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act writes Jenna Johnson in the Post.
- Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that the letter urging Gov. Larry Hogan to ban state funded travel to Indiana wasn’t warmly received. Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery County and an openly gay member of the state legislature, sent the letter to the governor, but a spokesman for Hogan said the governor stopped reading it three sentences in—a sentence that references Hogan’s wife Yumi and her first marriage that ended in divorce.
- The governor’s office said Hogan prefers to engage with people he disagrees with – rather than cut ties. His aide called the letter a political stunt, Christopher Connelly reports for WYPR-FM.
- Governors and mayors across the country have banned official travel to Indiana. Businesses including Wal-Mart and NASCAR have said such “religious freedom” laws foster intolerance and exclusion, Kevin Rector and Erin Cox of the Sun report.
- Laslo Boyd of Center Maryland takes a long view on discrimination then hones in on college basketball, writing that it’s entirely reasonable to expect University of Maryland President Wallace Loh and athletic director Kevin Anderson to advocate strongly that the conference move its activities out of Indiana if there’s not a substantial change in state policy.
- A little April Fool’s spirit floated in the State House Wednesday, but not everything was a laughing matter, according to MarylandReporter.com.
BUT A LITTLE LEVITY: Gov. Larry Hogan opened Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting in somber tones laced with self-praise that built to a stunning announcement as he took some time on April 1 to announce his candidacy for president, Erin Cox of the Sun writes.
EYES ON SPENDING:Freshman Del. Deborah Rey is not afraid to stand alone in opposition to legislation. “It’s not personal, it’s policy, ” Rey says, explaining her renegade votes against bills sponsored even by members of her own Republican Party.
POOLE MUM ON NEXT STEP: Bruce Poole, a Hagerstown attorney who served in the Maryland legislature for more than a decade, is expected to become the new chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, according to key political leaders writes Kaustuv Basu in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. When reached by telephone Wednesday, Poole said he could not comment until Thursday’s decision.
CARDIN’S OPPORTUNITY: The indictment of Sen. Robert Menendez on corruption charges Wednesday could create an opening for Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin to become the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, writes John Fritze for the Sun.
THE MONEY RUN: The field of candidates planning to run for House and Senate contests in Maryland is not yet set, but the race for campaign cash is well under way, John Fritze reports in the Sun. Candidates — mostly Democrats, to date — are making pitches to donors and organizing fundraisers for at least three contests following Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s decision to retire in 2017.
EDWARDS HIRES CAMPAIGN MANAGER: A well-respected Democratic operative with a background in New Hampshire politics will serve as Rep. Donna Edwards’ campaign manager in her bid for Senate next year, John Fritze for the Sun..
VAN HOLLEN’S SEAT: The line of prospective contenders for Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s 8th District Congressional seat got a little longer this week writes Jenna Johnson in the Post, as Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez said she is seriously considering the race. “I’m considering it very positively,” said Gutierrez, 73, “It’s a rare opportunity to raise issues at the Congressional level that are important that we speak out on.”
- Former County Councilmember Valerie Ervin of Silver Spring also has signaled her intention to enter the race for the Democratic nomination in the Montgomery County-based district, joining state Del. Kumar Barve of Gaithersburg—who has announced his candidacy—and state Sen. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park, who has scheduled a formal announcement for April 19. Louis Peck writes the story for Bethesda Magazine.
O’MALLEY’S RUN: John Wagner writes in the Post that former Gov. Martin O’Malley sharpened his populist rhetoric as he addressed a group of young Democrats in New Hampshire Tuesday night, telling them that politics “is not the exclusive domain of the ultra-wealthy.” “There is no reason that billionaires should crowd of us from ownership of our democracy,” O’Malley told the group, packed into a basement room of a popular restaurant.
- WYPR’s senior news analyst Fraser Smith speaks with Todd Eberly, commentator and political scientist at St. Mary’s College, about the political aspirations of O’Malley, who is running, they say. The presumed frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, has done next to nothing – beyond the famous email stumble. On national television last weekend, O’Malley said the presidency is not a crown for the next Clinton/Bush candidate.