April 6, 2015

State Roundup, April 6, 2015

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BUSCH TO HOGAN:  House Speaker Michael Busch is confident the governor and the legislature will come to an agreement on a final state budget by the time the Maryland General Assembly session ends one week from tomorrow. However, differences remain. Busch was a guest on Sunday’s Maryland’s News This Week on WBAL-AM.

  • Erin Cox in the Sun says the General Assembly session that began with a call for bipartisanship is poised to end with a partisan showdown on the budget. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan wants lawmakers to approve the tax relief he says he was elected to deliver, but the Democratic-controlled legislature wants him to spend more on public schools and state employee pay.
  • Gov. Larry Hogan is showing that he wants to play hardball in his budget negotiations with the General Assembly, writes the Sun editorial page. That’s to be expected when you’ve got a Republican governor and a Democratic legislature, and it’s entirely possible that the two sides could find a way to declare victory. Given how things have gone so far in the new era of divided government in Annapolis, that may even be probable. Both sides have a political interest in working this out.
  • The Sun has yet again changed its website design now that we’ve gotten used to the old confusing site design. Forgive us if we miss something as we navigate the 6-point type. Who knew that the little box with bars was called the “hamburger icon”? Let us know if we miss something important: Len@MarylandReporter.com or CynthiaPrairie@gmail.com

HOGAN TAKES THE ROUND: Even before the final votes are taken the verdict is in: The winner of Maryland’s 2015 budget fight, by a wide margin, is Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, opines columnist Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. Hogan was playing with a stacked-deck. Maryland governors almost always win these budget fights because they’re the only ones who can add money to programs and priorities; the legislature has the power to subtract, period.

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Hogan Griffin Roller Coaster

Who says Gov. Larry Hogan is opposed to mass transit? Here is with Robert Griffin III on the Superman roller coaster at Six Flags amusement park after an anti-bullying event. (Governor’s office photo)

SPENDING GIMMICKS: A supplemental budget proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan is raising questions about whether the first-term Republican is going back on a promise not to use gimmicks to pay for state spending, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

BODY CAMS & OTHER POLICE BILLS: Amid the batch of police accountability legislation that has foundered in Annapolis this year, civil-rights advocates say they’re particularly frustrated over the failure of a bill that would have set rules for police officers’ use of body cameras. Only a handful of relatively minor bills dealing with law enforcement accountability remain alive in the General Assembly, writes Tim Wheeler in the Sun.

NO RIGHT TO COUNSEL: A proposal to amend the Maryland Constitution and remove the right to counsel at initial bail hearings is likely to go to a vote of the General Assembly this month now that the proposal has the support of a majority of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee and the influential chair of the House Judiciary Committee, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

CLIMATE CHANGE PANEL: Bills that would by law create a 22-member commission to advise the governor and legislators on climate change issues is advancing in both houses of the General Assembly. Senate Bill 258 was approved by a vote of 32-14 March 10 and has received a favorable report by the House Environment and Transportation Committee. A companion bill passed the House on March 17 by a vote of 94-45, according to the Cumberland Times News.

FRACKING PROTEST: The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to a two-year moratorium on fracking. The bill’s supporters want more time to study the potential health and environmental impacts of fracking. Opponents of fracking are pinning their hopes on two bills that they believe have momentum reports David Collins on WBAL TV. The question remains, will the governor sign them? Based on public events alone, opponents of fracking seem to have out-demonstrated, out-lobbied and outdone those who support the controversial process of extracting natural gas from Marcellus Shale

  • While at least 60 opponents of hydraulic fracturing gathered on Lawyer’s Mall for a protest rally Thursday, a Maryland Senate bill that would establish a moratorium on fracking was delayed in the state Senate writes CNS’s Katelyn Newman in the Calvert Recorder. The Senate postponed a second reading for the bill, which would ban hydraulic fracturing for at least two years in the state, while the Senate Education, Health and Environment Committee tries to conform a similar House bill to mirror it.

SIGN BILL: The State Highway Administration could be given the authority to issue permits for some outdoor signs along scenic byways in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties if legislation passed in the House of Delegates becomes law reports Sarah Fleischman in the Calvert Recorder.

FOSTER CARE REFORM: State legislators on Friday gave final approval to a foster care reform bill crafted after the death of a Frederick County toddler who was returned by social workers to her parents’ home, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.

LEGISLATION UPDATE: With one-week left to go in the 90-day session of the Maryland General Assembly, Rebecca Lessner offers an update on the status of legislation that MarylandReporter.com has been following including infertility solutions for same sex couples and a tax on online hotel booking.

4 MEN JOIN WOMEN’S CAUCUS: Four male freshman legislators have made history by joining the Women Legislators of Maryland, the nation’s oldest state women’s caucus. The two from Montgomery and two from Prince George’s are believed to be the only such members currently serving on a state legislative women’s caucus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post.

CONOWINGO’S DAM SEDIMENT: To Larry Hogan, Maryland’s new Republican governor, the Conowingo Dam is an environmental hazard. Over the course of nearly a century, more than 170 million tons of sediment has built up in a huge reservoir designed to trap it before it reaches the bay. But now the reservoir is full, and millions of tons of the gritty material pour over during every major storm, scouring grasses that marine animals rely on to survive. Exelon calls the governor’s concern misplaced and says dredging isn’t the answer. Darryl Fears writes about the situation for the Post.

SUNDAY LIQUOR SALES IN PG: Legislation that would authorize Sunday liquor sales in Prince George’s County is gaining traction in the Maryland General Assembly, buoyed by support from elected officials who are frustrated at the loss of business — and tax revenue — to neighboring jurisdictions, reports Arelis Hernández in the Post.

NO TRANSPARENCY: Despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s public request that central committees in the state keep their recommendation processes open and transparent, his Office of Appointments is refusing to do the same as it relates to appointing relative unknown April Rose to the House of Delegates last month, Wiley Hayes reports in the Carroll County Times.

MISSED VOTES: A Baltimore Sun review of nearly 700 City Council committee votes — every bill for which a record was kept at City Hall since the start of the current term, Dec. 8, 2011 — shows that most members often miss those votes. On average, council members miss about a quarter of their committee votes. Three members — Robert Curran, Warren Branch and Helen Holton — missed 50% or more. Councilwoman Rikki Spector missed 40% of committee votes. Pete Welch missed 32% of his committee votes — more than 100 votes, report Luke Broadwater and Yvonne Wenger in the Sun.

STORMWATER ON SEVERN: The Anne Arundel County Council will take up the stormwater debate — again — when it holds its first public hearing Monday on dueling measures that aim to stop the county from collecting $20 million in fees to pay for restoration projects writes Rema Rahman in the Annapolis Capital. One bill would end collection of the fees, starting July 1. The other would phase out elimination of the fees over three years, starting in fiscal 2017.

GANSLER GETS A CLIENT: Former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has landed one of his first clients since leaving office in January: former Chestertown City Councilwoman Mabel Mumford-Pautz.  Doug Donovan of the Sun writes that Mumford-Pautz, 82, has been accused by the Maryland state prosecutor of stealing funds she managed as treasurer of the Eastern Shore chapter of the Maryland Municipal League.