April 8, 2015

State Roundup, April 8, 2015

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BUDGET STANDOFF: With just a few days left in this year’s legislative session, Gov. Larry Hogan and top Democratic lawmakers are in an intense standoff over the Republican’s first budget, writes Jenna Johnson and Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. The Senate and the House of Delegates have approved initial changes to the governor’s $40.7 billion spending plan, with broad support from both sides of the aisle.

CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: Maryland Senate Democrats want to remove the “dark money” from politics by calling a constitutional convention. However, Republican senators fear amending the U.S. Constitution through a convention will “potentially rip-open the First Amendment,” Rebecca Lessner of MarylandReporter.com reports.

SHELVING PALCOHOL: A new powdered alcohol product appears likely to be banned in Maryland, and now it’s just a matter of how long “Palcohol” will be kept off retailer’s shelves. The House of Delegates on Tuesday voted 119-21 to ban the substance for 13 months, the morning after the Maryland Senate voted 45-2 to ban it for two years, reports Erin Cox for the Sun.

TRAVEL WEBSITE SALES TAX: The effort to collect more Maryland sales tax from travel websites such as Orbitz and Expedia moved closer to enactment as the House gave preliminary approval to legislation backed by Marriott International and hotel chains, Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com. The online sites call the measure a new tax and the hotels say it is an existing tax the tech travel sites were pocketing instead of paying. Local travel agents say they may be caught in the crossfire, and wind up paying tax on their service fees.

LATE SCHOOL START: A statewide legislative initiative to mandate that annual school openings take place after Labor Day — promoted by Comptroller Peter Franchot  — appears stalled as the clock winds down on this year’s legislative session in Annapolis. But Franchot late last week raised the prospect of asking Gov. Larry Hogan to institute such a change through executive fiat if the bill does not win approval this year, reports Louis Peck for Bethesda Magazine.

Hogan Franchot Nationals opening day

Gov. Larry Hogan, right, Comptroller Peter Franchot and his father, Doug Franchot, attended opening day Monday at Nationals Park. Hogan has invited Franchot, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp and others to join him in the governor’s box at Orioles Park on Friday for their home opening.(Both Hogan and Franchot put the photo on their Facebook pages.)

OYSTER POACHING: The editorial board for the Sun urges the General Assembly to not gut the 2011 law gave tough new penalties for those caught poaching oysters. Watermen could lose their licenses permanently if they were caught taking oysters in a prohibited area, using the wrong kind of gear or taking them out of season, among other offenses. This has helped to restore oysters and oyster harvesting to the bay.

PRISON VOTING AMENDMENT: In a political stunt to bring attention to what he calls “the year of the criminal,” Del. Pat McDonough offered an amendment to a bill that would put voting machines in prisons and wound up not even voting for the idea himself, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com.  “We voted to support convicted felons, after they completed their sentence, that they could vote,” said McDonough. “Then the trend continued, and we voted that now, they can vote when their sentence is not completed.”

HOGAN, BROWN CAMPAIGNS CLEARED: Maryland state elections officials have cleared the campaigns of both Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown (D) of separate allegations of misconduct during last year’s election, John Wagner of the Post reports.

IN-HOUSE CAMPAIGNING ON BALLOT ISSUES: Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that a state appeals court has ruled that county executives can use public funds and their employees to campaign for or against ballot issues without violating state laws barring use of taxpayer money and civil servants’ time to endorse or oppose political issues.

BAKER TO BACK VAN HOLLEN: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III will endorse U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen in the Democratic primary race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, choosing the lawmaker from Montgomery County over his own constituent, U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards, who is also running, Arelis Hernandez reports for the Post.

MO CO ED BOARD:  A long-debated, sometimes controversial measure to enhance the voting power of the student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education finally appears headed for enactment this year, as the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly looks to wrap up most of its work early next week, Louis Peck of Bethesda Magazine is reporting.

  • SgtStorm

    Just what we need from our elected officials – political stunts.