April 10, 2015

State Roundup, April 10, 2015

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HOGAN ASKS PENSION RESTORATION: Gov. Larry Hogan asked lawmakers on Thursday to restore $75 million in funding for the state employees’ pension system, a move that would wipe out money that has been earmarked for schools, pay raises for state employees and Medicaid reimbursements, report Ovetta Wiggins and Arelis Hernández for the Post. The surprise request — coming just days before the end of the 90-day legislative session — again put the governor at odds with Democratic lawmakers and intensified the battle between them.

IT’S HOGAN’S SHOW: Even as rookie Republican Gov. Larry Hogan wrangles with the Maryland legislature over the final shape of his first budget, it’s clear that his arrival in Annapolis has re-framed the debate over spending and taxes, writes Robert McCartney for the Post. The focus has shifted from potentially raising taxes to trying to trim them.

TWEET FIGHTER: The General Assembly’s two top leaders dismissed a Twitter message from Gov. Larry Hogan’s camp boasting of having won their districts in last year’s election, saying Thursday that they took it in stride even as their staff members expressed outrage. Hogan’s political organization, Change Maryland, tweeted: “We won Miller and Busch’s districts overwhelmingly – hopefully they’re paying attention.” It was an implicit warning to the two legislative leaders as lawmakers continue to balk at much of Hogan’s legislative agenda, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

LARRY REASONABLE: Political prognosticator Fraser Smith, in a column for the Daily Record, writes that at the end of their first 90 days in Annapolis with GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, some Democrats have one basic question: Where are the whackos when you need them? Or to put it another way — as one party leader reportedly did: “The bad news is that this guy could be very reasonable.”

Hogan talks to reporters

Gov. Larry Hogan talked to reporters Thursday on the ground floor of the State House about the latest budget standoff.

FIGHTING ADDICTION: A proposal focused on replacing addictive painkillers with drugs that deter abuse has gained approval from both sides of the Maryland legislature, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. The bill, sponsored by Del. Karen Lewis Young, came in response to the wave of heroin and prescription drug abuse that has swept across Frederick County and the state as a whole.

POLICE BODY CAMS: A Maryland Senate committee has approved a bill that would expand the use of police body cameras in police departments. The measure, which has already been approved by the House of Delegates, would establish a commission comprised of members of the NAACP, ACLU and police officials to develop stipulations for how and when the body cameras would be used, reports John Rydell for WBFF-TV.

RAISING LIABILITY CAPS: The Senate on Thursday gave preliminary approval to legislation that would more than double the liability cap for state, county and local governments for negligent acts that injure people, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record. Under the two pending bills, the limit on damages would become $500,000 per individual injured. Under current law, state, county and local governments can be held liable only up to $200,000 per person.

INFERTILITY COVERAGE: Same-sex couples in Maryland would get the same insurance coverage for infertility treatments as heterosexual couples do, under a bill passed by the General Assembly Thursday. Timothy Wheeler of the Sun reports that the House voted 93 to 45 to approve the measure, which now goes to Gov. Larry Hogan for his signature. The Senate earlier passed the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Cheryl  Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat.

ASSETS ON ICE: A bill authorizing a state’s attorney to file a petition to freeze cash assets of a person charged with exploitation of a vulnerable or elderly adult under some conditions cleared a crucial Senate committee on Wednesday. The bill is sponsored by Del. Brett Wilson, R-Washington, one of two measures he filed on behalf of Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association this session, Kaustuv Basu writes in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

BIZ-PROGRAM FUNDING LEVELS: The GBC’s Don Fry, writing in Center Maryland, takes a look at the funding levels from this year’s state budget for programs that benefit businesses throughout the state.

2016 PRIMARY PUSHED BACK: Maryland lawmakers voted Thursday to move the state’s presidential primary contest back three weeks to April 26, 2016. The change shifts the election further from the Easter holiday, which would have coincided with the first day of early voting that year. It moves the primary from from the same day as neighboring Washington, D.C., but allows Maryland voters to head to the polls the same day as those in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island, Erin Cox writes in the Sun.

SUNDAY LIQUOR SALES: The Maryland Senate approved a bill Thursday that would significantly expand Sunday liquor sales in Prince George’s County, part of a slew of legislation being passed in the waning days of the 90-day legislative session. Another bill given final approval Thursday would require state health officials to issue new birth certificates for individuals who undergo a sex change or have an intersex condition, the Post’s Arelis Hernandez reports.

TOP TAX EVADERS: In an annual rite of public shaming, State Comptroller Peter Franchot released the names of Maryland’s top tax evaders Thursday afternoon — and the No. 1 business scofflaw told The Daily Record he planned to pay up, reports Daniel Leaderman.

EDWARDS REJECTS WALL ST. BUCKS:  U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards is calling for candidates running in Maryland’s Senate contest to reject political donations from Wall Street — her latest effort to court support from progressive Democrats, writes John Fritze of the Sun. “I am calling on all candidates in this race to stand with me in rejecting contributions from Wall Street banks like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Bank of America,she wrote in an email to a group that is supporting her candidacy.

MORE BACK VAN HOLLEN: U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Montgomery County Democrat running for Senate in Maryland, announced endorsements of five Frederick County officials on Thursday, representing the latest in a series of leaders in the state who are lining up behind his bid, writes John Fritze for the Sun. Those backing Van Hollen include Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner, the only Democrat woman who is also a county executive.

FORMER COUNCILWOMAN CHARGED: Former Chestertown councilwoman Mabel Mumford-Pautz, who was unseated in 2013 after 32 years in office, has been charged with felony theft in her capacity as the unpaid treasurer of a nonprofit that advocates for local governments on the Eastern Shore. She is being represented by former Attorney General Doug Gansler, Trish McGee writes in the Easton Star Democrat.

FUNDRAISER FOR NEWS: More than 100 people packed the upstairs bar at Harry Browne’s across from the State House Thursday night for MarylandReporter.com’s third annual happy hour fundraiser that raised close to $25,000 to support the daily State Roundup of news. This year’s guest bartenders were Gov. Larry Hogan, Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh and Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings .

***MarylandReporter.com’s Len Lazarick will be on Maryland Public TV’s State Circle with Charles Robinson and Jeff Salkin at 7:30 p.m. Friday.***