April 13, 2015

State Roundup, April 13, 2015

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THE BUDGET TUSSLE: Lawmakers have until midnight to pass legislation and finalize the state budget, which has been the prime focus of this year’s 90-day legislative session. As of Sunday evening, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) was still not satisfied with the budget or the status of legislation that he introduced — and legislators expect that negotiating on both will continue up to the deadline, Ovetta Wiggins and Jenna Johnson report for the Post.

FIGHT AT THE MARGINS: About 98% of the budget approve by the legislature is what Hogan himself submitted Jan. 22. He and the legislature have been arguing about the other 2%, writes Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com. Here at the end of the 90-day session, it’s only about $200 million that’s in dispute, though lawmakers have “fenced off” considerably more on programs such as mass transit so Hogan can’t spend it on other things. They are arguing about the margins — and about holding down spending in years to come.

HOGAN’S NEXT MOVE: Has Gov. Larry Hogan overplayed his hand? asks opinionator Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. We’ll find out today as the Maryland General Assembly tries to wrap up its 2015 session. Hogan has two choices: Continue to play hardball with the Democratic legislature and risk losing all of his legislative priorities, or negotiate a settlement that gives everyone partial victory.

Hogan with fans

Gov. Larry Hogan posed with lots of Orioles fan for opening day Friday. The Democratic Party criticized Hogan for taking the afternoon off while legislators worked on the budget. Lots more photos on the Larry Hogan Facebook page.

NEGLIGENT GOVERNMENTS: Senators tried last-ditch efforts to change two hotly debated bills — a bill granting fertility treatment insurance coverage to same-sex couples and another that would give bigger civil awards to people harmed by local government employees — as the legislative session nears its close on Monday, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com.

CONVICTING SEX OFFENDERS: Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is mounting a last-minute push for legislation that would help prosecutors’ win convictions against accused repeat sex offenders, but the chairman of a Senate committee where the bill is stalled said the effort isn’t going anywhere, reports Justin Fenton for the Sun.

POLICE BRUTALITY BILLS: As the Maryland General Assembly wraps up on Monday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is scheduled to make a last-minute plea in Annapolis for bills addressing police brutality complaints, even though most of the proposals have already been killed or are stalled in committee, Luke Broadwater and Doug Donovan report in the Sun.

ETHICS BILL & ARUNDEL POLICE: Anne Arundel County will remain out of compliance with state ethics law after legislation that would have fixed the issue stalled in committee, paving the way for a potential lawsuit if the state decides to pursue the matter. HB 175 would have altered state law and given the county the authority to bypass the local Ethics Commission when allowing police officers to work second jobs at businesses that serve alcohol.

UPPING CONTRACTOR FINES: State-funded projects may be facing tougher penalties for violating prevailing-wage laws, as senators realize crooked contractors would rather pay low fines than their employees, reports Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com “That’s why we have to up the penalty, because it’s so low, so low that people are blatantly disregarding it,” said Sen. Thomas Mac Middleton, D-Charles.

MARIJUANA BILL: The Maryland Senate gave overwhelming final approval to a bill that legalizes drug paraphernalia and doubles the amount of marijuana subject to civil possession penalties, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.  The 44-3 vote sends an amended version of House Bill 105 back to the House, where final passage in the final days of the session is uncertain.

FRACKING BAN: Maryland lawmakers gave final approval Friday to a more than two-year fracking ban, marking the legislature’s most aggressive move yet to curb the controversial natural gas extraction process. The legislation forbids drilling any wells until October 2017, and also requires the state to enact regulations next year to monitor the practice, writes Erin Cox for the Sun.

SUPREME COURT RULING COULD HARM STATE:  Maryland officials are bracing for a Supreme Court decision this spring that could find a provision of the state’s income tax law unconstitutional, leaving the state and its counties on the hook for as much as $200 million in refunds and facing significant cuts in revenue, reports Bill Turque for the Post.

WEEK IN REVIEW: The Daily Record takes a look back at last week’s political happenings including a vindication of Montgomery County Exec Ike Leggett and a setback for fracking supporters in Maryland.

DELAYED ANNOUNCEMENT: When the Maryland state prosecutor’s office files charges against a public or political party official, it typically issues a news release quickly. But it took Emmet Davitt more than two weeks to announce a March 25 theft charge filed in Kent County against a former Chestertown City Council member — Mabel Mumford-Pautz, who has hired former Attorney General Doug Gansler, a fellow Democrat, as her attorney, and Republican Party chief Joe Custer wants to know why, writes Doug Donovan in the Sun.

INTERIM DEM PARTY CHAIR: Don Aines of the Hagertown Herald Mail writes that in the little more than a week since he was named interim chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, Hagerstown attorney D. Bruce Poole has been busy getting up to speed on his new position — making contacts, getting familiar with staff, working on scheduling and preparing for events — and focusing on the 2016 election. “It’s been fascinating. It’s been fun. It’s been a pretty brisk pace,” Poole said Friday in a telephone interview from his law office.

AUDREY SCOTT HONORED: The Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay celebrated Audrey E. Scott, former state Secretary of Planning, as this year’s Mid-Shore Woman of Distinction luncheon Friday, April 10, at the Tidewater Inn. She was president of the Maryland Municipal League and was the first female mayor of Bowie, where she served three terms, Katie Willis reports in the Easton Star Democrat.

O’MALLEY’S ANNOUNCEMENT: With the announcement of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid close at hand, one of her potential Democratic rivals, former Gov. Martin O’Malley, says it could be late May before he shares his decision about moving forward, writes John Wagner in the Post.

O’MALLEY IN DES MOINES: Two of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s potential Democratic rivals — including former Gov. Martin O’Malley — made pitches to a party gathering in Des Moines Friday night, with both telling activists that more needs to be done to protect the American Dream, writes John Wagner for the Post.

O’MALLEY’S FRIEND: John Wagner of the Post writes about the man who has been ferrying O’Malley about in his private jet just to hang around the political up and comer. Political junkie John Coale made his millions as a prominent attorney. He’s also married to Fox News personality Greta Van Susteren and a long time member of the Church of Scientology.

POKING FUN AT O’MALLEY: In this opening sketch on Saturday Night Live, the cast makes fun of the Democratic race for the nomination for president from “Hillary Clinton’s” point of view. Around 3:45 in the clip, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley becomes the brunt of Clinton’s joking. But the fact that he’s Clinton’s only opponent who is named may say a lot about the attention he is getting.

MARYLANDREPORTER.COM FUNDRAISER: MarylandReporter.com runs photos of some of the more than 100 people who attended MarylandReporter.com’s happy hour fundraiser at Harry Browne’s Thursday night. A full list of 2015 contributors to this nonprofit news website is below the photos.