April 20, 2015

State Roundup, April 20, 2015

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COAL-FIRED REFORM: Timothy Wheeler of the Sun writes that Gov. Larry Hogan is reconsidering his predecessor’s attempt to make coal-fired power plants install costly new pollution controls, switch to cleaner-burning fuel or shut down. Three months after yanking a clear-air rule issued by the O’Malley administration, Hogan on Friday unveiled his own smog-fighting plan. It retains a requirement that the state’s coal plant operators minimize emissions during the upcoming summer smog season, which begins next month. But the Maryland Department of the Environment agreed to take another look at what coal-burning facilities would be required to do over the next five years to reduce harmful emissions even more.

HOGAN SIGNS TRANSPORTATION BILLS: Gov. Larry Hogan recently signed a handful of transportation laws that go into effect this year, reports Kelsi Loos in the Frederick News Post. Frederick County Del. Bill Folden’s Hero’s Highway Act requires that the Department of Transportation set up a way to accept requests to memorialize armed service personnel or emergency responders, who died in the line of duty, on bridges or other structures.

POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY: Bills that Baltimore City police watchdog groups favored to bring greater police accountability died in committees on the last day of the 2015 Maryland General Assembly session despite the momentum advocates had at the start of the session, according to WYPR-FM.

HELP FOR EX-OFFENDERS: Maryland’s legislature passed a number of bills this year aimed at reforming the criminal justice system or helping ex-offenders, report Ovetta Wiggins and Jenna Johnson for the Post. One bill restores full voting rights for ex-felons while they are still on parole. Others create more chances for ex-offenders to expunge their criminal records or shield long-ago or minor convictions from public view.

HEALTH CARE VICTORIES: Daniel Leaderman of the Daily Record reports that advocates say there were several victories for health care in this year’s General Assembly session, but they worry that some much-needed changes won’t ultimately get funding from the governor.

FIXING PROCUREMENT MESS: Political prognosticator Barry Rascovar opines in a column for MarylandReporter.com, “Maryland’s system of contracting for services through competitive bids is in shambles. It has been that way for years — and is getting worse. … Yet a long list of procurement debacles hasn’t been enough to spur sweeping reforms. That seems likely to change, thanks in part to a royal screw-up on a food-service contract that all three members of the Board of Public Works strongly denounced last week.”

  • This winter, Gov. Larry Hogan made a critical move toward improving how Maryland selects its contractors, writes John Boardman, of Unitedhere Local 25 in the opinion section of the Sun. Faced with several questionable contracts up for approval by the Board of Public Works, the governor joined with Comptroller Peter Franchot to reject proposals that seemed too expensive or failed to undergo serious competition. Good governance should not be a partisan issue; still, it is refreshing to see a Democrat and Republican working together to promote sound procurement practices.

RAIN TAX: One of the central points of Gov. Larry Hogan’s gubernatorial campaign was repealing the stormwater utility fee.  But in his first General Assembly session, the stormwater utility fee bill – or “rain tax” as critics call it – only got stronger.  Fraser Smith and the Daily Record’s Bryan Sears discuss the regulations that were added to the bill and the finances behind stormwater runoff treatments.

ROCKY START FOR A SILLY END: Maryland’s 2015 legislative session has come to an end, and what a silly end it was. Though the session got off to a rocky start – with a partisan State of the State address and a ridiculous overreaction to it by Democratic members of the assembly – it quickly settled into a rather calm and productive session, opines Todd Eberly in his Freestater blog.

HE POKED THE BEAR: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that it would love to give the overall win here to Gov. Larry Hogan. The board had high hopes the Republican was following through on his pledge to compromise with a legislature controlled by Democrats. But even though he was ahead, even though his original spending plan passed the Senate and House with nearly everything he wanted, he had to go poke the bear.

MDGOP STOKED: Jenna Johnson of the Post writes that the Republican Party in this mostly blue state wants more than a Republican in the governor’s mansion. Party leaders who gathered in Ocean City on Saturday for their semi-annual convention say they are trying to harness momentum from Larry Hogan’s underdog victory in hopes of winning other statewide races, growing the number of Republicans in the General Assembly — and re-electing Hogan in 2018.

LAZARICK ON C4: Len Lazarick, editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com, will be on the C4 Show, hosted by Clarence Mitchell IV,  on WBAL-AM  — 1090 on your AM dial — this morning at 11 a.m.

HOGAN WANTED THE GOATS: Gov. Larry Hogan, who was in Salisbury for a brief tour and a banquet dinner at The Fountains Conference Center, began shaking hands with passers-by and approached a petting zoo, pinstripe suit and all. Phil Davis of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that with several local legislators eager to show him around the town and the surrounding businesses, the candid demeanor that won the hearts of independents came through again. “I wanted to play with the baby goats,” he said, laughing it off before setting off into the downtown.

OPEN THE PROCESS: CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that the Washington County Republican Central Committee chose to interview just eight of the 12 people who applied for a vacant county commissioner seat. That, coupled with a general lack of public disclosure about the central committee’s evaluation criteria and process, has prompted other applicants to speak out about a lack of transparency and concerns that the committee’s choice had been made without considering all who expressed interest in the job.

RASKIN TO RUN: Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, was scheduled to formally announce his plans to run for the 8th District congressional seat in Maryland on Sunday at Republic Restaurant in Takoma Park. The district includes portions of Montgomery, Carroll and Frederick counties.

O’MALLEY URGES MULTIPLE CANDIDATES: John Fritze of the Sun writes that former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considering a run for president, said Sunday that it would be a mistake for the party if only one Democrat sought the nomination next year. “I think it would be an extreme poverty indeed if there weren’t more than one person willing to compete for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party,” O’Malley said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

VAN HOLLEN SPEAKS IN EASTON:  Senate candidate Chris Van Hollen spoke Sunday on a range of hot-button issues at the Avalon Theatre in Easton, from the nuclear deal with Iran to the national budget and, closer to home, the Chesapeake Bay, writes Andrew Sharp in the Easton Star Democrat.