May 19, 2015

State Roundup, May 19, 2015

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DOUBLE-TAXING STRUCK DOWN: A divided Supreme Court ruled Monday that Maryland’s income tax law is unconstitutional because it does not provide a full tax credit to residents for income tax paid outside the state, a ruling likely to cost Maryland counties and localities across the country millions of dollars in revenue. Bill Turque of the Post reports that the court voted 5 to 4 to affirm a 2013 Maryland Court of Appeals ruling that the state’s practice of withholding a credit on the county segment of the state income tax wrongly exposes some residents with out-of-state income to double taxation.

E-ZPASS CHANGE CHALLENGE: Following up on a Daily Record story, Josh Hicks of the Post reports that Maryland’s policy of charging some out-of-state drivers an extra fee for using the E-ZPass system may be vulnerable to a legal challenge similar to the one that succeeded Monday in the U.S. Supreme Court.

FRACKING RULES: State regulations for fracking in western Maryland may not be ready until sometime next year, according to Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles. Grumbles, in an interview with Bryan Sears of the Daily Record, said the agency continues to review comments on regulations proposed under former Gov. Martin O’Malley. He laid out a timeline that suggests the agency may re-open the regulations to adjustments and not propose a final version until sometime in 2016.

HEROIN IN W.MD: Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford traveled to Hagerstown Monday with members of the state’s Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force to listen to Western Maryland officials discuss what to do about the growing heroin epidemic in the region, Caleb Calhoun writes for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

SHORE MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY: Josh Bollinger of the Easton Star Democrat reports that, at the May 13 Board of Public Works meeting, Comptroller Peter Franchot said Chestertown’s Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center closed “for no good reason and with no transition plan in place.” Franchot was advocating for the reopening of the mental health hospital, which closed in 2010 as a way to save Maryland money. the article appears in the Cecil Daily.

SHORING UP PENSIONS: The editorial board of the Post opines that as a matter of public policy, Gov. Larry Hogan was absolutely right when he said that lawmakers in Annapolis are trying to “rob the pension fund” on which tens of thousands of current and retired state employees depend or will depend for their income and health coverage. The governor’s move to shift tens of millions of dollars to shore up the anemic pension fund, including money that lawmakers had earmarked for public schools, may trigger resistance from the Democratic-dominated state legislature, which raided catch-up payments to the pension fund starting last year and doubled down this year.

BARTENFELDER SPEAKS: Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM is joined by Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder, who speaks about his recent blog post and tenure to date. This is followed by two Maryland environmentalists: Robert Gallagher, retired Riverkeeper for the West and Rhode Rivers, board member of the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and co-chair of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition; and Mitch Jones, director of the Common Resources Program at Food and Water Watch.

DE-ACCESSIONED MILITARY EQUIPMENT: President Barack Obama ordered the federal government Monday to stop distributing a limited inventory of military equipment to local law enforcement agencies across the country because, he said, it makes police seem like an “occupying force” instead of public servants. Police departments in Maryland have received more than $12 million in excess equipment from the Defense Department’s Excess Property Program since 2006, report Christi Parsons, Kevin Rector and John Fritze for the Sun.

MANDEL AS MONUMENT: If you live long enough in politics, all may not be forgiven, but most is forgotten, and if you’re lucky, only the good stuff is remembered. That’s certainly true of former Gov. Marvin Mandel, who turned 95 last month and was feted Wednesday at a birthday celebration organized by his old friend and sometimes unofficial ‘chauffeur,’ lobbyist Bruce Bereano, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

MOVING THE PREAKNESS? NO: As Baltimore City officials pledged a fight to keep the Preakness in Baltimore, others pointed out Monday that state law prohibits the horse race from being moved to another track in Maryland. Over the weekend, Sal Sinatra, vice president and general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, floated the idea of moving the Preakness from Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course to Laurel Park in Anne Arundel County, Pamela Wood of the Sun writes.

HOGAN’S LEARNING OPPORTUNITY: Former Republican speechwriter Richard Cross in an op-ed for the Sun writes that Gov. Larry Hogan has the opportunity to learn a lot from the unrest that hit Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray who was in police custody at the time.

GAY REPUBLICAN CONSIDERS RUN: Chrysovalantis Kefalas on Monday announced he is forming an exploratory committee to run for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, becoming the first Republican in the race to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D).  “We are in a position to make history and to make life better for everyone in Maryland,” Kefalas said. If elected, he would be the only openly gay Republican in Congress, and the first Republican to enter Congress as openly gay. Others have come out after serving in office for several terms, Rachel Weiner reports for the Post.

PG BIZ HAS OTHER IDEAS: A group of Prince George’s business leaders is proposing to slice County Executive Rushern Baker’s property tax by about half as lawmakers consider alternatives to his unpopular revenue-raising budget ahead of a June 1 deadline, Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports.

ARUNDEL BODY CAMS: The Anne Arundel County Council voted unanimously Monday to support studying the use of body cameras for police officers, Rema Rahman reports for the Annapolis Capital. The county resolution expresses support for the state to create a commission to study the use and make recommendations on police officers wearing the gear.

MO CO QUESTIONS HOGAN ON PURPLE LINE: Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal is questioning Gov. Larry Hogan’s judgment after Hogan said he was further delaying a decision on whether to move forward with the light-rail Purple Line, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Magazine.