July 23, 2015

State Roundup, July 23, 2015

Print More

CLASH ON FARE HIKES: The Maryland Transit Administration improperly raised fares for bus, subway and light-rail riders in the Baltimore region and should roll them back to the previous level, legislative analysts said Wednesday. Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that the Hogan administration vehemently disagreed, contending that last month’s 10-cent increase in the MTA base fare to $1.70 should stand. The clash came as state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services gave Annapolis lawmakers conflicting interpretations of the requirements of a 2013 law that raised Maryland’s gas tax. The law required future increases in transit fares based on increases in the Consumer Price Index.

SEEKING RED LINE ALTERNATIVES: Baltimore-region leaders had made the Red Line their top transportation priority, viewing it as a way to cut traffic congestion and improve transit, said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Rick Seltzer of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that now that the project is effectively dead, he wants to see alternatives. But he’s not throwing his weight behind a particular idea before the Baltimore Metropolitan Council comes up with a new study.

FLEEING POULTRY FARMS: Rona Kobell of the Bay Journal writes, in MarylandReporter.com, that when Thomas Kerchner married his wife, Sherri, he promised to build her dream home for their retirement years. She had always wanted a log home, so they purchased a lot on a back-country road in Princess Anne and he designed a home perfect for hosting grandchildren and enjoying country breezes. Now, the Kerchners are selling that home. Poultry mega-houses have sprouted in their area where trees used to sway, bringing with them tons of manure, industrial-level traffic and the stench of ammonia.

CHEMO 2 DAY 4: Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes that Gov. Larry Hogan posted an update to Facebook as he entered his fourth day of the second round of chemotherapy, urging people to support cancer patients facing the deadly disease. Hogan has been upbeat in person when discussing his non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatments. But Wednesday’s Facebook post took a more somber tone as Hogan reflected on his illness and the struggle of others.

NO FAULT NORIDIAN SETTLEMENT: The editorial board for the Sun opines that despite the state’s $45 million settlement with the primary contractor responsible for its botched health insurance exchange, appears to be a good deal for the taxpayers, if there is one unsatisfying element, it is the agreement of both the state and Noridian not to admit fault.  The settlement not only covers about 60% of the state and federal funds Maryland provided to Noridian Healthcare Solutions, but it comes with a guarantee of payment from Noridian’s parent company that the state might not have gotten if it had pursued a bigger judgment through litigation.

TRUTH ABOUT STUDENT DEBT: Aides for Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign said that the former governor and his wife had accumulated nearly $340,000 in debt putting two children through college for their undergraduate degrees. The level of debt that O’Malley has incurred is way off the charts; the average baccalaureate recipient is graduating with about $29,000 in debt, and one-third of all students are graduating without any student loans at all. But in a Sun op-ed, a Michigan professor says O’Malley wants to craft federal financial aid policy based on his own unrepresentative experience. This is a political maneuver designed to deliver red meat to the masses.

STAYING IN SCHOOL: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post writes that beginning in August, student rolls in Frederick County and throughout Maryland will include some teens who in the past have been missing. In 2012, the Maryland General Assembly raised the compulsory school attendance age from 16 to 17, effective in the upcoming school year. In July 2017, mandatory attendance age rises to 18. For decades, state law permitted 16-year-olds to simply walk out the schoolhouse door. Numerous studies show that students’ leaving school before graduating is fraught with negative consequences for both them and society as a whole.

MD BIZ CLIMATE: A year-old commission charged with making recommendations on improving Maryland’s business climate waded Wednesday into what might be its most difficult challenge: finding ways to make the state’s tax structure more business friendly while not harming other policy priorities, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

COLBURN AT MDA: Former state senator and Federalsburg town manager Richard Colburn has started working for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, reports Josh Bollinger for the Easton Star Democrat.

DEM PARTY CHALLENGES: Maryland Democrats’ two new “party guys” have got their work cut out for them, writes Laslo Boyd, in a typo-ripe column in Center Maryland. (See how many misspelled names you can find before they are fixed.) Despite being in a solidly Democratic state, the party tends to ignore the voters during certain election cycles. To rev up the party faithful, these two wild and crazy guys have got some challenges ahead.

GOP HOPEFUL TO CHALLENGE DELANEY: A Republican is aiming to challenge a Democratic incumbent in Maryland’s largest congressional district. Carleton Bryant reports for the Washington Times that Frank Howard, a former GOP candidate for Maryland’s state Senate, has announced his candidacy for the 6th Congressional District, which is represented by Democratic Rep. John Delaney. The western district includes all of Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties, and parts of Montgomery and Frederick counties.

O’MALLEY ON ISIS, CLIMATE CHANGE: John Fritze of the Sun reports that Martin O’Malley continued his fight with Republicans on Wednesday over a comment he made suggesting climate change contributed to the rise of Islamic fighters in Syria and Iraq as his campaign sought to raise money off the exchange. “We need to get some money in the door to help fight these attacks, and to elect a candidate who won’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” the campaign blasted in an email to supporters. “Take a second today and add your support to this campaign — as someone who believes in science,” it wrote.

REBEL FLAG IN BOWIE: John McNamara of the Bowie Blade reports that Bowie resident Linwood Holmes raised a Confederate flag in front of his house on Belair Drive just about the time the Confederate  flag was coming down from the South Carolina statehouse. Some of his neighbors don’t like what the flag represents or the message it sends. And city officials would like to see the flag disappear. They know of no other places in Bowie where the flag is displayed.

ENGLISH ONLY DEBATE: Frederick County is rethinking its controversial “English-only” ordinance, which catapulted the rapidly diversifying exurb into a national debate over immigration when the law was adopted three years ago, reports Elizabeth Koh in the Post. A bill to repeal the law was debated Tuesday night at an emotional hearing that lasted 3 1 /2 hours. More than 50 residents and visitors testified, with proponents of a repeal saying the ordinance has damaged the Maryland county’s reputation and opponents insisting that it encourages non-English speakers to assimilate.

PG HQ TO LARGO? The Prince George’s County government wants to move its headquarters from sleepy Upper Marlboro to Largo, an area near the Capital Beltway that is more bustling and Metro-accessible, Arelis Hernandez reports for the Post.

LURING MARRIOTT: A mall and a Metro station were once the only real markers of White Flint, a vaguely defined stretch of land between Rockville and Bethesda littered with strip malls and parking lots. Today, the area has a new name — the “Pike District” — and some ambitious plans: a redeveloped town center, more mixed-use projects and a millennial-friendly identity The Post’s Elizabeth Koh reports that Friends of White Flint, a group of residents and local businesses, is trying to lure a new neighbor to help cement those changes: Marriott.