State Roundup, December 16, 2015

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LUKEWARM REVENUE PROJECTIONS: The good news on Maryland revenues is that there is no more bad news and some slight growth, leading to calls of “restrained optimism” and “caution” by top state officials. But the sobering news underlining the on-target revenue projections for this year and next is that they are only growing at 3% to 4% because middle class incomes have been largely flat. The slower growth with a static economy is the new normal for a state that had been used to 5% overall growth, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

CONCEALED-CARRY PERMITS: Maryland is approving 95% of concealed-carry gun permits, according to Gov. Larry Hogan, but the leader of an organization that backs expansion of the laws in the state is skeptical and says the Republican governor is using statistics that are old and don’t tell the whole story.

EDUCATION FORUM: The Maryland State Education Association held a forum previewing the 2016 General Assembly. MarylandReporter’s Len Lazarick moderated the panel made up of Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, House Majority Leader Anne Kaiser, chair of the education subcommittee, and Sen. Nancy King of the Budget and Taxation Committee.

EXPORT INITIATIVE LAUNCHED: The Maryland Department of Commerce, seeking to help Maryland companies to export more, has launched an initiative to make that happen, reports Anamika Roy for the Daily Record. The Maryland Partners in International Trade program will include representatives from local, state and federal government and academia to raise awareness about the state’s export programs, the Department of Commerce announced this week.

MOVING NOTICE: Several Baltimore County officials called for legislation requiring advance notice when Baltimore public housing residents are going to move to suburban houses financed with government subsidies, reports Doug Donovan for the Sun. Del. Pat McDonough, a Republican who plans to introduce such a measure in the 2016 General Assembly, joined other officials in questioning why initiatives to move public housing residents into prosperous communities were not doing more to find houses in stable city neighborhoods.

WA CO LEGISLATORS HEAR FROM CONSTITUENTS: From sunrise to long past sundown Tuesday, Washington County’s state legislators listened to local concerns and offered previews of issues they expect to tackle during the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis. Tamela Baker reports on the marathon meeting for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

RESTAURANTS SEEK TO END MO CO LIQUOR SYSTEM: Montgomery County restaurant owners are raising money for a website and marketing campaign aimed at ending Montgomery County government’s monopoly on alcohol distribution and the retail sale of liquor, Aaron Kraut reports in Bethesda Beat.

AND FRANCHOT STAFFER GETS PERSONAL: Bill Turque of the Post reports that political tensions over the future of Montgomery County’s wholesale alcohol monopoly escalated this week when a top aide to Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot posted an account of 2010 domestic violence charges — later dropped — against Gino Renne, president of the county’s largest public employees union.

INTERNSHIPS AVAILABLE: MarylandReporter.com, our online news website covering state government and politics, is offering internships to cover the Maryland General Assembly 90-day session starting Jan. 13, 2016. The internships require at least one day a week in Annapolis from February through mid-April on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays. Two afternoons on those days covering hearings can substitute for a full day.

WRESTLING FOR CONTROL: Political commentator Frank DeFillipo, writing in SpliceToday, says that two cases advancing through the courts could render Maryland and other states throwbacks to the era of poll taxes and property rights as conditions for voting and restore rural areas’ dominance over populous urban and suburban subdivisions in awarding congressional and legislative seats. One case is Maryland-bred and technical; the other originates in Texas where voter suppression efforts are aggressive and commonplace.

UNINSURED NUMBERS IN PG DROP: Prince George’s County officials are projecting an estimated 30% drop in the number of uninsured residents and modest increases in new enrollees as the third enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act comes to a close, Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports.

NOW BACKS EDWARDS: The National Organization for Women endorsed Rep. Donna Edwards’ bid for Senate on Tuesday, becoming the second major women’s group to support the Prince George’s County Democrat, John Fritze writes in the Sun.

HOGAN STUMPS FOR CHRISTIE: Gov. Larry Hogan will make his first campaign appearance for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie this weekend, Christie’s campaign announced. Erin Cox writes that Hogan, who endorsed Christie’s presidential bid this summer, will join him in New Hampshire for a leg of a bus tour Saturday near Manchester, then attend a town hall event in Peterborough.

DEALING WITH TRUMP: Richard Vatz, writing in MarylandReporter.com, says that the Republicans faced an inextricable bind as they entered into the last GOP debate of the year. If they didn’t seriously confront Donald Trump and his nasty, uninformed and prejudicial rhetoric and exclusionary policy recommendations against honored Americans and major religions respectively, they would be depicted by Democrats as gutless. But if they did confront him they risked angering Trump to sufficiently motivate him to run as an independent, virtually guaranteeing the 2016 election to Hillary. Trump’s answer to that question in the debate may transform the election.

J. Hugh Nichols portrait in the Howard County office building.

J. Hugh Nichols portrait in the Howard County office building.

HOGAN BLASTS BALTIMORE ON MURDER RATE: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that Gov. Larry Hogan, calling the murder rate in Baltimore “disgraceful,” asked Thursday why protesters in the Freddie Gray case are not also marching against violence in the streets.“Crime is out of control in Baltimore City,” Hogan said during a radio interview.

FORMER HO CO EXEC DIES: Former Howard County Executive J. Hugh Nichols, who guided the county through a period of rapid growth from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, died Dec. 8 in Maplesville, Ala., reports Amanda Yeager in the Howard County Times. He was 85.

From MarylandReporter.com Editor Len Lazarick: On a personal note, when I first started covering politics and the State House for the Columbia Flier 40 years ago, J. Hugh, then a House Appropriations subcommittee chair, was one of the people I closely covered, along with his senator and political ally, James Clark Jr., then chair of the Senate Finance Committee. I knew nothing about the legislature or state government (really), and they helped school me over the years, slowly turning me toward the fiscal conservatism that they both practiced. I am grateful to both men for the wise education they offered, without me much noticing it at the time. Rest in peace, J. Hugh and Jim.