State Roundup, March 7, 2016

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HEAVY LIQUOR LAWS: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that the largest bill in Maryland history weighs in at nearly 11 pounds. It stands 14 inches tall. It was conceived of 45 years ago, and took eight years to draft. It doesn’t change a single public policy. Rather, the first full rewrite of the state’s liquor laws since Prohibition is the final step in a project started under Gov. Marvin Mandel to condense and organize the state’s laws. Before Mandel launched the project, the last reorganization of Maryland laws happened in 1798, and the state’s code was a hodgepodge.

BUSCH PUSHES VALLARIO: House Speaker Michael Busch pulled Del. Joe Vallario, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, aside after a recent caucus meeting. He bluntly told the chairman to stop blocking the long-sought bill that would expand the use of interlock ignitions for serious drunk drivers. Move it, Busch said. And move it quickly. Vallario, a defense lawyer, has refused since 2009 to move the same bill out of his committee, but Busch believes he took this to heart, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

BUSINESS FILING FEES: Gov. Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda absorbed its first loss of the year Friday as the House Economic Matters Committee voted against a bill that would have reduced the filing fees paid by corporations and other business groups, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. Such business entities pay an annual filing fee of $300 to the state. The governor’s bill would have cut the fees by $50 each year until they reached $100.

AGREEMENT ON TAX RELIEF: In a session punctuated by partisan skirmishes, Gov. Larry Hogan and the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders have at least one thing on which they generally agree: tax relief. Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch have all introduced legislation this year to lower taxes on individuals and businesses in Maryland, reports Amanda Yeager in the Annapolis Capital. But that leaves a big question: Just what will the legislature approve?

HEALTH OF HEALTH EXCHANGE: Charlie Hayward of MarylandReporter.com looks into the Maryland Health Exchange that, after a very rocky start, seems to be working. But legislators seem less anxious to probe its working and finances at a time when many questions should be asked and answered.

SENATE LIMITS TRANSIT RECORDING: The Maryland Senate voted Friday to limit audio recording on most public buses and trains. The 44-0 vote came after no debate. Senators had extensively discussed the bill earlier in the week and gave it preliminary approval on Wednesday. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that the  legislation allows a transit agency to record audio only in the vicinity of the driver, if the driver turns on the recording system during an incident or if the system is automatically activated if there is a problem.

PSC APPOINTMENT RAISES QUESTIONS: Democratic lawmakers are expressing concerns about emails between a recently appointed member of the Public Service Commission and senior members of Gov. Larry Hogan’s staff, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The emails between Michael Richard and the Hogan administration are becoming public at a time when the Senate is holding up both of the governor’s appointments to the independent regulatory body. Some lawmakers say the communications raise questions that may need to be answered in a second public hearing while others say they should be a disqualifier.

RELIEF OVER SUICIDE BILL’S DEATH: An act that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients in Maryland has been withdrawn from the State Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee, evoking relief from those who opposed it, reports Erik Zygmont for the Catholic Review. Mary Ellen Russell, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, the legislative lobbying arm of the Maryland’s Catholic bishops, who opposed the bill, expressed gratitude to those who had spoken against the bill.

KIDS LOBBY FOR SCHOOL CHOICE: Despite a cold morning wind, hundreds of children from across Maryland raised their voices in Annapolis March 2, calling on legislators to expand school choice in the state. “We just want to figure out how to better our education and help our future,” said Sydney Paschall, eighth-grader and student body president at Cardinal Shehan School in Baltimore City, reports Erik Zygmont for the Catholic Review.

BENEFIT EXTENSION FOR SLAIN OFFICER’S SONS: When Harford County Sheriff’s Deputy Patrick Dailey was gunned down in Abingdon on Feb. 10, he left behind two sons, ages 17 and 20. Because Maryland pension law allows benefits to be paid only until children turn 18, one son was eligible for only three months of benefits and the other for none. The General Assembly is considering a bill that would extend the benefits for Dailey’s sons until they turn 26. The legislation was approved Friday by the House Appropriations Committee.

MANSION FURNITURE AUCTION: Departing Maryland governors who want to buy used furniture from the executive mansion will have to bid against other interested buyers at public auction, under legislation approved unanimously by the state’s House of Delegates on Friday. The AP is reporting in the Daily Record.

NO EDUCATION: Columnist Barry Rascovar, writing in MarylandReporter.com, opines about what he sees as a poor choice to replace Mount St. Mary’s College President Thomas Powell and the disaster that ensued when it hired Wall St. wolf Simon Newman.

DELANEY SEEKS HOGAN VIEW ON TRUMP: U.S. Rep. John Delaney on Friday called for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to declare whether he will support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign if the billionaire wins the GOP nomination — the first elected official to challenge Hogan on the issue, John Fritze writes in the Sun.

DON’T DUMP TRUMP: In an op-ed for the Washington Post, former U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley writes it is stunning how the Republican establishment and the donor class in Washington have struggled in vain against Donald Trump, while he has been simultaneously connecting on a personal level with so many voters across the country.

1st DISTRICT RACE: Jacob Owen and Matt Butler write for the Easton Star Democrat about the pool of candidates who filed in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District vying to unseat Republican Rep. Andy Harris. They are an assortment of familiar faces and newcomers.

TRONE SUES OVER BALLOT PRINTING: Democratic congressional candidate David Trone sued the state on Friday in an effort to halt the printing of early voting ballots, citing concerns that the design could harm candidates running throughout the state. John Fritze of the Sun reports that Trone filed a temporary restraining order in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court against the Maryland State Board of Elections, seeking that it hold off on weekend plans to print ballots.

TRONE WEALTH: Democrat David Trone, the Montgomery County businessman running in the 8th Congressional District, would be among the wealthiest members of Congress if elected, according to a personal financial disclosure statement he filed Friday, John Fritze of the Sun writes.

HOUSE RACE IN MONTGOMERY: Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times writes about Maryland’s U.S. House race that is focussed on Montgomery County, asking, “What happens when a coveted House seat opens up a quick subway ride from the Capitol? A hugely expensive free-for-all, studded with celebrities (or what passes for celebrities in Washington) — with a whiff of dirty tricks.”

CARDIN, DELANEY SEEKS RENEWABLE PACT: Two Maryland Democrats want Congress to agree to a renewable energy standard they believe will mobilize the government and the private sector to reduce the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels. Sen. Ben Cardin, a member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Rep. John Delaney, a former businessman who was first elected in 2012, introduced a resolution that calls for 50% of the nation’s energy production to come from renewable sources by 2030, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

HOGAN, CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION MEET: Gov. Larry Hogan met with members of Maryland’s congressional delegation at the State House Friday to discuss the state’s interests in Washington. A Hogan spokesman said the meeting went very well and that the administration and its federal representatives are “working in the same direction,” writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

Gov. Hogan meets with members of Maryland's congressional delegation. Governor's Office photo.

Gov. Hogan meets with members of Maryland’s congressional delegation. Governor’s Office photo.

HOGAN’S SISTER DIES: The sister of Gov. Larry Hogan died Saturday, Matthew Hay Brown reports for the Sun. “My heart is broken,” Hogan wrote in a Facebook post Saturday afternoon. “Mary Theresa Lazarus was the best big sister anyone could ever ask for. I was always so proud of her.” Hogan left Maryland on Monday evening to be with Lazarus.

MAYORAL CANDIDATES ONE BY ONE: If you haven’t had the chance to filter through ALL the candidates running for mayor of Baltimore City, here’s Dan Rodricks’ archive of interviews with them on his Roughly Speaking podcast at the Sun.