State Roundup, March 22, 2016

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WATERED DOWN PRISON REFORM: The effort to reform Maryland’s justice system by reducing prison populations and spending more money on crime fighting and drug treatment has hit a speed bump in the General Assembly. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that a state Senate committee has changed the bill so much that some advocates and lawmakers are having second thoughts about whether it is worthwhile.

‘SINGLE SALES FACTOR’ TAX: The House of Delegates on Monday night approved a change in the way the corporate income tax is computed in an effort to benefit companies that are headquartered in Maryland and employ many people here. The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that the House voted to switch to a so-called “single sales factor” in computing the tax. The system calculates the amount of a company’s business that is subject to Maryland taxation by looking at its percentage of sales in the state. Under the current system, the company’s property and payroll also figure into the calculation.

MSBA SEES BACKLASH OVER BILL STAND: The Maryland State Bar Association has angered supporters of legislation to make it easier for judges to strip parental rights from a mother or father who conceived the child through non-consensual intercourse, writes Steve Lash in the Daily Record.

FEE CUTS GET CUT: When Gov. Larry Hogan’s bill cutting scores of fees raised by his predecessor was introduced, Republican members of the House of Delegates saw it as a thing of beauty, Michael Dresser writes for the Sun. The bill cut a swath to the tune of $16 million in the first year alone. On Monday night, most Republican lawmakers held their noses and voted for what remained after the Democrats in charge “completely gutted” Hogan’s bill and turned it into a measure reducing the cost of birth and death certificates.

CUTS TO SCHOOL TESTING: Reflecting overwhelming bipartisan opposition to over-testing of public school students, the House of Delegates on Monday voted unanimously to restrict mandated standardized testing to 2% of instructional time — about 20 hours per school year, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com is reporting. The bill, HB141, by Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery, was the most comprehensive of a package of bills in House and Senate reflecting the eagerness of teachers and parents to limit the amount of tests imposed by federal, state and local authorities.

FORCED FUNDING: A package of three bills passed in the Senate Monday would require Gov. Larry Hogan to begin to fund phases of three transportation projects, including replacement for an aging southern Maryland bridge and an environmental study for a third span across the Chesapeake Bay, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

CROSSOVER FRENZY: Legislators met in morning and evening sessions Monday as they rushed to vote on bills by the end of crossover day, the deadline by which proposals must be voted out of one chamber to get the best chance of being considered in the other. As the General Assembly enters its frenetic final weeks, the fate of this session’s legislation is coming into focus, Amanda Yeager writes in the Annapolis Capital.

FIRST RESPONDERS TAX BREAK: State lawmakers are poised to grant a property tax break to Baltimore City police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters who buy a home in the city, reports Erin Cox for the Sun. The House of Delegates on Monday unanimously approved a bill to allow the city to give first responders a tax credit of up to $2,500, leaving the details up to Baltimore to decide. The state Senate unanimously approved an identical bill earlier this month. One of the chambers will have to pass the other’s bill before it can be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan for final approval.

SENATE PANEL REJECT NOMINEES: A state Senate committee blocked the confirmation of the controversial members of Baltimore City’s liquor board Monday night, Pamela Wood and Michael Dresser report in the Sun. The Executive Nominations Committee voted 14-2 to reject Benjamin Neil, Douglas Trotter and Elizabeth Hafey, who had served since last summer, when they were appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan.

LOW ENERGY: Center Maryland columnist Josh Kurtz writes about the gutted Maryland Energy Administration and the Hogan administration’s weak attempts to keep energy prices manageable.

Gov. Hogan and first lady Yumi Hogan he "Light the Way" initiative by lighting Government House blue in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness!

Gov. Hogan and first lady Yumi Hogan supported the “Light the Way” initiative by lighting Government House blue in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness.

MCFADDEN, GLADDEN SWITCH: Senate President Mike Miller shuffled the membership of a key committee Monday. Miller announced Monday that he moved Sen. Nathaniel McFadden to the Judicial Proceedings Committee to take the place of Sen. Lisa Gladden, who has missed the last couple of weeks due health problems resulting from a fall. Gladden will move to the Budget and Taxation Committee, where McFadden has served, writes Pamela Wood in the Sun.

NO LEADERSHIP, NO PLAN: Nearly a year after violence, arson and widespread looting tore apart impoverished portions of Baltimore City there still is no comprehensive, long-term plan for reviving and improving Baltimore from the governor’s office. Nor is there an all-inclusive recovery plan from the mayor’s office. Leadership is lacking, columnist Barry Rascovar opines in MarylandReporter.com.

‘HOGAN FOR PRES’ WEBSITES: Maryland governors who run for president haven’t had a great track record lately, but it appears an aide to Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign was at least preserving that option for the Republican newcomer last April. A digital aide working for the Hogan campaign at the time registered at least four “Hogan for President” websites in April, months after Hogan was sworn into office. Those sites are owned by the former aide, Matthew Proud, not the Hogan campaign itself, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

ON WARREN CHRISTOPHER: In this second in six candidates seeking the Democratic nomination to represent Maryland’s 4th Congressional District. Arelis Hernandez writes that in more than 20 years of military service, Warren Christopher never tired of telling his friends and colleagues how eager he was to run for federal office. So much needed fixing, he would say. He had the energy and know-how to get things done. People don’t need politicians, they need a champion.

5 THINGS ABOUT BROWN: This was posted in the Post too late for us yesterday, but here’s five things you should know about congressional candidate Anthony Brown.

TRUMP HAS PLAN FOR BALTIMORE: Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump said Monday that he would address the “horrible mess” of cities like Baltimore City by creating incentives for companies to move in and create jobs, writes John Fritze for the Sun. “I watched Baltimore, I have many, many friends in Baltimore, we watched what happened,” Trump told the editorial board of the Washington Post on Monday, according to a transcript posted on the newspaper’s website. “We have to create incentives for people to go back and to reinvigorate the areas and to put people to work.”

WEN TO TESTIFY IN D.C.: Baltimore City’s health commissioner, Dr. Leana S. Wen, will use a congressional hearing today to ask lawmakers to increase federal funding for heroin and opioid addiction, and to send that funding directly to cities with the greatest need, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

LEOPOLD BLAMES OVERZEALOUS AIDE: Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold testified Monday that he did not ask for pages of documents to be collected on political rivals, a charge leveled against him by a group of plaintiffs represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital reports that instead, Leopold said, an overzealous employee compiled at least two of the dossiers after being asked to research a single question.

EDITORIAL CARTOONIST FODEN DIES: Editorial cartoonist Glenn Foden, who delighted in puncturing the pretenses and policy missteps of politicians, died Sunday after suffering a brain aneurysm, the Daily Signal is reporting.  He had been editorial cartoonist for many years for Patuxent Publishing Co., which had been home to the Columbia Flier and the Towson Times. Foden, a resident of Mount Airy, Md., had a gift for communicating conservative principles through his artwork. No matter the topic, he could deliver a humorous take on the most complex policy issues.

SUN CALVERT BLDG FOR SALE: For sale: The Baltimore Sun’s Calvert Street building. On Monday morning, the Sun’s Editor and Publisher Trif Alatzas sent a note to the staff saying that the building at 501 N. Calvert St. is being prepared to go on the market by Tribune Real Estate, a division of Tribune Media, writes Melody Simmons for the Baltimore Business Journal.