State Roundup, May 16, 2016

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NEW PROGRESSIVES: Three years ago, Maryland’s House of Delegates voted unanimously to cap the state’s yacht tax. This year, 25 House lawmakers voted against renewing the cap after a small group of Democrats argued that the state doesn’t need to protect wealthy boat owners from tax hikes. That opposition wasn’t enough to keep the measure from advancing to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan. But it highlights the slow pace of progress for Maryland’s newest progressive lawmakers, an assertive and largely young group of legislators who are trying to nudge their party leftward, Josh Hicks reports for the Post.

UNLICENSED CHILD-CARE TARGETED: Child-care advocates say a new law will raise awareness about licensed child care and provide better enforcement against illegal facilities, reports Mike Lewis in the Frederick News Post Hagerstown Herald Mail. Gov. Larry Hogan signed the companion bills (HB 329 and SB 312) on April 26. The Washington County delegation split when it came time for final votes on the measure.

UBER, LYFT REGULATIONS: Dan Russo and Maggie DeBlasis of CNS, writing in MarylandReporter.com, report that In many parts of the country – and indeed, around the world – a ride-booking service is as close and easy to use as launching an app on a smartphone. But after nearly unimpeded growth in an industry that didn’t exist a decade ago, around 30 U.S. jurisdictions have passed new ride-hailing regulatory legislation, all in the hopes of making services like Uber and Lyft safer for passenger use.

SHORTSIGHTED GRANDSTANDING: In a column for the Sun, Dan Rodricks writes that it has been one year since Gov. Larry Hogan, making good on a campaign promise, announced a cut to highway tolls in Maryland, claiming his action would save state taxpayers $270 million over five years. But a report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers shows the short-sightedness of such cheap political grandstanding.

BOBBY NEALL, AGENT OF CHANGE: A private business isn’t a good model for operating a representative democracy — they’re as different as a car mechanic and a neurosurgeon, opines the editorial board for the Frederick News Post. That’s why we’re glad Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has appointed Bobby Neall to a new position in his administration dedicated to making Maryland government more efficient, less tangled and more streamlined. It is a role for which he is ideally suited.

CITIZENS UNITED HEAD RISES IN MD GOP: The president of the conservative political advocacy group Citizens United was elected Maryland’s Republican national committeeman on Saturday, unseating a veteran incumbent who held the job for a dozen years — and signaling a further shift away from establishment figures in the state GOP, reports John Fritze in the Sun.

NOT EVERYONE RALLIES AROUND TRUMP:  With varying degrees of enthusiasm, Maryland Republicans gathered in Annapolis Saturday to rally around soon-to-be presidential nominee Donald Trump and plan strategy for the fall election, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. Representatives of all 23 counties and Baltimore City met to choose at-large delegates to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and members of the party’s national governing body, while hearing pep talks urging them to unite behind Trump. But not at the party’s spring convention was Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who has so far declined to support Trump.

  • Vendors hawked T-shirts and hats bearing Trump’s name and his “Make America Great” slogan in the hallway leading to the party’s spring convention. Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital reports that during the proceedings, the mention of Trump’s name as a participant in past Maryland events sometimes garnered cheers from the representatives of the party from every county and Baltimore City. Just don’t expect all of Anne Arundel’s GOP leaders to line up behind Trump just yet.

O’MALLEY ON TRUMP: Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a one-time presidential candidate, said he looks forward to helping the Democratic party defeat Donald Trump in the fall, Erica Green reports in the Sun. He sounded off on local and national politics during an appearance on WMAR TV’s “Square Off” with host Richard Sher. The show  available on squareoff.net. O’Malley said that Trump had a ‘fascist appeal’ that was resonating with a portion of the polarized electorate. “He scapegoats others,” O’Malley said.

EGO-DRIVEN POLITICS: Watching elected officials punish school children for alleged sins of other public officials is painful and embarrassing, opines political columnist Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot should be ashamed. They aren’t, of course. Each is on an ego trip, enjoying the power they can wield in a vanity-filled attempt to humiliate and disparage political foes. All this is being done ostensibly to help these kids, though their actions will make school kids suffer.

HOGAN TAKES ACCEPTED TAX BREAK: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) received a $3,200 primary-residence tax break in 2015 for a house he doesn’t live in, thanks to exemptions available for governors and federal employees. As governor, Hogan is required to live in Annapolis, the state capital. He moved out of his waterfront home in Edgewater and into the governor’s mansion when he took office in January 2015.

RX POT LEGAL FIRM: Lauren Kirkwood of the Daily Record writes that the myriad regulatory and compliance issues that are involved in breaking into Maryland’s emerging medical marijuana industry are daunting for many businesses looking to gain a foothold in the market. The Offit Kurman law firm has launched a medical marijuana practice group, aiming to make the Maple Lawn-based firm a go-to resource for entrepreneurs and businesses seeking guidance on the industry.

ELECTION WORRIES: Voters are feeling less confidence in the electoral system these days, as the state steps in to review irregularities at some polling places during the April 26 primary. Jean Mirabella of the Sun reports that with elections ever more partisan and many highly contested races ending in narrow vote margins, election watchers say people are more concerned than ever about ballots being tallied accurately.

  • The editorial board for the Sun opines that Baltimore City isn’t the only jurisdiction in Maryland that has been known to have problems on election day. In the 2010 gubernatorial primary, some poll workers in Baltimore County forgot to remove memory cards from voting machines, delaying the results. In the 2006 primary, some Montgomery County polls opened late because of no-show judges, and some Prince George’s votes went uncounted for days. In 1998, election machine breakdowns and a shortage of technicians delayed the reporting of results in Baltimore County. But the problems in the city are more consistent and worse than those anywhere else.

TRANSPARENCY IN ARUNDEL: A seemingly uncontroversial measure that passed the Anne Arundel County Council earlier this month is now stirring up debate. The resolution proposes to change language in the county’s charter related to public records requests. The Office of Law and staff for County Executive Steve Schuh, who asked for the rewording, say it’s a technical change meant to address recent to the Maryland Public Information Act. But two former county officials say they’re concerned the measure would limit transparency in county government, reports Amanda Yeager for the Annapolis Capital.

EDITOR AWAY: Editor Len Lazarick is away. If there is a problem with roundup or the newsletter, contact roundup editor Cynthia Prairie at cynthiaprairie@gmail.com; if there is a problem with the website or one of the stories published there contact Meg Tully at megctully@gmail.com.