State Roundup, February 9, 2017

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EARNED INCOME TAX CREDIT: A bill to expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to more working poor is expected to pass the House again. “We need to help low income workers make ends meet, stay in their jobs and move up the economic ladder,” said bill sponsor Del. Sheila Hixson at Wednesday’s hearing in Way and Means.The bill died last year when the House rejected Senate demands to tie passage to tax breaks for wealthier earners. Gov. Larry Hogan supported the measure last year before this year’s revenue pinch. The bill, HB2, and its Senate companion reduces revenues by $68 million. The bill lowers the age to those without qualifying children from the current 25 to 18, raises qualifying income levels from $17,000 to $23,000, and increases the refundable credit to 100% of the federal credit, up from 27%. The Comptroller’s Office reports that 110,000 more Marylanders would qualify. The maximum tax benefit rises from $140 to $510. MarylandReporter.com

ISRAEL ADVOCATES PUSH BILL: State lawmakers are wading into the conflict in the Middle East as they consider legislation that would put Maryland squarely on the side of Israel against critics who would boycott the Jewish state, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. Companies that take part in an international movement to refuse to do business in Israel or its occupied territories could be denied state contracts and pension fund investments under legislation filed this week in the General Assembly.

ADVOCATES SEEK TO KILL ‘RAPE RESIST’ REQUIREMENT: Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that, saying Maryland law is behind the times, a prosecutor and women’s rights groups pressed a Senate committee Wednesday to pass a bill removing the requirement that rape victims show they tried to resist their assailants physically, lest the rapist be acquitted.

PANEL OKs ATTY. GENERAL BILL: A Senate committee approved a bill to expand the powers of Maryland’s attorney general, allowing him to challenge any action by the federal government that harms the health and welfare of Maryland citizens, Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com.

BPW OKs SCHOOLS CONSTRUCTION CHIEF: The Board of Public Works unanimously approved Robert Gorrell on Wednesday to head Maryland’s school construction program, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. Gorrell, who has led New Mexico’s school construction efforts, was recruited to head the Interagency Committee on School Construction after a nationwide search. State schools Superintendent Karen B. Salmon, who chairs the five-member committee, said Gorrell was the panel’s unanimous choice.

CONCERN OVER BAIL REFORM: Advocates applauded a Maryland Court of Appeals rule change designed to prevent people from remaining in jail if they can’t afford bail, but a bail bond business owner and a victim rights group expressed concern. Kelsi Loos of the Frederick News Post writes that, effective July 1, District Court judges and commissioners will release defendants before trial unless they determine that the person is a flight risk or a danger to the community. Officials still can order the accused held without bail in serious crimes or if there is reason to believe they may flee.

CARE CONTRACT EXTENDED: Maryland has extended its contract with an out-of-state group home provider in Florida despite having canceled its agreement with the company’s subsidiary last year when a developmentally disabled Maryland child died from injuries suffered there under mysterious circumstances, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.

AA SEEKS TAX BREAKS FOR SOME COMPANIES: A year and a half after Anne Arundel County approved a $22.5 million public financing package for a conference center next to the Maryland Live casino, county officials and the center’s developer have decided to pursue a different set of incentives for the project instead, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital reports. County Executive Steve Schuh is asking the state delegation to support a bill that would allow county government to give tax breaks to real estate development projects that provide a substantial public benefit to Anne Arundel residents.

HOGAN’s FACEBOOK PAGE: The controversy over Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s deletion of Facebook comments continued Wednesday, as a government watchdog group and the Maryland Democratic Party raised questions over the propriety of banning constituents from a public page. Hogan’s spokesman continued to defend the practice and dismissed concerns as partisan, Erin Cox of the Sun reports.

  • Ovetta Wiggins and Fenit Nirappil of the Post report that Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said those who were blocked were believed to be part of an organized campaign, which several of the blocked commenters denied. “All I did was ask my governor to speak out, and I was blacklisted,” said Gretchen Weigel Doughty, a Takoma Park resident who said she messaged Hogan about the ban on her own, without outside guidance. “I said, ‘I’m an independent, and you’re going to lose my vote if you don’t speak out on this issue.’?”

DNC CHAIR: John Fritze writes a pair of stories for the Sun on who’s backing who for the head of the Democratic National Committee:

VOTING BY STUDENT MEMBER: Frederick Democrats are defying the Republican-controlled county delegation again by introducing a second local measure in the General Assembly after it was voted down at a delegation meeting, writes Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News Post. Dels. Carol Krimm and Karen Lewis Young and Sen. Ron Young have introduced bills in their respective chambers that would grant limited voting rights to the student member of the Frederick County Board of Education.

BA CO ALTERS SEX ASSAULT PROBES: Baltimore County officials announced changes to the way sexual assaults are investigated and prosecuted after an independent review of more than 100 reported rapes that police classified as unfounded. The county’s focus on sexual assault comes as state lawmakers are considering bills that could make it easier to convict alleged rapists, at a time when high-profile assault cases have drawn attention to the issue. Police deemed 34% of rape accusations in Baltimore County in 2014 to be unfounded, while the national average then was 7%. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports the story.

PUGH WARY OF WAGE HIKE: Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh on Wednesday expressed strong reservations about a bill mandating Baltimore businesses pay a $15 minimum wage by 2022, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun. Pugh, a small business owner, said the bill being considered by the City Council could cause her consignment shop to close an extra day per week.

NEXT STEPS FOR TANEY STATUE: The Roger Brooke Taney bust’s days outside Frederick City Hall are once again numbered after the last of three petitioners fighting against removing it dismissed his objection, Mallory Panuska reports for the Frederick News Post. Charles Eyler filed a petition Tuesday in Frederick County Circuit Court asking to dismiss a petition for judicial review. He previously filed the petition with two other people against the Historic Preservation Commission’s approval that allowed the city to remove the controversial bust.

PLANK UNDER FIRE: Under Armour Inc. CEO Kevin Plank has been catching heat over the past 24 hours for praising President Donald Trump, leading to the sportswear maker quickly issuing a statement on Wednesday seeking to quell the backlash, reports Ryan Sharrow of the Baltimore Business Journal.