FEDERAL BUDGET, SHUTDOWN & MARYLAND: As Republicans in Congress battle over funding measures, high-profile issues like immigration and a race up to a possible government shutdown at week’s end, John Fritze of the Sun writes about how this could affect Maryland, home to 300,000 federal workers, the Chesapeake Bay and 9,000 DACA recipients.
- The editorial board of the Sun writes about five ways that Marylanders could get whacked by the Republican spending plan, based on the Bureau of Revenue Estimates analysis. In general it shows that about 60% of the state’s taxpayers would get a tax cut equivalent, on average, to 1.9% of income. But neither the House nor the Senate bill is a simple tax cut. Both include substantial re-writing of the tax code in ways that create losers as well as winners, and many of the bills’ provisions are distinctly worse for Maryland than they are for other states.
HEALTH ENROLLMENT PUSH: A series of “last chance” events are scheduled for this weekend to help Marylanders enroll in Affordable Care Act health care coverage for 2018 before the Dec 15. deadline, writes Georgia Slater for CNS. Free events are planned at 18 locations throughout the state Dec. 8-10. At these events, trained “navigators” will be available to assist people enroll in health coverage.
- Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports that to date, the new enrollments on the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange are up 14% from the same period last year and overall enrollments are up 3%, said Michele Eberle, the incoming executive director of the exchange.
LEGISLATION 2018: This week, legislative committees and special commissions in Annapolis are tackling such meaty issues as health care reform, Metro funding, the state of the state’s liquor industry, financial protections and reform, biotech investment tax credits, and more. And, among more interesting notes, U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ retirement makes Steny Hoyer the most senior Democrat in the House, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters.
VA GOV CALLS ON MD TO AID METRO: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said Tuesday that his state has done its part for Metro by urging board reforms and pledging to provide dedicated funding, and he called on Maryland and the District to join the effort, reports Robert McCartney for the Post. McAuliffe spoke at a news conference marking the official release of a report on fixing Metro prepared by former U.S. transportation secretary Ray LaHood.
HOGAN PUSHES BALTIMORE CRIME PLAN: Gov. Larry Hogan announced a package of initiatives Tuesday aimed at curbing violent crime in Baltimore — ordering increased state patrols in high-crime areas and promising an “aggressive sweep” arresting criminals wanted on outstanding warrants. Flanked by top law enforcement officials from around the state — but not from Baltimore — Hogan argued that courts have grown too soft on violent crime and need to get tougher, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports. The article is topped by a video of the announcement.
- Hogan wants to double the minimum criminal penalty, increasing it from five years to 10 years, without parole or probation. He will also propose “truth in sentencing” legislation that would require repeat violent offenders to serve their full sentences without suspension, parole or probation and stronger laws targeting gangs that would allow prosecutors to try cases across jurisdictional lines, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.
- In the meantime, city officials are hoping to put together $17 million in funding to bring an anti-violence program to Baltimore that has a track record of connecting high-risk young adults to jobs and keeping them out of jail, writes Yvonne Wenger in the Sun. Mayor Catherine Pugh said she is waiting on Gov. Larry Hogan’s office to respond to her request for state money to finalize a four-year funding plan to bring the program to Baltimore.
LIFE AFTER PRISON: In an extraordinary story of resiliency and patience, Julie Depenbrock of CNS writes about Walter Lomax, who was serving a life sentence for a murder he did not commit and, after 40 years, was finally freed from the Jessup House of Corrections. Through poetry, self-education and the law, he was able to regain his life. The article appears in MarylandReporter.
FRANCHOT TOUTS BREWING REFORM: Ryan Marshall of the Frederick News-Post reports that Comptroller Peter Franchot was in Frederick touting the Reform on Tap Act of 2018, a package of legislation designed to help local breweries. The bill would remove all limits on beer production, taproom sales and take-home sales; allow counties to set guidelines for taproom operating hours; eliminate franchise law requirements; remove restrictions on contract brewing; and let smaller breweries distribute their own products.
BAN EPS FOAM: Angela Haren of Blue Water Baltimore makes a case for Maryland to ban the use of expanded polystyrene foam, more commonly known as Styrofoam, from restaurants and other food uses. In an op-ed in the Sun, she writes that EPS foam is impossible to fully clean up once it is thrown away. It is a petroleum-based product that does not biodegrade. Instead, it crumbles and breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces each time it is touched or disturbed.
LIMITED SUPPLY OF RX POT: Just days after the first medical marijuana dispensaries opened in Maryland, limited supplies and technical difficulties mean little of the product is actually available, reports Meredith Cohn for the Sun. The state has licensed just 10 of an expected 92 dispensaries, and of those only six have opened — none in the Baltimore area.
WILL HOGAN TAKE 45% OF MO CO VOTE? Even with Democrats outnumbering Republicans more than 3-1 in Montgomery County, the county’s new GOP chairman can see Gov. Larry Hogan capturing up to 45% of the Montgomery vote in next year’s re-election bid, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.
ROTHENBERG ON TRONE: Longtime national political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, currently senior editor at Inside Politics, wrote a critical column about David Trone, Democratic candidate in the 6th Congressional District, and his event held in the 8th Congressional District with free wine. Hat tip to Seventh State blog for alerting us to the column.
JEALOUS & MEDICARE FOR ALL: Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous released a plan Wednesday calling on Maryland to take the plunge and create a universal health care system without waiting for the the federal government to take the lead. The release of Jealous’ outline of a statewide “Medicare for all” plan comes as he is planning a rally tonight at the College of Notre Dame with 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, a supporter of single-payer health care who has endorsed Jealous’ candidacy.
- Jealous said the state has saved more than $400 million under its all-payer system and a move toward single-payer would only lead to greater cost savings, money that could help pay for the program. He also did not rule out an increase in sales or income taxes to pay for the universal coverage, writes Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.
- In an opinion piece for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths opines that Jealous is bringing Socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders to Baltimore today to hold a rally in support of providing Medicare-for-all. Jealous, Griffiths writes, has absolutely no idea how he is actually going to pay for this “scam.” But it will probably look a lot like the Sanders proposal, which is based on Canada’s single-payer health care system.
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STATE ASKED TO AUDIT BA CO SCHOOLS: The Baltimore County school system plans to hire an outside accountant to audit its purchasing practices amid questions about the awarding of millions of dollars in technology contracts the past few years. But, Liz Bowie reports for the Sun, some school board members and parents want the state to intervene and hire the auditor rather than leaving the matter in the hands of county school officials.
EX-PEROUTKA AIDE SUES STATE: Dennis Fusaro, a former campaign manager for Anne Arundel County Councilman Michael Peroutka, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking access to the Maryland voter registration list, saying denial of that list violates his free speech rights, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports.The lawsuit was filed Monday in the United States District Court with help from the Pillar of Law Institute and the Garza Law Firm. The pillar is a free speech advocacy group that represented Fusaro when he was on trial for robocalls made during Peroutka’s campaign for County Council.
GOVERNMENT HOUSE HOLIDAY: Gov. Larry Hogan and first lady Yumi Hogan invite Marylanders and their families to join them for a Holiday Open House from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, at Government House. The event is free of charge and no reservations are required, Michel Eben writes for the Carroll County Times.
HOGANS SELL EDGEWATER HOME: Gov. Larry Hogan quietly sold his Edgewater house last fall for $1.35 million, Edward Ericson Jr. of Maryland Matters writes. The stunning four-bedroom, five bath house on a 2-acre peninsula overlooking Beard’s Creek in Anne Arundel County, had been listed at $1.6 million and is now assessed at $1.4 million.
MO CO DECLARES CLIMATE EMERGENCY: Montgomery County on Tuesday became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to declare a “climate emergency,” heeding a call from environmental advocacy groups to counter Trump administration policies by dramatically cutting greenhouse emissions in coming years, Rachel Siegel writes in the Post.