MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!
State Roundup will take next off and return Jan. 2.
NEALL TO REPLACE SCHRADER: Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed Robert L. Neall, a veteran public official who has held many roles in government, to run the Maryland Department of Health. Neall, 69, replaces Dennis Schrader, who failed to win state Senate confirmation as health secretary. Schrader will take on the role of the department’s chief operating officer, the Governor’s Office announced Thursday. Michael Dresser reports in the Baltimore Sun.
- Neall, a former chief executive of a Medicaid managed-care company who has been serving as a senior adviser to the governor, takes control over the agency after a year with Schrader at the helm. Schrader was embroiled in an ongoing battle with Treasurer Nancy Kopp (D), who has refused to pay the acting secretary since July amid legal questions surrounding his nomination, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.
- Schrader will remain in the department as its chief operating officer. The change in jobs avoids an expected battle between Hogan and Senate Democrats who passed budget language that prevented Schrader from being paid after his nomination was withdrawn earlier this year and then he was re-appointed once the legislature ended its 90-day session.
- Hogan, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters, evidently decided to spread the holiday cheer a little further on Thursday by what he didn’t say in a news release announcing his decision to nominate political handyman Bobby Neall to be state Health secretary. Neall would replace Dennis Schrader, who has held the position on an acting basis amid multiple controversies for the past year.
HIGHEST PAID LOBBYISTS: The 10 highest paid lobbyists in Maryland remained the same this year, and in about the same order, according to figures just released from the State Ethics Commission, Len Lazarick writes in MarylandReporter.com. All had billings over $1 million, with Tim Perry and Gerry Evans number 1 and 2 at over $2 million. The figures do not just represent personal compensation, but all the billings made to support their offices and staff. Another 18 lobbyists, often in the same firms as the top 10, billed over $500,000.
BLACK CAUCUS AGENDA: The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland will focus on the state’s HBCUs, justice for African Americans, sentencing and economic reforms, among other things, Deborah Bailey reports for the Afro. After months of listening sessions, town hall meetings and a day-long hearing in Annapolis to hear citizen concerns, the LBCM is ready to provide leadership on issues that impact the lives of Maryland’s more than 1.7 million African-Americans, said Del. Cheryl Glenn, chair of the caucus.
ACA ENROLLMENT ENDS: Open enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act comes to a close in Maryland today even as the law faces continuing threats, reports Meredith Cohn for the Sun. About 150,000 Marylanders have signed up for insurance in 2018 under the law known as Obamacare, which provides coverage to those who do not get coverage through work. That’s about the same number as last year.
GRIDLOCK & EXPANSION: The editorial board for the Sun takes a closer look at Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to relieve gridlock in the Baltimore region. “The fact that this proposal is less complicated than the unprecedented (for Maryland, anyway) public-private partnerships Mr. Hogan pledged for the Washington region doesn’t make it uncomplicated. Mr. Hogan left out a discussion of the trade-offs these new projects might portend,” the board writes.
- Here’s a classic KAL toon from the Sun in 1998 about Beltway widening. And it’s pretty much on the money for today.
OYSTER BED CHECK: Every year since 1939, Maryland has surveyed its portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to see how the oysters are doing. Though no longer the mainstay they once were, oysters are still a pillar of the region’s fishing industry and a vital cog in the Bay ecosystem, the Bay Journal’s Tim Wheeler reports in a story about this annual oyster “bed check.”
HOGAN TAX MITIGATION PLAN: Some Maryland taxpayers could see their state income taxes go down under a proposal Gov. Larry Hogan says he will unveil in January, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. Hogan, in a brief statement before the Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday, said he would introduce legislation next month that would mitigate the potential negative effects on state taxpayers because of changes made to two major federal tax deductions and exemptions in legislation set to be signed into law by President Trump.
A GIVING TALE: Danielle Gaines kicks off her Political Notes column in the Frederick News-Post with a seasonally appropriate tale of gift giving at the Board of Public Works, made up of Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot and Treasurer Nancy Kopp, wherein we discover that Hogan is now a published author.
COST OF FATHERLESSNESS: In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Towson University Professor Richard Vatz opines that the causal relationship is profound between fatherlessness, single-parent families and the resultant murders, shootings, violence, poverty, lack of upper-mobility, school miseries for teachers and students, flourishing of vicious and brazen gangs (replacing fathers), lost job opportunities, illicit drug use and sales, and general quality of life.
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***EXPERT TIPS ON PICKING MEAT FOR YOUR HOLIDAY FEAST: When Benson and Jamie Tiralla started Monnett Farms, their first product was grass-fed beef. They sold it by the quarter or side, which means a customer would buy a portion of the beef and customize the cuts to their preferences. This was a crash course in learning about beef. They had to learn a lot in a hurry. But that has helped these Maryland farmers better explain things to their customers and help them choose the right products for holiday and everyday meals. Here are tips to choose the best cuts of beef. SPONSORED CONTENT***
PAYING PROPERTY TAX EARLY: Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that as Congress voted and re-voted on its massive tax bill this week, the phones began ringing at Howard County’s Office of Finance. By the dozens, and then the hundreds, county residents wanted to know: Can I pay next year’s property tax bill now? Some Marylanders are wondering if it might be best to squeeze in property tax payments that would normally be due next fall before the end of this calendar year — so that those property tax payments can fully be deducted on 2017 tax returns, instead of facing a possible change in 2018, under the new federal tax plan.
- Rachel Siegel of the Post reports that there has been a change of plans. The Montgomery County Council won’t be rushing to the rescue of homeowners shaken up by the GOP tax plan approved by Congress this week. Council member Roger Berliner had urged the county to help residents prepay their 2018 property taxes by the end of this year, an option that could allow them to deduct those taxes in full, before a new cap takes effect.
- Montgomery Council President Hans Riemer sent a memo to County Executive Ike Leggett Thursday morning informing him that a majority of the council opposes the idea. The memo expresses council members’ concerns that letting residents prepay would require a rapid implementation process before the end of 2017 that could result in confusion and errors, Andrew Metcalf reports in Bethesda Beat.
FUNDRAISING ON THE HILL: House Speaker Michael Busch (D) and Senate President Mike Miller (D) will be on Capitol Hill in early January, raising money with the Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters reports. An invitation for the late afternoon event on Jan. 4, at the Capitol Hill office of the lobbying shop Cornerstone Government Affairs, features Miller, Busch, U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer prominently. It also promises Reps. Anthony Brown, Elijah Cummings, John Delaney, Jamie Raskin, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes. It costs a minimum of $1,000 to attend.
CARDIN ON CONGRESS SPENDING BILL: John Fritze of the Sun reports that U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, remarking on Congress’ narrowly avoiding a government shutdown Thursday with a short-term spending bill that punted thorny debates over immigration and health care to next month, said, “This is ridiculous. They (the Republicans) control both the House and the Senate and the White House and they can’t pass a budget?” The outcome of those talks will have implications for Maryland, a state that is home to roughly 300,000 federal employees.
CASA BACK ELRICH FOR MO CO EXEC: One of Maryland’s largest and most influential immigrant-rights groups, CASA in Action, endorsed council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large) Thursday in the Montgomery County executive race, writes Rachel Siegel for the Post.
ARUNDEL PAYS CHILDREN’s MEAL DEBTS: Rachel Pacella of the Annapolis Capital reports that Anne Arundel County has a holiday present for public school children and their parents — officials have agreed to pay off all outstanding school meal debt. County Executive Steve Schuh proposed paying off the debt, his office said in a release. The $25,000 expense was approved by the County Council at its meeting Dec. 18. All accounts with negative balances will be cleared, officials say.