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Commentary on final GOP debate before N.H. primary

Not a strong first half of the debate, but a much better second half. It may have been a consequential night for the candidates. Not a good night for Rubio, certainly not in the first half of the debate; a strong night for Christie; a good night for Bush; a pretty good night for Kasich, Cruz and Trump, who was a little less egocentric and baiting than usual -- a little. Commentary by Rick Vatz and Len Lazarick.

Gov. Larry Hogan gives State of the State address as Senate President Mike Miller, left, and House Speaker Michael Busch listen.

Tone of Hogan speech was bipartisan, but Dems aren’t singing along with familiar tune

The tone of Gov. Larry Hogan’s State of the State address to the legislature Wednesday was far more conciliatory than last year. But for many Democrats the tune was all too familiar, and they weren’t singing along. Addressing the Democrat-controlled General Assembly, he used the word “together” 26 times and the word “bipartisan” six times in his half-hour speech.

Sen, Catherine Pugh at podium for Working Families press conference will re-introduce legislation for earned sick leave. photo

Renewed push for paid sick leave gets pushback from new poll for business groups

Legislators are bringing back a proposed requirement for paid sick leave. Employers are already pushing back against the proposal, commissioning a poll that shows Marylanders support the concept of paid sick leave, but withdraw their support when told of its negative consequences. Advocates for paid sick leave derided the poll, saying it was a "push poll," pushing people toward opposition with consequences that don't exist. They cited a study of Seattle employers after that city passed a requirement for paid sick leave that found very few consequences.

By ann gave with Flickr Creative Commons License

Euphemism and subterfuge fog the physician assisted suicide movement

One of the most contentious issues to be debated during this year’s General Assembly session will be the renewed effort to legalize physician assisted suicide. Proponents of physician assisted suicide often claim that they want an honest debate on this issue and insist that if people knew the true facts they would prevail. However, their entire movement is shrouded in euphemism and artifice.

Plaster doesn’t need third career in politics, but he wants one

Mark Plaster has a big, black, 38-foot RV with his name plastered all over it. You may have seen it in Annapolis or Bowie or Olney or Burtonsville or Silver Spring or Towson or Columbia or Baltimore. In other words, you may have seen the RV all over the odd-shaped 3rd congressional district, the second most-gerrymandered district in the country. “That’s why we bought the bus,” said Plaster. “We want to have a presence throughout the district.” Republican Plaster is running (or should that be riding?) for Congress, hoping to unseat Democrat John Sarbanes.

Brinkley budget briefing cropped

Hogan’s $42 billion budget not causing much indigestion — yet

Legislators and nonprofit groups are still digesting the $42.3 billion budget Gov. Larry Hogan submitted Wednesday. But there were few signs of indigestion over a proposal that increases spending by $2 billion (5%), while setting aside a record $1.5 billion in reserves and surplus. "We don't know until we get into all the details" is the way House Speaker Michael Busch summed it up after breakfast with the governor and fiscal leaders. House Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh had lots of unanswered questions, as well.

Gov. Larry Hogan explains his budget proposal at a Jan. 7 press conference. Left is Lt. Gov Boyd Rutherford, on the right is Budget Secretary David Brinkley and fiscal advisor Bob Neall.

Hogan to release budget — but he won’t be there

Gov. Larry Hogan will submit his fiscal 2017 budget to the legislature Wednesday, but he won't be briefing reporters about it. Skipping a budget routine that goes back a dozen years or more, Hogan will not unveil his overall budget and the thick five-volume set of budget books that go with it in the governor's formal reception room. That duty will be handled by Budget Secretary David Brinkley in his offices two blocks from the State House.