UPDATED: Senate rushes to approve expanded powers of Md. attorney general to challenge Trump policies

Over the strong protests of Republicans and a few Democrats, the Maryland Senate quickly gave preliminary approval to 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. The measure, SJ5, the Maryland Defense Act, was sponsored by most Senate Democrats and its entire leadership and is clearly aimed at the Trump administration. The bill had a hearing just Wednesday, and was swiftly voted out of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on a party line vote hours later, and then was rushed to the Senate floor, where its Democratic sponsors refused to give opponents a day to look at the proposal and make possible amendments — a common courtesy at this point in the session.

$100 million in annual toll fines put citizens on road to ‘toll bankruptcy’

Excessive penalties and poor customer service at the E-ZPass electronic toll collection system have put some Marylanders on the path to “toll bankruptcy,” Sen. Roger Manno told the Senate Finance Committee last week. “Folks [are] exasperated because they’ve been caught in a system that is not working,” Manno said. Broad enforcement powers enacted in 2013 to address toll violations have led to wage attachments, financial hardship and non-renewal of vehicle registrations at MVA, witnesses testified.

Club Trump aims to beat Hogan down

Trump’s actions have given Maryland Democrats a bigger club to try to beat down the popularity of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his chances for reelection. Hogan is not likely to cave into Democratic demands that he publicly stand up to Trump. He’s more likely to bow down to the president in private, and hope for the best. It is not clear what Democrats think having Hogan join them in loudly opposing the president would achieve, other than further alienating a president hyper-sensitive to public criticism and any of his supporters in Maryland.

Rascovar: Hogan and the Trump elephant in the room

You can chalk up his most recent State of the State speech to political hype and self-congratulatory back-patting. If there’s anything wrong happening in Maryland, it’s not his fault but those self-absorbed Democrats. Nary a negative word was sounded by Hogan – until he took some swipes at Democrats. There’s no surprise here, writes Barry Rascovar. What did come as a surprise was Hogan’s complete avoidance of the proverbial elephant in the room – widespread fear and trembling as a radical populist takes charge of the U.S. government just 32 miles away.

Brochin tries again to repeal 2011 alcohol tax

For a second year in a row, Sen. Jim Brochin is trying to repeal the retail sales tax on alcohol that went from 6% to 9% in 2011. He said it unfairly targets one industry and puts Maryland at a disadvantage with neighboring states. “Currently surrounding states are charging less in sales and use tax…and it’s having a negative effect on local businesses,” Brochin told the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee on Wednesday.

Opinion: Maryland should focus on careers, not jobs

Keeping a steady focus on careers instead of just creating jobs will help add longevity and health to Maryland’s economy. We must take a hard look at our method for leasing properties, awarding TIFS, and Maryland capital projects funding the construction of hospitals, universities and nonprofits. When thinking of creative ways to address these issues we must put a central focus on registered apprenticeships.

Hogan moves to suspend $50 million supplement to pension system

In his State of the State speech Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan worried about the state’s pension system’s $20 billion unfunded liability, and urged legislators to pass a new pension option like a 401(k) for new employees. But in his fiscal 2018 budget, the governor withholds a mandated $50 million supplement to the State Retirement and Pension System due to declining revenue estimates that have left a slim $70 million surplus in fiscal 2017.

State House Democrats propose legislation aimed at Trump policies

Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis announced five priorities Tuesday aimed at resisting policy efforts by President Donald Trump’s administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. One would withdraw all of Maryland’s past calls for a constitutional convention, another would direct the attorney general to oppose “harmful” federal policies, two would create commissions to monitor health and financial regulatory developments at the federal level, and the fifth would instruct the state’s congressional delegation and governor to resist any effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act.