House defuses fireworks over Frosh’s power to sue Trump

By following normal legislative procedure, the House of Delegates Tuesday defused the political fireworks that went off in the Maryland Senate five days earlier when Democrats rammed through a broad expansion of the powers of the Democratic attorney to sue the federal government. A somewhat muted response by House Republicans also helped to reduce the heat by limiting their debate to a single amendment focusing on the constitutional authority legislators were handing over to the Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh.

Columbia at 50 Part 8: RELIGION: Interfaith centers sought to bring congregations together  

These interfaith centers in Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills, the first religious facilities built in the planned new town, were among the unique features most often remarked on with wonder in media coverage of Columbia. While they were consistent with the open, integrated and forward-thinking city Jim Rouse had in mind, they were not part of the original planning process at all.

House set to approve broad new powers for attorney general

The first items on the agenda for the Maryland House of Delegates Monday are House and Senate resolutions that will give Attorney General Brian Frosh sole discretion to sue the Trump administration to protect the “state’s interest as well as the health and welfare of Maryland residents.” The House Rules Committee Friday afternoon voted to report favorably on both resolutions. The Maryland Defense Act of 2017, SJ5, passed the Senate 29-17 Friday morning, after a brief but contentious fight by Senate Republicans to delay the measure.

Businesses for and against paid sick leave bills

After four years of trying, many Maryland lawmakers predict this is the year a paid sick leave bill could pass both chambers. Identical bills are in play in the House, HB1, and Senate, SB230. At its Senate hearing, business representatives spoke for and against the legislation that mandates paid sick leave for all businesses with 15 or more employees and unpaid leave for smaller employers.

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.

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.