girl at white board math class school (by mrcharly on Flickr)

New commission will likely lead to renewed battles over school funding

Quietly and unanimously, with brief hearings and practically no news coverage, the Maryland General Assembly passed bills that will likely set up one of the most contentious legislative fights of its election year session in 2018. The companion bills set up the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, a 25-member panel charged with examining a long list of issues about public school funding. Its recommendations are due in October 2017.

Brian Beckham, a custodial worker with disabilities at Melwood, finishes tying up the final trash bag during a demonstration of the now-obsolete time trials  in the Melwood center. Capital News Service photo by Josh Magness.

Ending subminimum wages for workers with disabilities passes

As of January, 36 in-state organizations were authorized to pay just over 3,600 workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage, according to a legislative analysis. But the Minimum Wage and Community Integration Act — a pair of bills that passed both the Maryland House and Senate with wide, bipartisan majorities — aims to end that practice.

Gov. Larry Hogan talks to reporters after the session, as members of his staff stand behind him on the stairway.

Tax cuts, paid sick leave fail in final hours, but hundreds of bills enacted

What would a 90-day legislative session with its turn-into-a-pumpkin midnight deadline be without a little high drama at the finale? Competing Senate and House tax-cut packages turned into no tax cuts at all, except for a select few, including a multibillion-dollar defense contractor. Parts of a firearms safety package backed by the Democratic leadership wound up being scuttled for overreach after they were combined in a conference committee on the final day. A paid sick leave mandate, declared dead than resuscitated as part of an attempted tax cut deal, died again as the deal fell apart.

Prison by Zlatko Vickovic with Flickr Creative Commons License

Opinion: Let’s get it right on Justice Reinvestment

After a long day of intense conference committee negotiations Saturday, Maryland’s House and Senate — recently at odds over key provisions of the Justice Reinvestment Act — finally agreed to strong compromise legislation that changes the way we treat those who have committed crimes in the best interests of a just society. As the only nonprofit representative of the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council, Caryn York urges lawmakers to approve and adopt this thoughtfully developed legislation.

Senate rejects automatic voter registration

The Maryland Senate Thursday rejected a bill to automatically register every eligible adult in the state to vote amid concerns about privacy and the possibility that non-citizens might get registered. The vote was 21-24, with seven Democrats joining Republicans in killing the measure.

Sam Eig Highway by dougtone on Flickr

Opinion: Transportation scoring bill sends officials on wild goose chase

Del. Bob Flanagan was Maryland’s secretary of transportation from 2003 to 2007. In this article, he describes how the current transportation planning process works and compares it under HB1013, Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016, which the governor vetoed Friday. The House will attempt to override the veto Thursday. It passed both houses just shy of the super-majorities needed to override a veto. In the accompanying article, “Scoring the transportation scoring system in HB1013”, Flanagan analyzes the impact of the proposed new scoring system.