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.
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.
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.
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.
Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley now says he supports “non-partisan redistricting commissions not only for drawing Congressional districts every ten years, but for state legislative districts as well,” even while admitting he engaged in partisan gerrymandering as a Democratic governor. “We must, on a state by state basis, push for an end to gerrymandered Congressional districts,” he told an audience Tuesday at the Boston College law school, where he is a distinguished visiting professor.
A Senate vote to increase the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto from the 2016 session was postponed Thursday for a week. The bill would mandate that 25% of all electricity consumption in the state come from renewable energy sources by the year 2020. The measure ups the renewable energy goal from the current 20% by 2022. Senate Minority Whip Stephen Hershey said the vote scheduled this Thursday came earlier than expected and was anticipated to take place only after the House took up the RPS veto next week.
After two years of dead ends, Maryland lawmakers have again introduced measures to give terminally ill Marylanders the right to die using doctor prescribed medications. The nation’s oldest end-of-life advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, brought nearly 200 supporters to Annapolis on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to pass the “Richard E. Israel and Roger ‘Pip’ Moyer End of Life Options Act.”
Maryland House and Senate Democrats are moving to stamp out prescription drug price gouging and force drug makers to reveal how their drugs are priced. On Tuesday, policy analysts, advocates and an assistant attorney general testified before the Senate Finance Committee that prescription drug prices will remain unaffordable without more competition in the generic drug market and better transparency in drug pricing, where prices have increased by as much as 1000% in a one-year period.
Maryland’s legislative leaders are getting pressure to fix their approach to spending not just from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan but from their own top budget expert, Warren Deschenaux. In his analysis of the $43.5 billion state budget Hogan sent to the legislature last week, Deschenaux told legislators Monday, “This is another kick-the-can-down-the-road budget,” putting off hard choices about future spending.
Seizing on bribery and conspiracy charges facing former Democratic lawmakers, Gov. Larry Hogan unleashed a handful of bills Thursday to rein in corruption and put an end to influence peddling in Annapolis. Hogan also proposed legislation to take some of the politics out of liquor board appointments, force the Maryland Senate and House to video stream their sessions, and set up an independent commission to draw lines for legislative and congressional districts.