Cap on awards for lawsuits against counties, towns divides senators

The fatal shooting on Saturday of an unarmed black man in South Carolina by a white police officer now charged with murder was clearly on the minds of Maryland senators as they debated a 28-year old cap on damages in lawsuits against towns and counties in similar wrongful injuries.

The senators were attempting to balance the interests of both taxpayers and victims. Some senators were worried that smaller towns would go bankrupt if the cap on damages was raised from $200,000 to $500,000, as HB 113 would require.

Office of Larry Hogan governor

Battle over online travel tax shifts to governor’s office

Online travel companies lost their battle to prevent paying more Maryland sales tax on the House floor Wednesday, a fight they had already lost in the Senate.

Having been unable to persuade the lawmakers on the first floor of the State House that this is a new tax on their hotel booking services, they are now taking their case to Gov. Larry Hogan on the second floor.

A spokesman for the governor said he has yet to take a position on the legislation.

House of Delegates before swearing in

House passes major changes to public records access

Major changes to the Public Information Act reported on earlier have now passed both the House and Senate in essentially the same form.

HB755 passed the House Wednesday 139-1, and SB695 passed the Senate unanimously March 25.

“This is a big step forward,” said Del. Dan Morhaim, the floor leader and a long-time champion of open government and transparency measures.


Debate continues on value of film tax credit

As popular shows like “VEEP” and “House of Cards” continue to receive tax-credit aid from Maryland, legislators debate whether the return is really worth the $25 million output.

Currently, SB 905 sets up the House and Senate for a debate on the continuance of the film tax credit scheduled to end in July 2016. House of Cards has threatened to pull out of the state if this credit is not continued.

Kipke no new taxes

House moves travel website tax along, rejects amendments

The effort to collect more Maryland sales tax from travel websites such as Orbitz and Expedia moved closer to enactment as the House gave preliminary approval to legislation backed by Marriott International and hotel chains.

The online sites call the measure a new tax and the hotels say it is an existing tax the tech travel sites were pocketing instead of paying. Local travel agents say they may be caught in the crossfire, and wind up paying tax on their service fees.

Jail Vote

Voting for ex-felons stirs debate, prank amendment

In a political stunt to bring attention to what he calls “the year of the criminal,” Del. Pat McDonough offered an amendment to a bill that would put voting machines in prisons and wound up not even voting for the idea himself. The prank came during a serious debate about voting rights for ex-felons.

Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen. Caricatures by DonkeyHotey with Flickr Creative Commons License.

Analysts see 2 ‘hard core’ liberal Democrats running for U.S. Senate

Democratic primary voters should find little difference in political ideology between the two candidates running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, according to outside analysts.

Both U.S. Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen are ranked “hard core liberals” by On The Issues, a political website that analyzes policy issues supported by federal, state and local politicians.