Legislating death with dignity needs debate with dignity

The introduction again of legislation that would allow people with terminal illnesses to obtain lethal doses of drugs with which to kill themselves has reignited the debate about assisted suicide in Maryland. The passage of these laws relies so heavily on their raw emotional appeal should make us pause. We need to ask some hard questions about these issues and think just as hard about their potentially ugly answers.

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.

Rascovar: Avoiding Maryland’s Pension Reality

No one wants to face up to Maryland’s giant $19 billion long-term shortfall in its retirement program for state workers and teachers, writes columnist Barry Rascovar. Not the Republican governor nor the Democratic legislature. Gov. Larry Hogan is calling for a dramatic change – an optional 401(k)-style retirement program for new state employees. It sounds good but falls apart when examined close up.

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.

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.