Hogan’s budget moves to House floor, growth in private school scholarships cut

The House Appropriations Committee on Friday sent Gov. Larry Hogan’s $43 billion budget to the House floor for votes this week. It made $90 million in trims to general fund spending while adding back $74 million in other areas, including $8.4 million more to fund a 3.5% pay hike for caregivers of the developmentally disabled and $15 million restored for a Prince George’s regional hospital. The longest and most substantial debate occurred over a nearly $5 million cut in Hogan’s proposed funding of the BOOST Program to pay for scholarships of low-income students to private schools, including religious ones.

Sick leave votes in Senate signal trouble for bill

A few Senate Democrats last week raised significant questions about paid sick leave legislation that had finally come to the floor. The votes on the dozen amendments to SB230 that were rejected also showed that the legislation does not have a veto-proof majority, with four or five Democrats joining with Republicans favoring less comprehensive coverage.

Rascovar: Hogan’s Trump trouble

The 2018 election is looking more and more like a national referendum on Donald Trump’s manic, unpredictable presidency. If that become the case, Hogan’s continuation in office could hang by a thread.

Open Source textbooks could save students a bundle

As the cost of college has skyrocketed, students and parents could soon get relief on expensive textbooks under the Textbook Cost Savings Act of 2017 that would provide funding to develop free open source learning materials.“The state is moving rapidly towards free textbooks online,” said the bill’s sponso rSen. Jim Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s, in an interview. “If the bill passes it will be state policy that we want to move in that direction as much as possible.”

Md. retailers want online merchants to charge sales tax

Maryland retailers are again pushing for the state to collect sales taxes from online merchants not based in Maryland, helping them and potentially raising hundreds of millions for the state. Brick and mortar stores are struggling to compete with online sellers in other states, retail business interests testified in Annapolis on Wednesday in support of the Main Street Fairness Act of 2017.

Extra pension fund payment from state surplus would continue under bill approved by House

A bill to pre-fund future pension and health insurance liabilities for state workers passed overwhelmingly in the House of Delegates last week in a 130-5 vote — and now waits in the Senate Budget and Tax Committee for a hearing. The bill, HB28, sponsored by Del. Carol Krimm, D-Frederick, would require 50% of the general fund balance in excess of $10 million be split equally between the pension system and the Postretirement Health Benefits Trust Fund, up to $25 million for each fund.

Opinion: Marijuana legalization should not be held hostage to drugged driving concerns

Maryland lawmakers are once again considering legislation to regulate the adult use and sale of marijuana to those age 21 or older. Nearly six in 10 residents support this reform, according to a February Goucher poll. But opponents charge that doing so could pose a risk to traffic safety. Such concerns are not all together unfounded, but deserve to be placed in proper context.

Redistricting reform gains some Senate support

Gov. Larry Hogan’s is again pushing to create an independent commission to draw congressional and legislative district lines. The retired federal judge Hogan appointed to head the commission that made the recommendation said the state needs to fix its oddly shaped, highly partisan congressional district lines or federal judges will do it for Maryland.