DWYER STRIPPED OF COMMITTEE ASSIGNMENT: Del. Don Dwyer’s afternoons for the next 90 days have been suddenly freed up, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. House Speaker Michael Busch announced that Dwyer was being removed from the House Ways and Means Committee. The embattled Anne Arundel County Republican who was twice-convicted of operating vehicles while under the influence is officially a man without a committee assignment.
The speaker’s action is the strongest signal yet that Dwyer’s colleagues want to see him go. While Dwyer can continue to vote, introduce bills and speak on the floor, most of any legislator’s work is done in committee, writes the Sun’s Michael Dresser.
Busch said he didn’t think it was in “anyone’s best interest to have (Dwyer) participate in committee meetings or debate.” Alex Jackson reports the story for the Annapolis Capital.
A year ago, Busch reassigned Dwyer from his long-time seat on the Judiciary Committee following charges that were filed in relation to a August 2012 boating collision that injured seven people, including a 5-year-old girl, report Jenna Johnson and John Wagner for the Post.
Jenna Johnson of the Post writes that Dwyer’s office issued a statement that read in part: “I completely accept the Speaker’s disciplinary action to remove me from my standing committee. I look forward to continuing to serve as I have done in the past.”
ON DWYER, POT & LOBBYIST PAY: Barry Rascovar, in his Politicalmaryland.com blog, sounds off on Del. Dwyer’s situation; the proposed legalization of marijuana – and why it’s a bad idea; adding more judges to deal with bail reviews; and lobbyists’ pay – and are they really worth all that money?
RETROACTIVE HEALTH CARE: Maryland lawmakers are expected to quickly approve emergency legislation sponsored by the administration of Gov. Martin O’Malley that would provide retroactive health insurance to residents who tried to sign up for coverage through the state’s new exchange, encountered problems and were left uninsured, John Wagner and Jenna Johnson are reporting in the Post.
STUDENT ASSESSMENT TEST: Emergency legislation to stop Maryland from administering a federally mandated student assessment test was introduced Thursday in the House of Delegates with strong bipartisan sponsorship, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter.com. The Maryland Student Assessment test is slated to be phased out after this year, when it will be administered once more this spring. But the test is considered outdated because it doesn’t test for what students are learning in classrooms this year under the state’s new Common Core education curriculum.
ESTATE TAX CUTS: Democratic leaders have agreed to reduce Maryland’s high estate tax by recoupling it to federal standards for taxing a dead person’s assets, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.The “death tax” is considered one of the reasons that wealthy retirees choose to leave Maryland for states with lower taxes.
The state’s foremost Democratic legislators said Maryland should return to the federal estate tax levels for the first time since 2001. The state’s estate tax is imposed on the transfer of property from the estate of the deceased, writes the Annapolis Capital’s Jack Lambert. Estates valued at more than $1 million are taxed in Maryland.
***Happy Birthday to Congressman Chris Van Hollen today, tomorrow (Saturday) to Dels. Norman Conway and Ana Sol Guitierrez, and on Sunday to Del. Jon Cardin. If you want to wish all your favorite legislators a happy birthday, get the new State House Birthday Calendar created by MarylandReporter.com. It lists all 188 legislators, including those who don’t put their birth dates in their official bios.***
PURPLE LINE COMPETITION: The Post’s Katherine Shaver reports that four teams of private companies have been chosen to compete for a public-private partnership to design, build, operate, maintain and help finance construction of a $2.2 billion light-rail Purple Line in the Maryland suburbs.
CURBS ON POLICE MONITORING: State Sen. Christopher Shank said he is planning to introduce four bills that would place some restrictions on how local and state police use technology to monitor residents’ activities, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
LABOR REVITALIZED: Labor unions in the Washington, D.C. , area got an early Christmas present Dec. 20, when Maryland state officials announced their approval of a plan to build a massive MGM Resorts International casino complex just a few miles from the nation’s Capitol building. The news comes as a welcome sign of organized labor’s vitality in Maryland, which has seen falling union membership during the last decade, writes Bruce Vail for In These Times.
SAYLOR REPORT: A governor-appointed commission looking into first responder training on interactions with intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals released its initial findings Thursday. They describe a need for broader discussions about how these individuals are included in society, writes Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. Here’s a PDF copy of the initial report. The commission was appointed following the death of Ethan Saylor, who had Down Syndrome and died Jan. 12, 2013, as Frederick County sheriff’s deputies were forcibly removing him from a movie theater.
DONATING TO THE DGA: Opinionmaker Brian Griffiths, writing in the Sun, looks at a recent Change Maryland report on donations to the Democratic Governors Association when Gov. O’Malley headed it, and says that according to Change Maryland’s research, contractors and companies that had business with the Maryland state government donated $5.7 million to the DGA and received $4.4 billion in state contracts during O’Malley’s term as chairman. The unfortunate thing for Maryland taxpayers, Griffiths writes, is that we really don’t know whether the companies received these contracts based on the content of their proposals or based on the financial support of O’Malley’s political wing.
GANSLER FUND-RAISING SUIT: The State Board of Elections and both members of the Brown-Ulman ticket for governor filed motions urging the Anne Arundel Circuit Court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by supporters of Attorney General Doug Gansler’s rival candidacy seeking to bar Howard County Executive Ken Ulman from raising funds during the 90-day legislative session, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.
Lawyers for Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Anthony Brown said in a court filing this week that supporters of his Democratic rival Doug Gansler included him in a fundraising lawsuit as a “publicity stunt” and are asking a judge to throw out the case, John Wagner is reporting in the Post.
HADDAWAY SPEAKS: In a 10-minute video interview with the Chestertown Spy, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Jeanne Haddaway talks frankly about her historic early entrance into the world of politics, her working relationship with running-mate David Craig, who is the Harford County executive, and their strategy for convincing a very blue state to take a fresh look at the new Republican Party for 2014.
NEUMAN APOLOGIZES: Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman apologized to county employees Thursday morning after 10 of them received emails to their government accounts asking for donations to her campaign. In an email sent to all county employees, Neuman said some employees “may have inadvertently” received the campaign emails, writes Pamela Wood in the Sun.
The email sent out Wednesday contained donation and volunteer opportunities in Neuman’s campaign to keep her seat as county executive, reports Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital.
ATTORNEY SUES FREDERICK BOARD: A former county attorney has filed a lawsuit against the Frederick Board of County Commissioners alleging that she was fired as political retribution. The lawsuit names the Board of County Commissioners, specifically board President Blaine Young and commissioners Billy Shreve, Paul Smith and Kirby Delauter, writes Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News Post.
CHAMBER CHIEF: The retirement of Maryland Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kathleen Snyder in June leaves a big hole to fill in the state business community, leaders of Montgomery County chambers tell Kevin James Shay of the Gazette.
CAMPAIGN MANAGERS: The Gazette’s Ryan Marshall describes the work of a campaign manager for the three county executive candidates in Montgomery County. Ike Leggett’s campaign manager Scott Goldberg said a manager’s biggest job is to “make the trains run on time.”
ELECTION YEAR POLITICS: Every aspect of the 2014 Maryland General Assembly session hinges on the all-important fact that it’s an election year, writes Gazette columnist Blair Lee. The chief aim (the sole aim?) of every state lawmaker is to either get re-elected or to get elected to the next-highest office. Only the lame ducks aren’t laser-focused on career enhancement.