UNCERTAINTY ON AGENDA: Two-party rule is about to return to Annapolis after eight years of Democratic dominance, bringing more questions than answers as lawmakers arrive Wednesday for their annual 90-day session, writes John Wagner in the Post. Legislators know they will be weighing budget reductions and tax cuts after Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, a Republican, is sworn into power. However, uncertainty is high on the agenda.
BUSINESS FRIENDLY: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has been careful not to discuss his plans for governing the state until after he is sworn in, but a pattern is emerging in the more than one dozen Cabinet-level and other senior staff appointments he has made in the last three weeks. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that many of his appointees either have a background in the private sector or have served on one of the General Assembly’s fiscal committees.
COOPERATING WITH HOGAN: Senate President Mike Miller thinks the General Assembly can cooperate with Gov.-elect Larry Hogan once this year’s session gets under way next week — although there will probably be a few bumps along the way, reports Rick Seltzer for the Baltimore Business Journal. Call that outlook optimistic, pessimistic or realistic. No matter what you call it, it’s probably influenced by the fact that Miller has a long relationship with the Hogan family dating back to 1962.
- Eight years removed from office, Bob Ehrlich takes an almost-romantic view of the political battles that marked his time as Maryland’s governor. He tells Rick Seltzer of the BBJ that: “Sometimes you get into a fight you think you can win. You’re elected in Maryland as a Republican for a reason. It’s not just to spend and go along. If people wanted that, they’d just elect Democrats.”
- WYPR-FM’s Fraser Smith talks to University of Baltimore Political Science professor John Willis about past Maryland governors’ styles and what we can expect to see from the governor-elect. (Willis is now senior counsel to Attorney General Brian Frosh.)
ISSUES TO WATCH
RAIN TAX, DHCD MOVE: Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes that the rain tax and the move of the Department of Housing and Community Development will be among major items to watch when the state legislature opens this week.
BUDGET FIGHT: One thing’s certain about the General Assembly session that opens Wednesday: It will feature a budget fight, writes Michael Dresser and Erin Cox for the Sun. Otherwise, the 435th session of Maryland’s legislature is unpredictable. Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has been singularly focused on state spending, and he broke with custom by not telling General Assembly leaders what other issues he will pursue.
PURPLE LINE: With Gov.-elect Larry Hogan due to be sworn into office on Jan. 21, Blair Lee IV, a member of the Hogan transition team, offered a blunt assessment of the politics of Annapolis over the next four years. And it doesn’t spell good news for Montgomery County — and the proposed light-rail Purple Line in particular, writes Louis Peck for Bethesda Magazine.
- Ben Ross, a long-time Purple Line advocate, in an op-ed for Center Maryland, writes that Purple Line opponents have a numbers problem. There is the obvious value of a quick connection between the growing job centers of Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, and New Carrollton. Planners predict 74,000 riders a day by 2040 — many more than light rail lines with similar price tags elsewhere.
ED FUNDING: The Maryland State Education Association has launched a radio campaign and online petition drive urging state elected officials not to slash education funding when the General Assembly returns this week for its annual 90-day session, Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post.
SMART GROWTH FOR THE ECONOMY: Advocates say smart-growth policies pioneered in Maryland in the 1990s and strengthened under Gov. Martin O’Malley are key to boosting economic development, with benefits that go beyond containing sprawl and protecting the environment, Natalie Sherman writes in the Sun. In this op-ed for the Post, former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich offers some practical advice to the incoming Republican governor.
COMMON SENSE BAY SOLUTION: In an op-ed for the Post, Will Baker of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation writes that the the Maryland poultry industry is fighting a common-sense solution that would clean up the creeks and rivers of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. University of Maryland scientists proposed the solution after 10 years of study. It’s simple: If a farmer uses chicken manure as fertilizer, he or she must apply the right amount to his or her fields. In November, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) proposed regulations to do just that.
E-ZPASS SPEEDING: Thousands of E-ZPass users have been clocked speeding through Maryland toll facilities in recent years, prompting warnings — but not repercussions — from the Maryland Transportation Authority. The agency began recording the speed of E-ZPass drivers in 2002, though there are no signs at toll facilities indicating that speeds are being monitored. Drivers are informed in the terms and conditions of their E-ZPass contracts.
REPOPULATING HOUSE JUDICIARY PANEL: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Vallario might understandably feel more like a college guidance counselor than the head of an influential panel during the first weeks of the 2015 General Assembly session, which begins Wednesday, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record. Fully half of his 22-member committee will consist of freshmen delegates. Many will be in search of a mentor, Vallario predicted, adding he would love to fill such a role.
WA CO ANNAPOLIS PLANS: The 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly begins Wednesday. Because of statewide redistricting, the Washington County delegation will send six members rather than eight beginning with this session. All six members of the delegation — four delegates and two senators — are Republican. Kaustuv Basu of the Herald-Mail asked the lawmakers what their plans were for the upcoming session and about any one measure they planned to introduce.
FRAZIER PICKED FOR SEN. GETTY’S SEAT: The Carroll County Republican Central Committee selected former county commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier as its recommendation to fill the District 5 state Senate seat Saturday. The seat is held by Sen. Joe Getty who has been tapped by Gov.-elect Larry Hogan to serve as his policy and legislative director, and will have to vacate the Senate seat to take the cabinet position, according to the Carroll County Times.
- John Wagner of the Post writes that Frazier was picked over Justin Ready, a sitting delegate and strong ally of Hogan.
REJECT CILIBERTI: The Frederick News Post editorial board urges Gov.-elect Larry Hogan to reject the Frederick County Republican Central Committee’s choice of Barrie Ciliberti to fill the post at the Maryland House of Delegates when Kelly Schulz leaves to head the state’s labor, licensing and regulation department. The decision, the board says, appears to have been calculated from the beginning, and passes over Wendi Peters, who fell shy of primary election. Peters was 601 votes ahead of Ciliberti in the election. Just to be clear here, Ciliberti came in fifth out of the five who ran in the primary.
DEL. DONOGHUE REFLECTS: In less than a week, John Donoghue will cease to be a state delegate representing Hagerstown. Donoghue, 57, has been a delegate for 24 years. In November, Republican Brett Wilson, who works as an assistant state’s attorney in Washington County, defeated Donoghue by 600 votes.. On a recent Tuesday, Donoghue reflected on his years at the State House and shared his thoughts on the election with Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
PONDERING O’MALLEY’S LEGACY: In looking back at Gov. Martin O’Malley’s eight years in office, columnist Barry Rascovar, writing for MarylandReporter.com says one of the ironies of O’Malley’s time as governor is that a progressive, liberal Democrat spent most of his time cutting budgets and raising taxes just to keep the ship of state afloat. Another is that O’Malley started his tenure in 2007 by acting too slowly to stem a predicted tide of red ink. Now he is ending his second term by again responding too late to a huge, looming budget deficit. However, what will stand out is the ease with which Maryland navigated the Great Recession — the nation’s worst economic decline since the 1930s.
- Post columnist Robert McCartney writes that Martin O’Malley has accomplished so much in eight years as Maryland’s governor that it seemed a shame to start an interview about his legacy by focusing on where he came up short: his lieutenant governor’s campaign for the governorship. O’Malley was ready with the answer: It was all the fault of Brown’s lousy, negative campaign.
SEND IN THE CRABS: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan will be sending Charlie Baker, the recently sworn-in governor of Massachusetts, a bushel of Maryland crabs after losing a bet when the New England Patriots beat the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday, and U.S. Rep. John Delaney voted against the Keystone XL Pipeline, reports Kaustuv Basu for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.
FREDERICK, EMBARRASSED: This was not how Frederick County officials hoped to introduce a revamped government for their fast-changing county, writes Bill Turque for the Post. “This” is Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter, who … well, you know the story. And “this” is also Blaine Young, the former president of the county commission who admitted to an affair with a budget staffer and accused new County Executive Jan Gardner of demoting her.
- Around Frederick County, Kirby Delauter might be known for being an elected member of the County Council, a family man, businessman, neighbor or friend. Pete McCarthy of the Frederick News Post writes that just how far beyond that his notoriety went before last week is hard to say, but what happened Tuesday was probably something even Delauter never expected.
ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD IN WICOMICO? Wicomico County’s Board of Education may see the front side of an election ballot in 2016, write Phil Davis for the Salisbury Daily Times. Members of the Eastern Shore delegation and Wicomico County Council have come out in support of the measure. Now, Eastern Shore Republicans have met with the Republican Central Committee for discussion on how to best make the change.
GRASSO’S ‘FREELOADERS:’ Dan Rodricks in a column for the Sun calls out Anne Arundel County Councilman John Grasso for his empathy with the working poor, whom he calls freeloaders. A number of them likely live within Grasso’s suburban district and the numbers are growing.
16-YEAR-OLD VOTERS: The editorial board of the Gazette writes that Hyattsville officials’ preliminary decision this week to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in city elections makes sense. Sure, it initially elicits fears that out-of-control, impulsive youths will turn the government upside down by making nonsensical decisions at the ballot box — until the facts of the matter are reviewed.
1960s ANNAPOLIS MAYOR DIES: Roger “Pip” Moyer, the former mayor of Annapolis known for calming race relations at the height of the tension in the 1960s, and bringing the city back from near-economic collapse, died at his home Saturday. He was 80 years old. Kelcie Pegler of the Annapolis Capital writes that the Eastport native lived his entire life in the Annapolis area, with the exception of a stint in the Army. He was mayor from 1965 to 1973. He had battled Parkinson’s disease for more than 20 years prior to his death.