BUDGET AT THE HOUSE: The Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a budget plan that restores full education funding and pay raises for state employees, provisions that were cut from the $40 billion spending plan presented by Gov. Larry Hogan in January, the Post’s Ovetta Wiggins is reporting.
- For the last eight years, Republican lawmakers repeatedly tried to cut the governor’s budget and were beaten back by Democrats. Tuesday, Republicans in the House of Delegates tried to prevent cuts and changes they didn’t like in the budget proposed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that the roles may have been reversed, but the outcome was the same.
- The House of Delegates gave initial approval to Gov. Larry Hogan’s $40 billion budget Wednesday, setting the stage for final passage this week before the measure heads to the Senate. The new Republican governor campaigned on a promise to curbing state spending, and both Democrats and Republicans agree the budget delivers on that pledge.
- A state budget plan that carves out enough money to protect Frederick County from education funding cuts cleared its first hurdle in the Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday. The spending plan would have cut state funding to Frederick County Public Schools by roughly $3.3 million compared with the prior year, according to local officials, Bethany Rodgers writes in the Frederick News Post.
- The votes in both the morning and evening sessions featured attempts by Republicans to pass some contentious amendments as well as a focus on shifting $75 million in promised additional pension contributions to help pay for a 2% raise for state employees, which Hogan had cut, Bryan Sears writes in the Daily Record.
- Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail quotes Del. Maggie McIntosh, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said that, “We restored our priorities: education, taking care of our state workers and critical, critical social and health needs that our Maryland citizens deserve. We did this without raising taxes.”
CHICKEN POOP COMPROMISE: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and General Assembly Democrats reached a deal Wednesday to settle a fight over how to curb bay-fouling pollutants flowing off farms, Erin Cox and Michael Dresser write in the Sun. The compromise on chicken manure resolves a partisan conflict that stalled progress on limiting what all parties agree is a major Chesapeake Bay pollutant.
- Jenna Johnson of the Post writes that the regulations are now working their way through a final approval process, according to Hogan’s office, and will soon be in place. Over the next seven years, an increasing number of farmers will have to carefully calculate how much manure they spread on their fields — and, in most cases, dramatically reduce its use.
DRUNKEN-DRIVING MEASURE: Anti-drunken-driving advocates in Annapolis say they are worried that a proposal to toughen restrictions for people convicted of driving under the influence will die in the House Judiciary Committee, even though 14 of 22 committee members have signed on as co-sponsors, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post. The bill was on the list of legislation to be voted on Tuesday night but was removed without explanation. It needs to pass out of committee before moving forward.
LESBIAN FERTILITY HELP: If Fiona Jardine had a husband, the expensive fertility treatments she’s now undergoing would be covered by her health plan. But Jardine, 29, is married to a woman, so she and her wife have to pay out of pocket. Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that a bill that would grant married lesbian couples the same fertility treatment benefits as husbands and wives is advancing in the Maryland General Assembly.
STANDARDIZED TESTING BILL: Legislators hoped to “reclaim the education system” by grappling with several concerns about standardized tests in the state and the way they’ve overtaken the school calendar. The bill creates a 19-person commission, including two delegates and two senators, dedicated to studying the effectiveness of Maryland assessments and standardized tests in public schools, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com.
EDUCATION BILLS: The Annapolis Capital is reporting that there are 1,278 bills in the House of Delegates as of Wednesday. In the Senate, there are 928. Most bills related to education go through the Anne Arundel County Board of Education for consideration. “We look at [the bills] seriously from the very beginning,” said board member Deborah Ritchie.
WHY CHARTER SCHOOL EXPANSION? The Hogan administration has introduced legislation to revise the 2003 law that currently governs the establishment and operation of charter schools in Maryland, writes Laslo Boyd for Center Maryland. That earlier law was championed by the last Republican governor of the state, Bob Ehrlich, and reflects a widespread view in the party that there should be more options for parents and students than just traditional public schools. But the bill, as currently drafted, reads as if someone had cut and pasted from a handout for charter schools distributed at a meeting of the Republican Governors Association.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING BILL: The Senate unanimously passed legislation Wednesday that would allow a person charged with prostitution to offer a defense that they committed the act under duress by a human trafficker. The bill now goes to the House, where a companion measure is being considered by the Judiciary Committee, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.
ANIMAL ABUSE BILL: The Maryland Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday sponsored by Montgomery County Sen. Jamie Raskin that will require animal abusers to pay for the cost of treating animals that come under government care, Andrew Metcalf writes for Bethesda Magazine.
POLICE-INVOLVED KILLINGS: The editorial board for the Sun is backing a comprehensive study into police killings throughout the state of Maryland. It opines that the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland’s new study of police-involved killings in the state during the last five years presents several disturbing findings, for example that the rate at which blacks die in such encounters is five times the rate for whites, or that more than 40% of those who died were unarmed. But perhaps the most disturbing thing is that we don’t really know whether the 109 killings identified from 2010 through 2014 represents a truly comprehensive accounting.
EMILY’S LIST BACKS EDWARDS: Emily’s List said Thursday that it will endorse Rep. Donna Edwards in the race to replace U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who in the 1980s was the first candidate to win the political action committee’s support, Jenna Johnson reports in the Post. Edwards, who lives in Prince George’s County, is one of the House’s more liberal members. She was elected in 2008 after unseating a longtime Democratic incumbent in the primary.
VAN HOLLEN & SOC SEC: Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who has been accused by progressive groups of being in favor of cuts to Social Security, announced his backing Wednesday for a bill that would expand the program. Van Hollen, who is running to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, supported past budget negotiations based on the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles plan, which would have offered stingier Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments and raised the retirement age, writes Rachel Weiner of the Post.
DEL. WALKER CONSIDERS RUN FOR EDWARDS’ SEAT: Del. Jay Walker, chair of the Prince George’s County delegation in the House of Delegates, said Wednesday that he is exploring whether to join a growing list of candidates to succeed U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards in representing Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, writes Arelis Hernandez for the Post.