PARTISAN DIVISION IN ASSEMBLY? Before the annual season of lawmaking even begins in Annapolis on Wednesday, rising partisan tensions are threatening the chances that very much will get done, write Michael Dresser and Erin Cox for the Sun. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, riding a wave a popularity, has warned the General Assembly’s Democrats that their maneuvering cannot force him to spend money he doesn’t want to. The Democrats, who profess not to be intimidated by Hogan’s poll numbers, promise to open the 90-day session by overriding most of the vetoes the governor issued last year. And they vow not only to promote their own initiatives, but to block the governor’s attempt to seize more control over the budget.
- Ovetta Wiggins and Josh Hicks of the Post report that the 90-day legislative session that begins Wednesday is an opportunity for Hogan to capitalize on a highly successful first year as a red governor in a blue state at a time of increasing polarization among governments at both the state and federal levels. For Democratic lawmakers, it is a chance to prove their relevance.
- While Hogan rebuffed any notion last week that the honeymoon period of his first year was over — adding “I still feel the love” — he issued a warning to legislators about state finances that suggested a battle is looming, Elisha Sauers of the Capital Gazette reports.
ENVIRONMENT ON FRONT-BURNER: As environmental advocates gear up for the upcoming Maryland General Assembly session, targeting climate change is going to be a top priority, Anamika Roy of the Daily Record reports. “This is going to be the year for climate and clean energy,” said Mike Tidwell, founder and executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
MILLER ON GOVERNORS, PRIORITIES: In this video interview in the Sun, Senate President Mike Miller says that vision and enthusiasm are two of the traits a governor needs. He offers some thoughts on successful politicians as well. With the start of the 2016 General Assembly session nearing, rising partisan tensions are threatening the chances that very much will get done.
- Miller also down with Center Maryland to discuss issues the state faces, including affordable college education. The segment closes with an overview of how the Miller/O’Malley gas tax increase was an important bipartisan move that provided the means for much-needed transportation infrastructure improvements.
MD SCHOOLS RANK 4th: Maryland public schools are the fourth best in the nation, according to a report released Thursday by a national education newspaper, according to the Cecil Whig. Education Week, which yearly ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C., gave Maryland a “B” grade and a score of 82.7 out of 100 in its 2016 “Quality Counts” report. Massachusetts, the only state to earn a “B+” grade, held onto the top spot with a score of 86.8, followed by New Jersey (85.1) and Vermont (83.8).
ON EDWARDS, CITY RENEWAL: On Dan Rodricks’ Sun podcast Roughly Speaking, Baltimore Sun media critic David Zurawik talks about Rep. Donna Edwards’ complaint of racial bias in how news organizations describe armed protesters in Oregon versus their characterizations of rioters in Baltimore last April. Then at 28:23, Rodricks is joined by Sun reporter Luke Broadwater who discusses Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s pledge of $700 million in urban renewal projects for Baltimore.
ILLEGALS FEAR; REFUGEES GET HELP: A 27-year-old Guatemalan has nightmares recalling the sound of immigration agents knocking on her door. A 40-year-old cancer survivor from El Salvador fears driving to the doctor. Unmarked vans parked near schools make parents skittish. A state of unease approaching panic has set in for Central Americans living in the country — and in Maryland — illegally after the Obama administration announced this month it is targeting recent border crossers under a stepped-up enforcement effort, Liz Bowie and John Fritze of the Sun report.
- The Episcopal Refugee and Immigrant Center Alliance aids refugees, asylum seekers and other immigrants in the region. The organization held an open house for volunteers and clients Saturday at the Cathedral of the Incarnation in Guilford, Jessica Anderson reports for the Sun.
DUMB MOVE BY NAACP, ACLU: Political commentator Barry Rascovar, writing in MarylandReporter.com, bestows the “Dumb and Dumber Award” upon the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union, which are essentially suing Gov. Larry Hogan administratively for daring to kill the $2.9 billion Red Line rapid rail route through Baltimore City citing that Hogan’s reason amounts to a racially discriminatory decision that harms African Americans in Baltimore City.
MAKE A BET, LOSE A BET: Count Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in on the friendly wagers being made (and lost) with Wisconsin elected officials over Sunday’s playoff game, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. Hogan posted late Friday on his Facebook page that he has made a bet with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that the Washington Redskins will triumph over the Green Bay Packers.
GOP FORUM HEATS UP: Candidate Amie Hoeber cruised through the first 90 minutes of Thursday night’s Republican forum for congressional hopefuls in Western Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, writes Bill Turque for the Post. But then the subject of abortion came up.
- The eight candidates had to cope with sharing just two microphones and fielding a mishmash of questions directed at only one or two of them at a time from a panel of four Republicans. There was no follow-up, and the candidates were not allowed to respond to each other, so there was limited chance to actually compare their views, at least until the end, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.
O’MALLEY ON THE MARGIN: Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley will likely qualify for the next debate — but just barely, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Criteria announced by NBC News on Friday for its Jan. 17 Democratic debate in Charleston requires qualifying candidates to have at least 5 percent support in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina or nationally.
CARSON ISSUES ED PLAN: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson released his education plan Friday, pledging to support school choice, limit federal intervention and reward good teachers, Jason Russell reports for the Washington Examiner. The plan includes five principles: school choice, empowering parents and local districts, encouraging innovation, rewarding good teachers and a simpler student loan process.
STATE PLANNING TO THE RESCUE: Snags, miscommunication and the proverbial red tape seem to be the culprit with several major Talbot County projects, according to the planning and zoning department. County planners and engineers hoped to overcome them by enlisting the help of Maryland Secretary of Planning David Craig when he came to town last November, Chris Polk of the Easton Star Democrat reports.
AA DRUG ABUSE ADS: Anne Arundel County cable television viewers will soon see 30-second commercials from the county’s heroin-opioid abuse prevention campaign, Christina Jedra of the Annapolis Capital reports. The ads demonstrate how prescription drug use can lead to abuse and proclaim that “denial is deadly.”
GRASSO CALLED BEFORE ETHICS BOARD: Arundel County Councilman John Grasso, who late last year asked to join the protracted legal battle between a liquor license applicant and the Anne Arundel County Board of License Commissioners, has been called before the county’s ethics commission to discuss his involvement in the case, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital writes.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: We didn’t manage to get a new State House birthday calendar out this year. So happy birthday today to Delegates Bob Long, R-Dundalk, and Ana Sol Guitierrez; Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s birthday was Sunday.