TUMULT ON OPENING DAY: The General Assembly opened its 2017 session on a tumultuous note Wednesday, as two veteran lawmakers submitted eleventh-hour resignations, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. Meanwhile, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the Democrats who lead the Senate and House of Delegates expressed hope for bipartisanship, though many expect the annual 90-day session will soon descend into partisan conflict.
- This session, the legislature’s 437th, is expected to be a lively one, with a $544 million budget shortfall to address, efforts under way to pass a paid sick leave policy and potential veto overrides among the many issues that will see debate. It is also likely to set off partisan fireworks as the 2018 election cycle draws nearer, Amanda Yeager reports in the Annapolis Capital.
- Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that under the calm surface lurked the potential for riptides that could quickly unravel the first-day camaraderie — disagreements over transportation funding and requiring Maryland businesses to provide paid sick leave, for example, between Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic legislative leaders. Revenue shortfalls this year also promise to complicate budget and spending proposals.
DEL. VAUGHN RESIGNS: Del. Michael L. Vaughn’s resignation on Wednesday, minutes before the start of the 2017 legislative session, stunned lawmakers at the State House in Annapolis even though it had been rumored all week. Vaughn, a Democrat, had represented Prince George’s County since 2003, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.
- The resignation comes as Prince George’s County reels from a bribery scandal that has already ensnared a former state lawmaker, two county liquor board officials and two local businessmen, reports Erin Cox and Pamela Wood for the Sun. Affidavits released with a federal indictment last week mentioned a confidential informant who was also a sitting delegate.
- House Speaker Michael Busch on Tuesday thanked the U.S. attorney and the FBI “for their due diligence in completing this investigation” into Prince George’s County corruption that may put as many as three former and current delegates in prison. Actually the investigation is not completed at all. But the person who should be really grateful to the feds for their probe and the awkward timing of their announcement is Gov. Larry Hogan, writes Len Lazarick in a commentary for MarylandReporter.com.
GLADDEN RESIGNS: State Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, the liberal Democrat from Northwest Baltimore who missed the second half of the 2016 legislative session as her multiple sclerosis worsened, has resigned after 18 years in the General Assembly. Senate President Mike Miller announced her retirement Wednesday as the legislature began its annual 90-day session, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.
- The announcement was not unexpected, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Gladden, who was in her fourth term in the Senate, had missed much of the 2016 session due to her ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis. Her resignation is effective immediately.
BIPARTISAN COOPERATION FLOATED: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) opened Maryland’s General Assembly session Wednesday with a call for bipartisan cooperation, and he appeared to have a possible ally in longtime Senate President Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). But House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel), the other half of the powerful pair of Democrats running the state legislature, showed a combativeness toward the governor, questioning his sincerity and announcing plans to aggressively push his party’s agenda this year, Josh Hicks and Ovetta Wiggins report for the Post.
- Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday promised he would not engage in partisan warfare over the next 90 days the Democrat-dominated General Assembly is convened in Annapolis, report Pamela Wood and Erin Cox in the Sun. “I have no intention of coming out with any claws,” Hogan said Wednesday morning during an Annapolis event. “I believe there are claws coming out. They’re not coming from me.”
- In this short video on the Daily Record, Marc Steiner interviews Hogan, Miller and Busch on bipartisanship and whether it will occur and survive the session.
- Despite the abrupt resignations of two lawmakers and possible veto override votes looming, party leaders sought to strike a forward-looking tone, Danielle Gaines writes in the Frederick News Post. “I’m very much looking forward to having the opportunity to talk with all of you and work with you as closely as I can,” Gov. Larry Hogan said in the Senate chamber. “I think that together we’ve accomplished a heck of a lot working with each other over the past two years.”
- After being re-elected again as House speaker, Busch outlined some of his top priorities for this legislative session. He said it’s the legislature’s job to make sure men and women feel they have an opportunity to feed and clothe their family, send their children to school and college, and have affordable housing, reports Josh Bollinger for the Easton Star Democrat.
BLACK CAUCUS ISSUES 5-POINT AGENDA: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that a reinvigorated Legislative Black Caucus announced Wednesday it will demand a five-point agenda during this General Assembly session, seeking resolution to unequal funding of historically black colleges and a new medical marijuana commission, among other issues. Caucus chairwoman Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat, said the 48-member bloc of state lawmakers have reorganized, elected new leadership, and plan to aggressively pursue a handful of issues.
- Brianna Rhodes and Natalie Schwartz report on the caucus agenda for Capital News Service.
Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM speaks with Gov. Hogan during the first segment of the 14th annual Annapolis Summit.
- During the discussion with Steiner, Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday offered a full-throated defense of his efforts to govern in a bipartisan fashion, saying that it is Democrats who have rebuffed his efforts to work with them, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.
House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller sit down with Steiner to discuss the new session and they take questions from the audience.
- And Steiner Show senior producer emeritus Stefanie Mavronis and production assistant Nadia Ramlagan took time to speak with Annapolis Summit attendees about their expectations for the legislative session.
BAIL REFORM DELAY: Efforts to reform Maryland’s bail system this General Assembly session took a strong hit last week when the state’s top court delayed until Feb. 7 its consideration of a proposed rule designed to prevent judicial officers from imposing bail on criminal defendants beyond their financial means, reform-minded legislators said Wednesday. Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that inaction could guarantee the status quo, the legislators said on the opening day of the General Assembly’s 2017 session.
ENERGY PROGRAM SAVED $1.8B FOR CONSUMERS: A state program that subsidizes investments in energy efficiency has saved utility customers $1.8 billion on their electricity bills by helping them reduce power usage and preventing the need for new power plants to be built, Scott Dance reports on a nonprofit’s research report that was released Wednesday.
ON ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES: In this short video at the Daily Record, Marc Steiner and members of the public ask questions of Gov. Hogan, Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller on environmental issues concerning Maryland including fracking and its impact on tourism.
RECKLESS & IRRESPONSIBLE: The editorial board of the Frederick News Post takes Del. Michael Hough to task for raffling off an assault rifle, writing that the AR-15 is the military-style rifle used in two of the grisliest mass murders in U.S. history. Adam Lanza used one to kill 20 schoolchildren and six adults at an elementary school in Connecticut in 2012 and Omar Mateen used an AR-15 variant to kill 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, last year.
BALTIMORE COUNTY ISSUES: Putting restraints on police electronic surveillance, a liquor license for a restaurant near a Frederick Road church, protecting honeybees, and money to fix the roof of a Catonsville horse barn are among the items on the to-do lists of Baltimore County delegates and senators at the start of the Maryland legislature, Jon Bleiweis reports for the Sun.
PUGH STANDS BY INDICTED AIDE: Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh said Wednesday that she is standing by her longtime aide, Gary Brown Jr., who was indicted last week on charges that he violated campaign finance laws, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun. Pugh said Brown will continue to work in her mayoral communications office, where he is paid $46,000 annually. She said Brown is “innocent unless proven otherwise” of charges that he illegally funneled money to her campaign through his relatives.
REP. HARRIS MEETS WITH TRUMP: U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Republican whose name has been floated as a possible director of the National Institutes of Health, met Wednesday with President-elect Donald Trump, John Fritze reports for the Sun. For weeks, Harris, a Johns Hopkins-trained anesthesiologist, has been mentioned as a possible candidate to lead the Bethesda-based medical research agency. Harris, of Baltimore County, is the only member of Congress who has conducted NIH-funded research.
CUMMINGS SEEKS BUS SAFETY: U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and two Tennessee lawmakers are asking for a congressional hearing on school bus safety after deadly crashes in Baltimore and Chattanooga last year, writes the Sun’s Scott Dance.
CLUB SNUB FOR OBAMA? The New York Post is reporting that there is some controversy over allowing President Barack Obama to join a Montgomery County golf club once he becomes a private citizen. Members of the mostly Jewish club are at each other’s throats over whether to accept the golf-loving president, with many saying he deserves to be snubbed for not blocking an anti-Israel vote at the United Nations, according to the article.