HOGAN PROPOSES ETHICS REFORMS: Seizing on bribery and conspiracy charges facing former Democratic lawmakers, Gov. Larry Hogan unleashed a handful of bills Thursday to rein in corruption and put an end to influence peddling in Annapolis, Daniel Menefee reports for MarylandReporter.com.
- Hogan’s Integrity in Government Initiative comes in the wake of recent scandals in Annapolis, including the guilty plea of a former state lawmaker who admitted to accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for official favors and the indictment of a Baltimore Democrat, who had been nominated for a General Assembly seat, on charges of violating campaign finance laws, Ovetta Wiggins and Fenit Nirappil of the Post report.
- Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that Hogan’s legislation would, among other things, more clearly prohibit members of the General Assembly from voting on bills that would help them financially and give the state ethics commission oversight of legislators accused of missteps.
- The four-bill package includes legislation to overhaul state ethics and lobbying laws and to place new restrictions on lobbying for lawmakers, former lawmakers and executive branch employees. Also included is a bill, previously introduced, that would create an independent redistricting commission as well as nearly $2 million that would allow the House and Senate to stream live video of floor proceedings, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.
MORE AUTHORITY FOR COMPTROLLER: The Office of the Comptroller will have more power to investigate and enforce laws against tax fraud and identify theft if legislation introduced as part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s agenda succeeds in the General Assembly, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.
REVERSING CUTS TO CITY: Infuriated Baltimore state lawmakers vowed Thursday to reverse Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget cuts that revoked money for programs passed last year to help the city’s poorest residents, Erin Cox and Pamela Wood write in the Sun. “This is a watershed moment,” said Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Democrat on the Budget and Taxation Committee. “We are prepared to take any means necessary.”
- The editorial board of the Sun opines that Gov. Larry Hogan presented his budget proposal for the next fiscal year as something of a miracle — record funding for education, no tax increases, a $500 million projected shortfall closed, and no cuts to speak of. But it turns out that his administration is subject to the laws of math just like the rest of us. There are cuts to speak of, all right, and they fall squarely on Baltimore.
JUSTICE REINVESTMENT ACT: A legislative oversight hearing Thursday on the Justice Reinvestment Act revealed implementation challenges under the landmark 2016 measure that changes the way Maryland’s criminal justice system treats non-violent offenders from a tool of punishment to a gateway to treatment, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.
ACA REPEAL COULD COST STATE BILLIONS: The repeal of Obamacare could cost the State of Maryland nearly $2 billion in Medicaid funding for more than 260,000 people, state legislative analysts told lawmakers Thursday. Hospitals could lose an additional $2.3 billion, the analysts told the House Health and Government Operations Committee. That’s federal money they receive for working to keep health care costs down, the Sun’s Meredith Cohn reports.
REDISTRICTING REFORM: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that he is trying again to reform the way legislative districts are drawn in Maryland, Tamela Baker is reporting for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Hogan introduced a bill last year that would have put responsibility for redistricting in the hands of a nonpartisan commission.
VETO UNLIKELY OF HOGAN MTA BILL: A bill establishing the Maryland Transit Administration Oversight and Planning Board may get enough votes in the House to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto from the 2016 session, but the chance it clears the 29 votes needed in the Senate is slim, according to several lawmakers in both parties, Daniel Menefee of MarylandReporter.com writes.
CARROLL COMMISSION VACANCY BILL: Carroll County’s delegation to the General Assembly decided Thursday to reject a change to the way the county fills commissioner vacancies for a second year in a row. The delegation voted unanimously against sponsoring the proposed legislation, which would have allowed county commissioners to fill vacant seats by choosing from a pool of three candidates provided by the central committee of the same party as the departing commissioner, Amanda Yeager writes in the Carroll County Times.
MORE ON FIRED FAKE NEWS VOGT AIDE: Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital interviews Cameron Harris, the recently fired aide to Del. David E. Vogt. Harris admits he still hasn’t quite grasped the magnitude of being a known proprietor of one of the country’s most notorious fake news websites. When he answers the door at his new Annapolis home, one he said he only moved into about a week ago, he’s wearing an old “Blaine Young for County Executive” T-shirt and shorts. His shirt both reveals his political affiliation — Republican — and his political origins, a political player in Frederick County, most recently a campaign manager for Vogt’s run for Congress in 2016.
- In the Frederick News Post, Danielle Gaines follows up on her Harris story, reporting that Harris had also told the New York Times that he was currently working as a political consultant, and an online search led to the defunct but cached website of “Chesapeake Strategy Partners.” The business wasn’t registered with the state, but a domain registration and email address connected Harris to the site, which listed nine Maryland delegates and a handful of out-of-state lawmakers as clients. Several of the lawmakers said they’d never worked with Harris. After some digging, it turns out the website was a prototype never intended to have gone public.
ARUNDEL’s FUTURE: Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes that Anne Arundel County and Annapolis elected officials fluffed their feathers at a legislative breakfast where politicians made pitches on success and potential improvements in the county, including the mayor defending his “bread and butter” strategy, delegates discussing the “road kill bill” and an acknowledgment of uncertainty as Donald Trump inauguration looms.
RACE FOR BA CO EXEC: Three Democrats who may vie to replace Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in 2018 have combined to raise more than $1.2 million in the past year, according to new campaign finance reports. County Councilwoman Vicki Almond raised $244,000 to bring her available cash to more than $483,000, the most of any candidate who has said they’re considering a run for county executive in 2018. Sen. Jim Brochin is just behind Almond, having raised $248,000 and with $471,000 in the bank. Former state Del. John Olszewski Jr. raised $175,000, giving him about $300,000 on hand, Pamela Wood of the Sun writes.
- WYPR-FM’s Joel McCord and John Lee examine the early start in the race for Baltimore County Executive and for funds to run the campaigns.
HoCo EXEC RACE FUNDS: Blogger Scott Ewart, a Howard County web and social media consultant, has a run-down of campaign funding for potential candidates for Howard County executive: Allan Kittleman, Calvin Ball, Guy Guzzone, etc.
LEGGETT WAVERS ON WAGE HIKE BILL: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has not yet decided whether to sign a $15 per hour minimum wage bill, a county government spokesman said, despite a demonstration Thursday morning by a coalition of labor, religious and community organizations who called for his signature, Patricia Sullivan reports for the Post.
PUGH CALLED TO COURT: The federal judge overseeing the Baltimore police consent decree has asked Mayor Catherine E. Pugh to appear at a hearing in U.S. District Court next week to discuss terms of the agreement, Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector are writing in the Sun.
VAN HOLLEN TO OPPOSE 3 TRUMP PICKS: A few weeks into his first term as a U.S. senator, Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced that he will oppose three of President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks: Jeff Sessions for attorney general, Chris Pruitt for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Betsy DeVos for secretary of education, Jenna Portnoy of the Post is reporting.