SCHOOL START FIGHT: Frustrated by Maryland lawmakers’ attempts to undo his executive order to start the public school year after Labor Day, Gov. Larry Hogan said he’ll submit a bill that would make school boards that want to start classes earlier seek the approval of voters, Pamela Wood and Luke Broadwater of the Sun report. Hogan, a Republican, called a news conference Thursday to blast what he called “out-of-touch politicians” in the Democratic-controlled legislature for their “misguided” effort to overturn his order.
- After a protracted debate on Thursday over the benefits and disadvantages of a longer summer vacation, the Democratic-majority Senate voted 32 to 14, along party lines, to preliminarily approve a bill that allows local school districts to set their own calendars, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.
- Just a few hours before the Senate took up its own bill reversing Hogan’s order, the governor offered a carrot in an attempt to save the post-Labor Day school start in Maryland, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record. “Our bill will offer genuine local control over this important issue as opposed to the legislation currently before the Senate masquerading under the guise of more local control,” said Hogan.
- If the state legislature doesn’t take up his legislation in place of Senate Bill 128, Hogan said local school boards that want to start school before the holiday will feel the wrath of residents, Caitlynn Peetz of Bethesda Beat reports.
- Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that this has become a political test of wills for Hogan and the Democrats who control the General Assembly, belying leaders’ regular contention that Maryland does not experience the partisan food fights that have paralyzed the federal government.
- In an opinon piece for Red Maryland, Brian Griffiths opines that in what can only be characterized as gutless and cowardly move, Sen. Paul Pinsky and the leadership of the Maryland General Assembly are ramming through legislation to overturn Gov. Larry Hogan’s wildly popular executive order starting school after Labor Day.
REAL ID, REAL HEADACHES AT MVA: Maryland drivers are facing longer lines and frustrating revisits to state offices over the next year when they renew their licenses due to tougher requirements for licenses that comply with the federal REAL ID law, legislators heard last week. Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter reports that 60% of Maryland’s almost 3 million licensed drivers must submit new documentation to prove age, identity and residence by October 2020, or they will be denied access to federal facilities and to boarding commercial aircraft.
TOLL ROADS & LOCAL CONTROL: Maryland lawmakers are tackling legislation that could stall a multibillion-dollar proposal by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to build a network of toll lanes in the Washington suburbs by requiring the state to secure the consent of affected counties first. Del. Brooke Lierman (D-Baltimore City) said the legislation would essentially give counties the power to veto state toll projects, Luz Laso reports in the Post.
- A bill that would require the consent of affected counties in Maryland to allow the state to build toll roads, highways or bridges would be a “recipe for dysfunction,” according to testimony from the state’s secretary of transportation Thursday. Ryan Marshall of the Frederick News-Post writes that Secretary Pete Rahn told the House of Delegates Environment and Transportation Committee that the proposed bill could create delays that lead to increased costs for major projects, such as a plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 270.
SENATE OKs CYBERBULLYING BILL: The Maryland Senate gave unanimous approval Thursday to a cyberbullying bill named to honor a Woodbine teenager who took her own life in 2012 after online abuse, Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters reports. The entire Senate stood to give an ovation to Christine McComas, who has advocated for years alongside her husband, Dave, for greater laws to protect children like her daughter, Grace. Sen. Bobby Zirkin is chief sponsor of Grace’s Law 2.0, which substantially expands a law that criminalized cyber harassment in 2013.
DECRIMINALIZING ADULTERY: A bill to decriminalize adultery has returned to the General Assembly after failing in 2018 due to concerns about its impact on parties’ ability to “plead the Fifth” in divorce cases, Heather Cobun writes in the Daily Record. Bill sponsor Del. Kathleen M. Dumais, D-Montgomery, said, “This simply is taking something off the books that is not used, is archaic, and I don’t really see the point.”
BILL WOULD COVER ‘EXPERIMENTAL TREATMENT:’ A 10-year-old Boonesboro boy testified before a House panel hoping to get lawmakers to push for mandated insurance coverage for treatments of a rare medical condition that has affected his life, Tamela Baker reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Some of the most expensive and effective treatments aren’t covered by insurance companies because their use for treating this illness is deemed “experimental.”
BA CO IMPACT FEES: State Sen. Chris West has proposed that the state allow Baltimore County to charge developers impact fees. West has introduced legislation in the Senate to give Baltimore County the option to impose impact fees. West said the money would go towards paying for things like roads and schools impacted by a specific development, John Lee of WYPR-FM reports.
PLASTIC BAG FEE IN HOWARD: State lawmakers representing Howard County voted Wednesday to advance a bill that could lead to a county fee on plastic bags, Erin Logan of the Howard County Times reports. The bill, sponsored by Del. Terri Hill and advanced from the delegation, doesn’t set a fee but would permit the County Council and county executive to do so — up to 5 cents a bag — if they desire. Such a fee would be on the purchase certain bags at the point of sale.
OPINION: GROWING SOLAR: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Pari Kasotia of Vote Solar, opines that thousands of Maryland residents work in the state’s growing solar and wind industries. With Gov. Larry Hogan’s leadership, the Old Line State can snowball that progress, unlocking innovation and local investments while building a 21st-century clean energy economy.
OPINION: DON’T RAISE THE WAGE: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Mike O’Halloran, state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, opines that the General Assembly is debating a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, eliminate the tipped wage, and get rid of exclusions for teenagers, seasonal amusement workers, and farm labor. The supporters theorize that this is the way to raise people up from poverty. Small business owners know the reality — it just won’t work out that way. Unfortunately, many employees at the bottom of the pay scale are more likely to lose hours or their jobs.
HOGAN, BLACK CAUCUS DISCUSS HBCU DEAL: Gov. Larry Hogan met with members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland on Thursday to discuss a settlement to a long-running dispute over the state’s treatment of its historically black colleges, as well as other priorities of the caucus this legislative session, according to AP in the Daily Record. Hogan said after the meeting that HBCUs have his strong support.
HOGAN PREZ WATCH: In a column for Maryland Matters, Josh Kurtz suggests that while Gov. Larry Hogan would have to remake himself too much to become president, or even a U.S. senator, he would be a good fit for another seat – as president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
FLU ‘WIDESPREAD’ IN MARYLAND: The flu is now considered high activity and widespread throughout the state, according to the most recent flu surveillance report from the Maryland Department of Health. The report goes through Jan. 26, report Heather Mongilio and Emma Kerr of the Frederick News-Post. As flu season hits its peak, schools are warning parents to take precautions and keep sick students at home.
HOWARD MULLS ALTERNATIVES TO ELLICOTT CITY DEMOLITION: Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said Thursday that the county is still studying alternatives to demolishing structures on lower Main Street in Ellicott City to mitigate flooding, and will host a series of public meetings to present ideas and design options after costs have been analyzed, Erin Logan reports in the Howard County Times.
VP PENCE TO VISIT PORT: Colin Campbell of the Sun reports that Vice President Mike Pence will visit the Port of Baltimore on Friday to see technology that customs agents use to scan shipping containers, trucks, rail cars and cargo for illegal narcotics and weapons,