REAL ID REAL FRUSTRATION: The new driver’s license requirements demanded by federal law are not only producing long lines at Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration offices, but anger and frustration for many who are having their documents rejected to get a compliant REAL ID. Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter writes that the process seems to be worse for older citizens who are having their original birth certificates rejected, and for women of any age who have had their last names changed by marriage or divorce.
OYSTER LEGISLATION: Oyster season started in October; oyster legislation season started in January. Lawmakers are weighing oyster issues like management, sanctuaries, substrate and aquaculture this session, with a bill that could allow homeowners to reject leases in front of their homes, Rachael Pacella of the Capital Gazette reports.
MARIJUANA AS OPIOID TREATMENT: A growing number of physicians and patient advocates say marijuana should be added to the list of traditional treatment options, pointing to studies that show it helps reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Rachel Chason of the Post reports that a bill being considered by lawmakers in Maryland would make it the fourth state to explicitly legalize the use of marijuana to treat opioid-abuse disorder, following Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
SAFE DRUG USE SITES: Maryland lawmakers will consider once again a proposal to create safe drug consumption sites for opioid users, but the legislation could be too politically difficult to pass, Tim Curtis reports in the Daily Record.
GOUCHER POLL & THE DEM AGENDA: More than half of Marylanders support legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, according to a new poll. Pamela Wood of the Sun writes that a poll of 808 Maryland residents by Goucher College found 57% support marijuana legalization. Thirty-seven percent of those polled were opposed.
- About two-thirds of respondents said they support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour and increasing the tobacco purchasing age to 21; more than 6 in 10 are in favor of banning Styrofoam products and allowing physicians to prescribe lethal drugs to terminally ill patients who want to end their lives, writes Arelis Hernandez in the Post.
- Poll respondents were also asked about state spending on public education, a perennial argument in the State House. Sixty-four percent said the state spent too little, 24% said about the right amount, and 7% said too much, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.
- Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College, said, “Our poll results suggest that much of their agenda is popular with the general public. Some of these issues, however, are contentious and will face formidable opposition from organized interests on their way to an uncertain fate at Gov. Hogan’s desk.” The story appears in MarylandReporter.
DOCTOR-ASSISTED SUICIDE: Brian Witte of the AP reports that retired radio talk show host Diane Rehm testified in favor of a Maryland measure to allow the terminally ill to end their lives with a doctor’s help, describing the misery her husband suffered during his final days. Opponents, however, say the measure is dangerous and could enable vulnerable people to kill themselves, even if they aren’t terminally ill.
- According to a just-released survey by Goucher College, 62% support a proposal that would allow patients to take a fatal dose of drugs, provided the person is deemed mentally competent, has less than six months to live, and takes the pills themselves. Goucher found that 29% of those surveyed said they “strongly support” what Annapolis sponsors call “end-of-life options” legislation, reports Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.
RAISE TOBACCO AGE: An effort to raise the minimum age for buying tobacco to 21 is gaining momentum in Maryland, writes Pamela Wood in the Sun. Legislation to raise the age limit has floundered for years, but picked up support this year from the Democratic leaders of the House of Delegates and state Senate, as well as from the Legislative Black Caucus.
RAISING MINIMUM WAGE: Measures now under consideration in both the Senate and the House would raise the minimum wage, now $10.10 per hour, incrementally until it reaches $15 in 2024. After that, the minimum wage would be tied to the consumer price index, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports.
OPINION: $15 AN HOUR BURDEN: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, hardware store owner Jared Littman opines that the idea of providing additional support for low wage family earners has merit. But it should be supported by taxpayers rather than the segment of employers that have entry-level positions. Social programs like this don’t need to be dependent on employers. Rather than add another burden on employers, the state could fund assistance programs directly to employees or those employers who raise their employees’ wages.
OPINION: DRUG PRICING PANEL: In a column for his Political Maryland blog, Barry Rascovar opines that a bill with broad backing has been introduced in Annapolis to set up a Prescription Drug Affordability Board. In reality it’s an independent price-control panel that could order drastic cuts in what is charged for very expensive cancer drugs or generic drugs sold at unconscionably high rates. It sounds like an easy way to solve the problem. Yet on closer examination, this approach collapses. Drug-pricing is extraordinarily complicated.
HANDGUN REVIEW PANEL: Danielle Gaines of Maryland Matters writes about the Handgun Permit Review Board, which has attracted scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers for its tendency to issue handgun permits contrary to state police recommendations.
THIS WEEK IN ANNAPOLIS: Joel McCord of WYPR-FM lists what’s upcoming in Annapolis this week, including the fact that it’s alcohol week in the General Assembly, with legislative committees taking up local liquor license bills for jurisdictions throughout the state as well as the bill that has led to early fireworks in this session. It would strip the state comptroller of regulatory control over alcoholic beverages.
C-SECTION RATE STUDY: Maryland’s c-section rate is higher than the national one, a statistic that prompted Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick) to submit a bill calling for a study, reports Heather Mongilio for the Frederick News-Post. Lewis Young is the lead author on HB0247, which would create a study of Maryland’s surgical birth rate, looking at why approximately 35% of Maryland’s births are cesarean, which had a hearing Wednesday.
AMENDING COUNTRY CLUB EXEMPTION: A bill being considered in the state legislature that would have eliminated a special property tax exemption for Montgomery County country clubs has been amended to require that four clubs pay $100,000 to the county’s general fund, and the rest continue qualify for the exemption, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat reports.
LIERMAN PULLS RANKED CHOICE BILL: Del. Brooke Lierman said Friday she is withdrawing her bill that would have allowed Baltimore to have several options for new ways to conduct elections, including moving to open primaries or a “ranked choice” voting system, saying that she was “a couple” votes short of winning enough support for her bill, which would have empowered the Baltimore City Council to consider different election approaches, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.
LEGGETT TAPPED FOR REGENTS: Gov. Larry Hogan has nominated former Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett to serve on the Board of Regents for University System of Maryland, which has been under scrutiny since the death of a varsity football player at its flagship institution last year, Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports.
- Leggett, who left office in December due to term limits, was one of 124 appointments the governor has made to various state agencies and commissions, Dan Schere of Bethesda Beat writes.
BATES NAMED TO ED BOARD: Gov. Larry Hogan has nominated former Howard County state Sen. Gail Bates to the State Board of Education, Erin Logan reports in the Howard County Times. If confirmed by the Senate, she will serve as a board member until 2024. [Former Del. Frank Turner was also named to the Howard Community College Board of Trustees.]
SOLAR PROJECT OPPOSED: Environmentalists are in a position they never imagined: Fighting a solar panel project that would help Georgetown University dramatically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. They say the project, which involves razing about 210 acres of trees in rural Charles County could endanger the area’s birds and lead to runoff that would put tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay at risk, Rachel Chason of the Post reports.
HIGHER TAXES: Baltimore lawyer Eric Hontz had heard about how some blue, high-tax states like Maryland weren’t expected to fare well under the sweeping changes to the federal tax code that President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans enacted in 2017. But the 36-year-old Reservoir Hill resident didn’t realize how hard he’d be hit until he started doing his taxes. The Sun’s Luke Broadwater reports on how Marylanders are being affected.
REACTION TO NATIONAL EMERGENCY: Robin Bravender, reporting in Maryland Matters, writes about the reaction of some Maryland lawmakers and politicians to President Trump’s Friday declaration of a national emergency as he seeks funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.