GAS TAX HOLIDAY IN EFFECT: Maryland drivers got immediate relief at the pump Friday afternoon when Republican Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law a 30-day gas tax moratorium, after the legislation was fast-tracked this week by unanimous votes in the General Assembly. Stephen Neukam and E. A. Breeden of Capital News Service/Maryland Reporter.
- The bills sailed through the General Assembly in a week, seemingly record time, to land on Hogan’s desk. In a signing ceremony with House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson, Hogan praised the bipartisan effort, saying it would provide “some relief from the pain at the pump” as gas prices continue to rise. Joel McCord/WYPR-FM.
- Lawmakers are hoping the tax holiday translates to a sharp drop in gasoline prices right away. The average statewide cost of a gallon of regular gas stood at $4.17 on Friday, down a bit from an all-time peak of $4.31 six days earlier. Scott Dance/The Baltimore Sun.
- “This, of course, is not going to be a cure-all,” Hogan said, as Maryland became one of the first states in the country to implement relief from skyrocketing prices, which could rise still higher after the United States banned Russian oil imports amid its war with Ukraine. Erin Cox/The Washington Post.
- Comptroller Peter Franchot called for an extension of the program and joined Republican lawmakers in a call to decouple — temporarily — automatic increases tied to annual rate of inflation. Franchot, speaking just after Hogan signed into law the pause he called for just a week ago, said it would be implemented immediately by the state’s 2,300 gas station operators. Bryan Sears/The Daily Record.
WITH GAS TAX PAUSE, WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT? The state doesn’t have the power to dictate gas prices, which remain subject to global supply and demand pressures and the discretion of gas station owners. But Comptroller Peter Franchot, whose office regulates gas stations, suggested the retailers are likely to pass on the savings, and that his office could press them to if not. Scott Dance and Bryn Stole/The Baltimore Sun.
SENATE OKs $58.5B BUDGET WITH PAID FAMILY LEAVE PROGRAM: The Maryland Senate approved a $58.5 billion budget plan on Friday morning that would increase temporary cash assistance payments, fund the launch of a state paid family leave program, steer $700 million in cash surplus to government construction projects, and provide a planned $350 million in tax breaks — though lawmakers are still inking a deal on what form the tax relief would take. Danielle Gaines/Maryland Matters.
- The prospect of paid family leave for employees in Maryland has been debated among lawmakers in Annapolis for at least a decade — a span in which working groups were formed, studies were commissioned, bills were introduced and bills failed. This year, two years into a pandemic that has exposed the fragility of the nation’s workforce, advocates believed they saw an opening. Ovetta Wiggins/The Washington Post.
STATE SENATE, HOUSE PASS CONFLICTING GHOST GUN BANS: The Maryland Senate and House of Delegates have passed conflicting legislation to ban the possession of “ghost guns,” the increasingly prevalent untraceable firearms that can be assembled at home with parts bought online, regardless of the assembler’s age or criminal history. Steve Lash/The Daily Record.
LUEDTKE PUSHES ‘ASTROTURF’ DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENT: An influential legislator is taking aim at what he considers “astroturf” lobbying by large government contractors. Under a measure sponsored by House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery) and 14 others, companies with million-dollar state government contracts would be required to disclose contributions they make to advocacy organizations. Bruce DePuyt/Maryland Matters.
CHALLENGES TO MYRIAD REDISTRICTING MAPS CREATES UNCERTAINTY: Attorneys for challengers to Maryland’s new congressional districts asked a judge to find the new map unconstitutional on the final day of a trial Friday. The trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court included two lawsuits against the state’s redrawn congressional districts. One of those challenges, Szeliga v. Lamone, is brought by Republican voters from all eight of Maryland’s congressional districts. Bennett Leckrone/Maryland Matters.
- A series of legal challenges to Democratic-created maps has postponed the state’s primary from June 28 to July 19 and created uncertainty about what congressional and state legislative districts, including Sen. Mary Washington’s, will ultimately look like. Jeff Barker/The Baltimore Sun.
- A federal judge today will hear arguments over whether the council district map drawn by Baltimore County in December violates the Voting Rights Act because it dilutes the power of Black voters. The legal delay over the map is creating headaches for candidates. John Lee/WYPR-FM.
STUDY: HARASSMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH OFFICIALS WIDESPREAD: Harassment against local health officials was widespread during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Sarah Kim/WYPR-FM.
HAGERSTOWN HITACHI PLANT TO BUILD METRO CARS: Metro’s next series of rail cars will be built at a $70 million Hitachi plant in Maryland that will employ nearly 500 people and supply rail cars for the Washington-area system and transit agencies across the country. Justin George/The Washington Post.
- Hitachi’s first order at the plant will be to build at least 256 new 8000-series cars with the option of up to 800 this decade. That contract of up to $2.2 billion was announced in March 2021. Luke Lukert/WTOP-FM.
BARON TAPS FORMER JOURNALIST AS GUBERNATORIAL RUNNING MATE: Jon Baron, the former nonprofit executive and political novice making a longshot bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, announced Friday that Natalie Williams, a former TV journalist and communications professional from Prince George’s County, will be his running mate. Josh Kurtz/Maryland Matters.
OPINION: A DEBATE OR AN AMBUSH? The Frederick County Conservative Club has decided that it wants to cash in on what it is describing as “What Could Be The Only Gubernatorial Debate of The 2022 Primaries.” This will likely hardly end up being a debate at all. The club is advertising this event without confirming any of the individual speakers. You know that Dan Cox will be there; given the Conservative Club’s obsequiousness to Cox you would probably assume Cox is on the planning committee and is writing the questions. But to my knowledge, no other candidates have confirmed their attendance. Nor should they go. Brian Griffiths/The Duckpin.
THE DEATH OF SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE DEMOCRATS: Samuel W. Bogley III, who spent an awkward four years as Maryland’s second lieutenant governor after a career in Prince George’s County government, died on March 10 of undisclosed causes. He was 80. Bogley’s passing, along with the death this week of former state Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., serves as a reminder that socially conservative Democrats are quickly disappearing from the Maryland political scene. Both were strong foes of abortion rights, and Burns was a particularly vocal critic of the gay rights movement. Josh Kurtz/Maryland Matters.
FORMER DEL. BURNS REMEMBERED: An obituary following the death of former Del. Emmett Burns recalls that Burns spearheaded a campaign to rename the Baltimore airport after civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall. “Emmett was always on the right side of most issues and was always very much his own person,” said Larry S. Gibson, longtime University of Maryland professor of law and author of a biography of Thurgood Marshall, who was also a close friend and confidant. “He was serious, but not as serious as his demeanor appears to be in pictures, he really was a very pleasant man.” Frederick Rasmussen and Jessica Anderson/The Baltimore Sun.