Ice on the Chesapeake Bay in this 2010 photo by Scott Pitocco, Lights Out Photos under Flickr Creative Commons License.
BILLS TAKE EFFECT: The new year will bring lower costs for birth control and stronger smoke alarm requirements to Maryland residents, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. Under two bills that took effect on Jan. 1, insurers will have new rules for coverageof birth control and homeowners will have new requirements for smoke detectors.
PRE-FILED LEGISLATION: Ahead of the 2018 General Assembly session, several Anne Arundel County delegates and senators have pre-filed legislation involving human trafficking, fertility awareness and rape survivors, reports Chase Cook in the Annapolis Capital. Pre-filing bills makes sure they are sent to their respective committees as early as possible. But it doesn’t guarantee the bills will be voted on.
INMATE MENTAL HEALTH: Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that the General Assembly plans to address the state’s forensic mental-health crisis during its upcoming session legislative session, weighing funding, hospital staffing and how long a mentally ill criminal suspect may be held in jail before being transferred for court-ordered psychiatric treatment.
ADDRESSING CYBERBULLYING: Maryland legislators will seek to beef up laws prohibiting online harassment, enhancing gun control, protecting Marylanders from cellphone tracking and preventing what some view as debtor’s prisons during the upcoming General Assembly session. Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who chairs the Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he intends to lead the charge against cyberbullying, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.
EXPANDING BIZ TAX INCENTIVES: State Sen. George Edwards told Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail that he had been working with Gov. Hogan’s office to add other types of businesses – not just manufacturing – to the mix of new and expanding businesses that could receive tax incentives.
HOGAN TO UPDATE, REPEAL 657 ‘OUTDATED’ REGS: Gov. Larry Hogan said Thursday his administration will repeal or alter 657 regulations that he considers to be outdated, reports Holden Wilen in the Baltimore Business Journal. Among the regulations being eliminated, 224 are “obsolete or redundant” Department of Healthregulations. Of the 657 recommendations, 158 are streamlining and clarifying revisions, 450 are related to obsolete references, 45 bring the state in line with federal statutory requirements and five allow for modernization and electronic submissions.
MARYLAND SUES EPA OVER SMOG: Maryland has joined several other Northeastern states in suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an effort to hold other states accountable for pollution that blows into the region, creating hazardous summertime smog, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. “Interstate smog doesn’t respect political boundaries, so we need more action by upwind states and the EPA to protect our citizens and level the playing field for our businesses,” said Ben Grumbles, Maryland’s environment secretary.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Four years after then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) signed legislation that legalized medical marijuana and established a commission to oversee its implementation, Maryland residents finally have legal, albeit limited, access to the drug.Currently, there are 22 fully licensed dispensaries and at least nine are open for business, Tauhid Chappell of the Post takes a look back at some of the controversies that seemed to make the process longer.
- Bethany Rodgers of Bethesda Beat reports that after about one month of medical marijuana sales in Maryland, Montgomery County leads the state in the number of patients certified to buy the substance.
FBI WON’T TAKE SUITER PROBE: The Federal Bureau of Investigation rejected the Baltimore Police Department’s request to take over the investigation of the shooting death of Homicide Det. Sean Suiter. Police Commissioner Kevin Davis says the department will go back to square one of the investigation, Dominique Maria Bonessi reports for WYPR-FM.
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MIDTERMS IN MARYLAND: As the first midterm elections of the Trump era approach, voters are fired up nationwide, and that could have big implications in Maryland. Although the state isn’t expected to be a key battleground in the fights for control of the House or Senate, it’s a reasonable bet that turnout will be high, and it’s hard to predict what impact that will have on the races for governor, the General Assembly and local offices. The editorial board of the Sun offers some key things to watch as 2018 unfolds, beginning with: Can Hogan repeat?
TRUMP IMPACT ON MARYLAND: John Fritze of the Sun writes that President Donald J. Trump remains deeply unpopular in Maryland, but his tumultuous first year in the White House has left an unmistakable imprint on state politics. Proposals such as repealing the Affordable Care Act and eliminating federal funding for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay fired up critics — though neither idea gained traction — and repeatedly forced Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to weigh in on thorny national political issues.
FUNDRAISING SEASON: The invitations keep coming, fast and furious. We can now count close to 80 fundraisers on tap for incumbent lawmakers before the start of the General Assembly session on Jan. 10, when they are banned from raising money for 90 days, writes Josh Kurtz for Maryland Matters.
RACES TO WATCH: This is an election year, plain and simple, and the midterms in Maryland are usually busier and more important than the presidential cycle, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters. There are fascinating and important races on tap from Oakland to Ocean City, so picking the top 10 of the cycle was no easy task.
DEL. WILSON TO SEE RE-ELECTION: Del. C.T. Wilson tells his constituents that successful governance depends on finding things that people can agree on, instead of focusing on disagreements. And sometimes, he says, that means bucking the party line. A self-described moderate Democrat, Wilson is running for his third term as delegate representing District 28, which includes most of Charles County, Paul Lagasse of the Maryland Independent reports.
EXPENSIVE HOUSE RACE: The race for Rep. John Delaney’s open seat in the House will be the most closely watched congressional contest in Maryland next year. It’s also shaping up to be one of the nation’s most expensive, writes John Fritze for the Sun. Two wealthy candidates running for the state’s 6th Congressional District have both spent millions of their own money in previous campaigns and are now competing in a crowded race that may mark their last opportunity to claim a House seat for years.
HOGAN’S ‘SCARY’ PLAN FOR BALTIMORE: Public Defender Todd Oppenheim, in an op-ed for the Sun, opines that, with its crosshairs locked on Baltimore City, Gov. Larry Hogan’s new strategic crime plan reeks of scary, 1980s type criminal justice tactics that have proven to be discriminatory toward African-Americans and generally ineffective.
HOGAN CAMP PAYS FINE: On Dec. 22, Josh Hicks of the Post reported that Gov. Larry Hogan’s reelection committee paid a $250 fine to the state elections board for an email that solicited donations on behalf of the campaign during a period when such fundraising is prohibited.
RECOVERY EFFORTS IN ANNE ARUNDEL: Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital reports that Anne Arundel County officials are looking to invest in peer-based addiction recovery efforts as the county saw more than one fatal overdose every three days last year due to opioids. In another record-breaking year, county police say at least 152 people died in 2017 due to opioid overdoses, with 1,062 overdoses overall as of Dec. 27, both records for the county.
FREDERICK TEACHERS CROWD-FUND: Even though the holiday break is coming to an end, teachers still have some items on their wish lists, writes Allen Etzler for the Frederick News-Post. Jennifer Gentzler and Lindsay Seebach are two of several Frederick County Public Schools teachers who have turned to crowdfunding resources to obtain tools for their classrooms. Gentzler and Seebach are both using a website called DonorsChoose.org to raise funds for materials to enhance their classrooms.
CROWDED MO CO FIELD: With more than two months until the Feb. 27 primary filing deadline, the number of candidates running at-large for County Council has hit a new benchmark – 30, report Louis Peck and Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.
MoCo MATCHING FUNDS: Adam Pagnucco of the Seventh State blog updates the reports on the public campaign financing in Montgomery County. Candidates there must files reports more frequently, and more candidates have qualified to receive the money.
PRE-PAY TAXES: Montgomery County homeowners were allowed to pre-pay their 2018 property taxes in 2017, thanks to a provision approved by the County Council last Tuesday. The move is a reaction to the tax overhaul measure signed by President Trump, which caps the amount of state and local taxes filers can deduct starting in 2018, write Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.
- On the other hand, Rachel Siegel of the Post is reporting that the Prince George’s County Council decided not to come out of holiday recess to consider emergency legislation allowing residents to prepay their property taxes for 2018.
PUGH’s LEADERSHIP: Paul Schwartzman of the Post writes about Mayor Catherine Pugh’s reign over Baltimore during one of its most violent periods and how she is coping, or not.
FRICTION OVER RETIREMENT BENEFITS: Emily Chappell of the Carroll County Times reports that Carroll County commissioner benefits — specifically retirement health care — have created friction between local delegates and Carroll’s Board of County Commissioners. The issue was publicly mentioned at a meeting between the commissioners and the delegation in December, and continues to be brought up by Del. Susan Krebs. Commissioners have since said they will take up the topic in coming months.
- Technically, serving as a member of the Board of County Commissioners is considered a part-time job, even if the responsibilities are 24/7 while in office. Still, some recent revelations about commissioners’ post-retirement health benefits brought to light by members of the county’s delegation to Annapolis seem like quite the perk, even for a job that is pretty demanding, opines the editorial board for the Carroll County Times.
BA CO COUNCIL CHAIR: The Baltimore County Council is poised to select its first-ever African-American council chairman, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun. Councilman Julian Jones is expected to be named chairman of the seven-member council for the new year when the council meets today in Towson.
HOGAN TAPS TWO FOR WORCESTER JUDGES: Gov. Larry Hogan announced the appointment of two nominees to the Worcester County Circuit Court Thursday, reports Reed Shelton in the Salisbury Daily Times. The incoming judges are Beau Oglesby, who has served as state’s attorney for Worcester County since 2011, and Mary Kent, who has been a domestic relations and juvenile causes magistrate for the First Judicial Circuit Court since 1996.
HUNTER OUT AT WBAL-AM: WBAL-AM conservative talk show host Derek Hunter is no longer with the station, according to Cary Pahigian, president and general manager of WBAL-AM. Hunter’s last day at the station was Dec. 22, Pahigian wrote in an email response to The Baltimore Sun. “But I could see the writing on the wall when 30 percent of my shows were interrupted by White House daily press briefings, speeches by the President, or other events of nominal news value,” he wrote.
MOST READ RED MARYLAND: Red Maryland lists their 30 most read postings of 2017. Some made it into State Roundup, many did not.