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Advocacy groups make final push as session winds down

  • Published in State

Maryland FlagAs the 2018 Maryland legislative session enters its final days, state advocacy groups are making a final push for the passage of legislation.

“While there are a few bills still alive that we’re still supporting, unfortunately most of the major environmental legislation this year was either voted down or amended down into a non-sensitive form,” said Elaine Lutz, staff attorney for the Maryland office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an organization which advocates for the health of the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waterways.

Lutz said the CBF’s primary focus during this session was strengthening the Forest Conservation Act, which she said designates certain areas in the state as priority forests and calls for them to be preserved, but provides few specific criteria or guidelines towards accomplishing that goal.

“We are seeing the loss of some of our best contiguous forests,” Lutz said. “The legislation we introduced this year would have provided specific, transparent criteria for preserving the forests and reforestation requirements, but after opposition from some of the counties and the development community, the senate amended it into a more task force-oriented bill to find out where the forests are being lost and require certain recommendations to be made.”

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A win for the rule of law

  • Published in News

Federal judge rules lawsuit can proceed against President Trump

gavel2 1 Federal judge Peter J. Messitte ruled Friday that a joint lawsuit filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia against President Donald J. Trump can proceed, refusing the government’s request to drop the case.

Last June, D.C. and Maryland, announced they were suing Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits elected officials from receiving any present, title or emolument from a foreign head of state. Maryland and D.C.’s lawsuit against Trump alleges he has received emoluments through his various businesses, which Maryland and D.C. claim have become a hotspot for foreign dignitaries looking to curry favor with the president by patronizing his businesses.

“Today’s decision is a win for the rule of law, and soundly rejects the Trump administration’s argument that nobody can challenge the President’s illegal conduct,” said Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

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State song may soon be demoted to historical status

  • Published in State

Maryland Flag“Maryland, My Maryland,” the Civil War battle hymn that refers to “Northern scum” soon may no longer be the state song.

But rather than replace “the embarrassing, outdated and racist song,” as Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) called it, the State Senate opted last week to demote the song to historical status.

“It will be designated as historical. We are putting it aside,” said Kagan, who stressed that her preference for the new designation is “historical, not historic. ‘Historical’ means that’s what we used to believe.”

The lyrics, which are from a poem written in the early days of the Civil War by James Ryder Randall, “are offensive and outdated,” she said, explaining why she has been trying to repeal and replace the song since 2016.

Before the song is officially downgraded, the House of Delegates must agree. An official vote in the House has not yet been scheduled.

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Fare Game

  • Published in Local

Delegate Korman suggests less of a need for fare increases if budget proposals are met

Maryland Flag Metro LogoThe Maryland General Assembly likely will fully fund Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld’s request for the operating budget, reducing the risk of untimely fare increases or service cuts, a local delegate said.

“I haven’t heard any pushback for the operating [budget],” said the delegate, Del. Marc Korman (D-16), who represents Montgomery County, on Tuesday.

Korman said Friday’s news that Gov. Larry Hogan said he supported the idea of a dedicated funding source added to his confidence. Wiedefeld in his 2017 plan requested all three jurisdictions find means to supply money on which Metro can sell debt each year. Wiedefeld left the decision of where to find the dedicated funding up to the jurisdictions.

“We spent a lot of time on it; on Friday, he [Hogan] agreed,” Korman said.

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Gubernatorial candidates Madaleno, Ross pick running mates

  • Published in State

Maryland FlagTwo of the Democrats who are vying for the chance to unseat Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in this year’s general election announced Lieutenant Governor picks this week in hopes of balancing ties to Montgomery County with the rest of the state in order to present an appealing choice to voters across Maryland.

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Maryland considers dedicated Metro funding

  • Published in Local

Maryland Flag Metro LogoANNAPOLIS — A delegation for business people and elected officials made their way to the state capital Tuesday to make their case that Metro, the region’s struggling mass transit system, needs a reliable supply of state dollars.

On Tuesday, the Maryland House of Delegates Appropriations Committee held a public hearing for a bill that would give the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority $125 million in dedicated funding. WMATA has requested this type of funding for some time from the three jurisdictions of D.C., Maryland and Virginia, as it is one of the few mass transit systems in America without a source of dedicated funding or a consistent permanent supply of public money.

Council member Roger Berliner (D-1), who served on the Council of Governments, a regional body of elected officials from D.C., Maryland and Virginia that work on regional issues, said no issue has united people more than the need for a dedicated funding source for Metro.

“I’ve had the privilege of serving on the board of the Council of Governments for many years and last year as chair,” Berliner said. “In all of those years, no issue has united our entire region, Republicans and Democrats, urban and suburban, more than the need to finally provide dedicated funding for Metro.”

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Controversial state song may finally change

  • Published in State

Flag of MarylandMaryland’s controversial state song – “Maryland, My Maryland” – could soon go the way of eight-track tapes and cassettes if a number of state legislators get their way.

The Civil War-era battle hymn, which makes reference to “Northern scum,” takes its lyrics from a poem written in the early days of the conflict by James Ryder Randall, and with verses like “Thou wilt not cower in the dust, Maryland! Thy beaming sword shall never rust,” gained popularity with Confederate troops before being adopted as the official state song.

One proposal for changing the song is SB0790, sponsored by State Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D) of District 17. Kagan has been pushing to change the state song since 2016, and introduced her bill to “repeal and replace” the current song, which she called “embarrassing and dated and racist,” last week.

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First flu death in state

  • Published in Local

swine fluA Maryland child became the 54th pediatric fatality of the 2018 flu season as the number of flu-related hospitalizations in both the state and county continue to increase significantly, the Maryland Department of Health announced Tuesday.

Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene statistics show this year’s flu season – which typically runs from October to March – has seen 6.8 percent of visits to “sentinel providers” come from influenza-like illnesses, which is well above the 2 percent average usually seen during the week of Jan. 24 in a typical year.

“This year we know there has been a higher-than-average h3n2 cases which is a more severe strain of the influenza virus,” said Dr. Travis Gayles, the County’s Health Officer and Chief of Public Health.

Gayles said children and the elderly have been hit hardest by the more severe h3n2 strain of the influenza virus. County health officials’ response to this year’s more hard-hitting strains has included working with hospitals to monitor local cases and renewing a public relations campaign to remind people of the importance of hand washing and encourage them to be mindful of symptoms.

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Redistributing the wealth the old-fashioned Donald Trump way…

Congressman Jamie Raskin (D).  PHOTO BY PAUL K. SCHWARTZRep. Jamie Raskin (D).     PHOTO BY PAUL K. SCHWARTZWhenever a Democratic administration attempts to raise the tax rate on the ultra-wealthy among us in an attempt to get them to pay their fair share of the tax burden you will inevitably hear the cries of “redistribution of wealth,” followed by the ultimate buzz word, “socialism.”
Well, the recently-enacted Republican federal tax plan does exactly that, it redistributes wealth. HOWEVER, it does so in a new and innovative way by shifting financial resources from the highly-taxed, so-called “blue” states such as Maryland, New York, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey to the so-called “red” states such as Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama to name just a few.
An individual in Mississippi who ordinarily takes the standard deduction on his federal return will see that deduction rise from the first $12,000 to the first $24,000. Big windfall.
In Maryland, an individual who ordinarily itemizes (because in such a highly-taxed state, state and local taxes are a major item to deduct), those middle class deductions, according to the federal tax plan, are either no longer allowed or significantly capped. Disaster!

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Hogan proposes term limits for Maryland General Assembly

  • Published in State

Maryland FlagMaryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) hopes a term limits bill he proposed last week will end the Democratic Party’s “corruption” and control of the General Assembly by limiting delegates and state senators to two four-year terms.

“Our founding fathers never envisioned professional politicians who spend their entire careers in office; what they intended was citizen legislators who would represent their constituents and then return back home to their real jobs,” Hogan said during a press conference in Annapolis last week. “The rise of professional politicians has led to out-of-control partisanship, the stifling of honest debate and fresh ideas, rampant gerrymandering, one-party monopolies, and an increased potential for the type of corruption that our administration has been fighting to root out,” said the governor.

Hogan’s proposed bill, the Government Accountability Act of 2018, would limit state delegates and senators to two consecutive four-year terms. If passed, the proposal would put state legislatures in line with the governor, who is currently limited to two four-year terms.

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