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Outlook: Maryland General Assembly’s 90 Day 2014 Session

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

The Maryland General Assembly reports to work today to start off a 90 day legislative session for 2014. Democratic leaders are hoping to raise the minimum wage, legalize marijuana, and spend more money on school construction and other projects. Republican leaders are hoping to cut taxes, including the highly controversial “Rain Tax”, and will also take major issue with Maryland’s fumbled Healthcare Exchange and website. Below are some expanded highlights of what we can expect in the upcoming session.

Minimum Wage
Currently the minimum wage in Maryland is $7.25. There have been some proposals to raise it over $10 per hour. Gov. Martin O’Malley, House Speaker Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller have all stated that they would like to make this a priority for this year. Despite Republican opposition this will be likely to pass, the question is will it effect the whole state, and how much will it go up.

Rain Tax
There are possible changes to the “Rain Tax” storm water management fees in this session. Republicans plan to bring this issue to light given angry backlash from in some parts of Maryland. Republicans will likely call for a full repeal. Most likely there will only be small tweaks to the law, and they will likely only help non-profits. Will the citizens in the most effected counties make this a big issue for the Democrats?

Fracking
There is already a sort of moratorium on “fracking” in Maryland, which is the process of using hydraulics to fracture the ground deep below the surface to mine for natural gas. Governor O’Malley already has ordered an environmental study of the relatively new technique. Pennsylvania and other nearby states are already working hard on fracking, but environmental groups are expected to try to get legislation passed barring fracking in this state.

Legalizing Pot
Senate President Miller is likely to support marijuana legislation to keep up with Colorado and Washington’s new legalization. Hopefully they will follow House Speaker Busch’s suggestion to wait and see how the new laws effect Colorado and Washington.

Early Education
From the campaign trail, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown has been pushing for pre-Kindergarten in Maryland. You can expect to see some legislation toward creating a pre-K program that may be voluntary and would be half day.

Other Issues
The Baltimore Sun is reporting that the Assembly may also debate increased school new construction and building a new jail in Baltimore to replace the current scandal plague detention center.

Audit: Baltimore & PG Schools Wildly Misspent Funds

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General issued an audit of Maryland’s use of federal money given as part of the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.” The audit covered from April 2009 through June 2010, but was expanded through May 2011 after uncovering prohibited expenses.

The report found $362,939 in unallowable and $346,861 in unsupported expenditures. The troubling expenditures included travel, entertainment events, utility bills, awards, giveaway items, food, and items for personal use.

The audit also found that Maryland Dept. of Education did not monitor any of the Recovery Act expenditures until after the audit period.

Breakdown of some of the most outrageous expenses, all of which are prohibited uses of federal grant money:
$2,413 for a fried chicken dinner at a PTA meeting for 25 adults ($99/parent)
$4,352 for two Baltimore Inner Harbor dinner cruises for parents and teachers
$1,336 for 30 people for dinner, dancing, and a performance by a “local singer” at a theater in Baltimore
$500 for food at a Parent/Student makeover day
PG County even paid $222 for an electric pencil sharpener

Sources: US DOE Office of Inspector General
Baltimore Sun for original story

2016 Elections

Primary - 4/5/2016
General - 11/8/2016

Races to Watch

U.S. Senate

Barbara Mikulski (D) is retiring.

Top (D) Candidates
Donna Edwards
Chris Van Hollen

All 8 House Seats are up for election.

Current Representatives
1st - Andy Harris (R)

2nd - Dutch Reppersberger (D)

3rd - John Sarbanes (D)
Top candidates Dr. Mark Plaster (R).

4th - Donna Edwards (D) - running for Senate
Top candidates Anthony Brown (D), Glenn Ivey (D), George McDermott (?)

5th - Steny Hoyer (D)

6th - John Delaney (D) - may run for Senate
Top (R) candidates David Vogt (R), Kathy Afzali (R), Neil Parrott (R), Mike McKay (R).

7th - Elijah Cummings (D) - may run for Senate
Top candidates Calvin Ball (D), Corrogan Vaughn (R).

8th - Chris Van Hollen (D) - running for Senate
Top (D) candidates Kumar Barve, Valerie Ervin, Kathleen Mattews, Jamie Raskin
Top (R) candidates Frank Howard - potential