Wed April 9, 2014
A Bill-Signing Ceremony, A Strike At Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Prayer At Carroll County Meetings
110 bills passed during the just-finished General Assembly session have been signed into law. A service and maintenance workers’ strike at Johns Hopkins Hospital has begun. Sectarian prayers at Carroll County Commissioners meetings have been suspended. Plus: O’Malley’s legislative legacy, Clinton endorses Brown, tree-planting incentives in Ocean City, and more.
110 Bills Signed Into Law: Governor Martin O’Malley signed dozens of bills into law yesterday – just hours after the 2014 General Assembly session came to a close. The measures included an expansion of Maryland’s pre-Kindergarten programs… and a bill that changes the rules for dog bite liability. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the legislation replaces a court ruling that declared pit bulls “inherently dangerous” dogs – a decision that prompted many landlords to force pit bull-owning tenants to either get rid of their pets or move out. The new law makes all dog owners liable if their dogs bite, regardless of the breed of those dogs. The governor also signed a bill that expands preschool education initiatives. As the Frederick News Post reports, the measure will ensure that families earning less than three times the federal poverty guidelines will get pre-Kindergarten education for 4-year-olds. An estimated 16-hundred children will get access to pre-K under the bill. WYPR’s Christopher Connelly has more here.
What Is O'Malley's Legacy As A Leader? WYPR's Fraser Smith and Andy Green of the Baltimore Sun talk about the end of the 2014 General Assembly session and what Governor O'Malley's eight years in office reveal about his skills and style as a leader. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
3-Day Strike At Johns Hopkins Hospital: A service and maintenance workers strike at the Johns Hopkins Hospital has begun. The approximately 2-thousand workers represented by 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East will strike for three days, after overwhelmingly rejecting a wage proposal that Hopkins made yesterday. A union spokesperson tells the Baltimore Sun that “well over 90 percent” of union members voted against the offer. Union officials say that workers need higher wages, because many live in poverty and have to rely on public assistance to get by. They’re asking for a four year deal that ensures all workers make at least $14 an hour by the end of the contract; the threshold for a single parent and child to get food stamps is currently $14.92 an hour. Hopkins officials say that contingency staffing plans are in place to ensure that patients see no disruptions in their service for the duration of the strike. The Daily Record notes that about 10 percent of Hopkins’ overall workforce is represented by the union.
Gansler Calls For Health Exchange Website; O’Malley’s Office Says No: State Attorney General Doug Gansler is calling for a special investigation of Maryland's troubled health exchange. As the Baltimore Sun reports, Gansler cited "mismanagement, malfeasance and waste" in the launch of the website and says he wants an investigator to have subpoena powers. Gansler’s proposed probe would last 60 days, which could mean the release of a report just before the June 24th primary election. Gansler is running for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in that election – one of his opponents, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, played a key role in the implementation of the state’s health exchange. For Gansler’s proposed investigation to go forward, the Governor’s office would have to agree – and yesterday, a spokesperson for Governor O’Malley rejected the idea, telling the Washington Post that the office would “not… waste time responding to attacks from political campaigns.”
Clinton Endorses Brown’s Gubernatorial Bid: Lieutenant Governor Brown picked up a major endorsement for his gubernatorial bid yesterday – from former President Bill Clinton. Clinton calls the lieutenant governor "uniquely qualified to lead," and the Brown campaign says the ex-president will join their candidate on the campaign trail next month. Brown is competing against five others for the Democratic nomination in the June primary, including Attorney General Gansler and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur. Four Republicans are running for their party’s nomination. There’s more on yesterday’s endorsement here from the Washington Post and here from the Baltimore Sun.
Carroll County Commissioners Vote To Suspend Sectarian Prayer: The Carroll County Commissioners will no longer open their meetings with prayers to Jesus Christ. The commissioners voted 3-2 yesterday to comply with a federal judge's order to refrain from prayers with references to a specific deity. The Carroll County Times reports that the commissioners will still open sessions with prayer – but those prayers will use non-sectarian words and phrases until the case is fully resolved. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Cecil County Power Plant Approved: The Maryland Public Service Commission has granted final approval for a new one-thousand megawatt natural-gas fired power plant in Cecil County. Virginia-based Old Dominion Electric Cooperative will build the plant next to an existing property in Conowingo. Building the plant is expected to create 600 temporary construction jobs, with 30 people likely to work at the facility once it’s open. When it goes online in 2017, the $675-million Wildcat Point Generation Facility is expected to generate enough electricity to power nearly 400-thousand homes a year. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Baltimore Business Journal.
Tree-Planting Incentives In Ocean City: Ocean City officials are calling on residents of the resort town to plant more trees. The town says it’ll provide a $25 rebate for residents who do so; matching the rebate provided by a state-level program. Between the two, residents could get $50 to pay for planting trees that are on an official list of native trees, which includes dogwoods, magnolias, eastern hemlocks, and six varieties of oaks. To get the rebates, residents will have to use the state coupon to buy trees, plant them in Ocean City, and take pictures of them. The Baltimore Sun reports that a maximum of two rebates per property will be provided.
Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles triumphed over the New York Yankees yesterday – beating them 14 to 5. The O’s look for a repeat performance, when they take on the Yankees again tonight.