MD’s Budget, MD’s Health Care Exchange, Baltimore County’s School Board, and Marijuana Legislation | WYPR

MD’s Budget, MD’s Health Care Exchange, Baltimore County’s School Board, and Marijuana Legislation

Mar 14, 2014

Students got up close to the tall ship Virginia on a trip to Fox Island, just south of the Maryland border in the Chesapeake Bay.
Credit Pamela D'Angelo / WYPR

The State Senate passes a budget plan for FY-2015. Officials are looking to Connecticut as they work to move forward with the MD's health exchange. The latest on efforts to change the composition of Baltimore County's school board. Plus: marijuana legislation, STEM learning, why local law enforcement agencies respond differently to federal detention requests, and more.

State Senate Approves Budget Bill: The State Senate’s plan for Maryland’s budget was upended late last week, when the Board of Revenue Estimates announced the state would bring in some $239-million dollars less than had been expected. The Senate approved a budget plan yesterday… and as WYPR’s Christopher Connelly reports, it makes up for the shortfall by reducing by two thirds the planned supplemental payments into Maryland’s pension system for the next two years… but the bill would restore those payments to their current levels by the year 2019. The measure would also increase state spending overall by about 3 percent; it would offer pay raises for state workers, and raise spending on education programs. The budget proposal next goes to the House of Delegates, but it's not known when that chamber will take it up for a vote. There’s more here from the Washington Post.

MD Officials Looking At Connecticut’s Health Care Exchange: Maryland may be looking toward another state to serve as a model for its health care exchange. Sources tell the Baltimore Sun that Maryland may eliminate all or part of its troubled exchange in favor of the type of system used by Connecticut, which is considered to be among the most successful in enrolling people under the Affordable Care Act. Officials with the Maryland health exchange say no decision has been made, but the exchange’s interim exchange director does say that Connecticut's software is "on the table, among other options."

Marijuana Legislation: Marijuana reform advocates rallied in Annapolis yesterday for bills that would legalize the drug, or decriminalize its possession. Montgomery County Delegate – and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful – Heather Mizeur, who favors a plan to legalize and regulate the drug, spoke at the rally. A House committee is holding a hearing on the measures and the state Senate is expected to take a final vote on a decriminalization bill today. The Senate bill is expected to pass; it would reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of pot from 90 days in jail to a $100 fine. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.

Kamenetz Will No Longer Oppose Partially-Elected School Board: People who want to change the make-up of the Baltimore County School Board are making their move in Annapolis this week. WYPR’s John Lee reports that the board’s handling of several controversial issues is driving the call for a partially-elected panel. And a powerful opponent of previous attempts to make that change is now dropping his opposition. More on the legislation is here from the Baltimore Sun.

Why Local Law Enforcement Responds Differently To Federal Detention Requests: WYPR's Nathan Sterner and Jeremy Bauer-Wolf of talk about two proposed bills in the General Assembly that would each create a different statewide, uniform policy for cooperating with detention requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.

STEM Learning Gets Fishy On Fox Island: Teachers from New York to West Virginia are taking their classrooms to a remote island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. Students get hands-on environmental learning while experiencing some Lord of the Flies moments. Pamela D'Angelo went along.

14 Arrested At Rally For BWI Worker Wages: Fourteen protesters were removed from the steps of the State House in Annapolis yesterday after a sit-in regarding a union dispute at BWI Airport. As WYPR’s Christopher Connelly reports, the union Unite Here Local 7 is trying to organize concession workers but AirMall USA, which holds the facility's long-term contract with the state, has declined to negotiate. Maryland Capitol Police warned the demonstrators to leave the steps, but some refused and they were handcuffed. A union spokesperson tells the Annapolis Capital that the group was released after about an hour.

Gansler Wins Support Of Ministers Organization: State Attorney General Doug Gansler’s gubernatorial campaign has won the support a prominent group of Baltimore-area ministers. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a coalition of mostly African American congregations, endorsed Gansler yesterday. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Reverend Alvin J. Gwynn Sr., president of the group of about 50 churches, said they decided to endorse Gansler because he understands the problems of Maryland and Baltimore City, and those of the state's minority residents. Gansler is facing candidates including Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Montgomery County Delegate Health Mizeur in the June Democratic primary.

MD To Get Federal Education Grant: Maryland will share in $95-million in federal grants to improve achievement at under-performing schools. Maryland will get $6.6-million as part of the School Improvement Grants Program from the U.S. Department of Education. School districts will apply to the state for the funds this spring. Eligible schools systems include those in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Dorchester, Harford and Prince George's counties and Baltimore City.