MD’s Budget, Minimum Wage, & Online Health Exchange, and Baltimore’s Speed Camera Program
Governor Martin O’Malley rolls out his final budget plan today; yesterday, O’Malley got behind a plan to raise MD’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Plus: yesterday’s hearings on MD’s online health insurance exchange, today’s hearings on Baltimore’s speed camera program, and today’s fog-related school delays.
F0g-Related School Delays: The National Weather Service has extended its Dense Fog Advisory until noon; the fog prompted several schools to open late this morning. A One-Hour Delay was issued for Kent County Schools. 90-Minute Delays hit schools in Queen Anne's County and Talbot County. Two-Hour Delays were issued for schools in Caroline County, Carroll County, and Cecil County.
O’Malley Calls For $10.10/Hour Minimum Wage: Governor Martin O’Malley is joining the call to raise Maryland’s minimum wage from its current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. A proposal to do so would phase in the hike over two years, and then tie the rate to inflation for future increases. It would also increase the percentage of the minimum that would go to workers who get tips, like waiters – it’s currently 50 percent, and the proposal would up it to 70 percent. Backers of the plan say it would help some 472-thousand Marylanders… while opponents of a higher wage say it could have a negative impact on businesses and hurt the economy. They also argue that raising the rate would lead to a loss in jobs. There’s more here from the Capital Gazette and here from the Baltimore Sun.
O’Malley To Unveil Budget Plan: Governor Martin O'Malley will unveil his final budget proposal today. The $39-billion spending plan doesn’t include any new taxes or fees… but it does call for a tuition increase of 3 percent for the state’s university system; the College Board says the hike is among the lowest increases in higher education rates in the country. The Baltimore Sun reports that the plan would raise $18-million by selling off some old helicopters that have been replaced by a new fleet. The proposal is also designed to close a short-term budget gap of nearly $400-million.
Brown Testifies On Insurance Exchange, Emergency Legislation: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown faced two legislative committees yesterday to explain emergency legislation aimed at getting health insurance applied retroactively to people who were unable to sign up for coverage because of problems with the state’s online exchange. Brown also testified about what Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration has done since the disastrous rollout of the website. As WYPR’s Joel McCord reports, Brown didn’t get the grilling that some were expecting. There’s more on this story here from the Capital Gazette and here from the Baltimore Business Journal.
Hearing Today On Baltimore’s Red Light And Speed Camera Program: This afternoon, a Baltimore City Council committee will be holding a hearing on the city’s troubled speed and red light camera program. The cameras have been offline for more than nine months because of errors. In December, the city paid $600-thousand to terminate its contract with camera vendor Brekford Corporation, which ran the system. City Council Vice President Ed Reisinger, who is chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee, says he had a problem with the city paying to end the contract with Brekford. Reisinger told WYPR: “I was very upset that they were at fault and we appropriated $600-thousand, that was my first response. I’m waiting to hear from the attorney’s in purchasing to see what their opinion is on this.” And City Councilman Brandon Scott says the end of Brekford’s contract makes him want to have the hearing even more. Scott said: “We just want to talk about the program in its totality; what went wrong with Brekford; what did we do wrong because I’m not naïve enough to think that Brekford was the only problem.” Councilman Scott is calling on the city to release an independent audit of the speed camera program when run be previous contractor Xerox; the Baltimore Sun reports that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s administration contends that the findings of that audit are confidential. At last check, the city has missed out on $16-million in projected revenue because the cameras have been offline. The hearing is scheduled to take place in city council chambers starting at 1:00.
Dance Unveils Baltimore County Schools’ Budget: Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance’s budget for 2015 calls for increased funding for high-tech upgrades in school and new teaching positions. Dance presented his budget to the county’s school board last night. WYPR’s Gwendolyn Glenn has more. And there’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
2016 Watch: O'Malley Opts Not To Criticize Christie WYPR's Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about Governor O'Malley's appearance on CNN on Sunday and why he took the "no road" when asked to comment on the scandal surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
Transgender Anti-Discrimination Bill Introduced: Legislation that would protect transgender Marylanders from job and housing discrimination has been filed in the State Senate. Similar legislation passed in the House of Delegates last year, but died in the Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee… but this year’s bill is being co-sponsored by two Senators on that committee who didn’t co-sponsor it last year. The Baltimore Sun reports that Governor Martin O’Malley is expected to support the legislation; it already has the support of the three top Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Laws protecting transgender Marylanders from job and housing discrimination already exists in Baltimore City and in Baltimore, Howard, and Montgomery Counties.
Ruppersberger Still Eyeing Governor’s Race: Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger said he is still considering a run for Governor. The Democrat has represented Maryland’s 2nd District for six terms, and he’s been reportedly considering a gubernatorial bid throughout the past year. Ruppersberger has until the filing deadline on February 25th to make a decision… and yesterday, a spokesperson for the congressman told the Carroll County Times that he hasn’t ruled it out yet. Already in the race for the Democratic nomination are Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler, and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur.
County Leaders Call For More School Funding: The leaders of Maryland's three largest counties plan to work together on legislation requesting additional funding for school modernization and construction. Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz say the funding is essential to meet the growing need for more classrooms and better facilities. The Baltimore Sun reports that the executives also say that improving the teaching and learning environment in their jurisdictions would be a good first step to ensure that Maryland remains at the top of the pack nationally in education.
Cardin Renews Call For Emergency Unemployment Benefit Extension: U.S. Senator Ben Cardin is criticizing Senate Republicans for their continuing opposition to extending Emergency Unemployment Insurance benefits. Cardin says the benefits kept two-and-one-half-million Americans out of poverty last year and says extending them is the right thing to do.
MD Files Countersuit Against AAC: The state of Maryland is filing a $157-million counterclaim against the Atlantic Coast Conference. The suit, filed on behalf of the University of Maryland, alleges two ACC schools tried to recruit Big Ten members into switching conferences in violation of Maryland's antitrust laws. The counterclaim alleges that, after Maryland announced it was leaving for the Big Ten, representatives of Pittsburgh and Wake Forest sought to persuade a pair of unnamed Big Ten schools to jump to the ACC. The Baltimore Sun reports that the suit looks to force the ACC to pay 16-million dollars in shared revenue Maryland claims has been withheld since the university announced the conference switch in 2012.