Wed August 27, 2014
MD’s Health Exchange, Campaign Finance Reports, Baltimore’s Casino, & Red Line Financing
1st District Congressman Andy Harris says the federal government has issued subpoenas as part of its investigation into Maryland's troubled health exchange. GOP gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan is leading Democratic nominee Anthony Brown in the money race – for now, at least. Baltimore’s casino opens. Financing plans for the Red Line more forward. Plus: medical marijuana regs, judicial appointments, scrutiny over a planned Somerset County wind farm, restrictions on smoking at Ocean City’s beaches. And much more.
Harris Says Subpoenas Have Been Issued In Health Exchange Investigation: 1st District Congressman Andy Harris says the federal government has issued subpoenas as part of its investigation into Maryland's troubled health exchange. In a statement, Harris said the inspector general with the Department of Health and Human Services has moved the probe from an audit into a "full-blown investigation." Harris also alleges that fraud may have occurred. A spokesman for Harris tells the Washington Post that the subpoenas went out in July, but was unclear how many went out, or to whom they were issued. Officials with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange denied receiving any subpoenas. And the contractors involved in the exchange haven’t confirmed whether they’ve received any, either. There’s more here from the Baltimore Business Journal and here from the Daily Record.
Campaign Finance Reports: With less than 70 days left before the general election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan is leading democratic Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown in the money race. Hogan’s campaign committee reported more than $2.4-million on hand in campaign filings yesterday. The Brown campaign posted just over $750-thousand. But Brown can expect help from the state’s Democratic Central Committee, which reported having more than a million dollars on hand to support Democratic candidates across the state. While Brown can keep fundraising clear up until the election, Hogan cannot add to his own committee because he chose to take public financing for his campaign. He can, however, raise money for the state Republican party. But with just $24-thousand dollars in the bank, the Maryland GOP is not positioned to offer much support. Hogan’s campaign is also carrying debt from the primary election. Most of it is owed to Hogan himself, who lent his campaign about a half a million dollars of his own money. There’s more here from the Washington Post and here from the Baltimore Sun.
Horseshoe Casino Baltimore Opens: The Horseshoe Casino Baltimore opened to the public yesterday after a VIP Party that was a who’s who of politicians and their guests. The Horseshoe is Maryland’s fifth casino, boasting 25-hundred slot machines, more than 100 table games, several restaurants and Baltimore’s only 24-hour bar. The casino is employing more than 24-hundred employees with the majority of the jobs going to Baltimore City residents. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun, more here from the Daily Record, and more here from the Baltimore Business Journal.
Baltimore's Casino Finally Arrives, But Will The Money? WYPR's Fraser Smith and Jean Marbella of the Baltimore Sun talk about Baltimore's new Horseshoe Casino and why the money it generates for the city and state may not be as much as lawmakers hoped. It’s this morning’s look Inside Maryland Politics.
Arguments Conclude In Online Ballot Marking Tool Lawsuit: A lawsuit aimed at forcing Maryland to implement an online ballot marking tool is now in the hands of a federal judge. The tool was designed to let absentee voters mark their ballots on their computers before printing them out and mailing them in. Its use has the backing of the National Federation of the Blind, which says it would protect the privacy and independence of blind voters. But Maryland’s Board of Elections failed to certify the tool for this year’s General Election… and the National Federation of the Blind took that decision to court – arguing that the move violates the American with Disabilities Act. The state argued that congress never intended that act to supersede state certification of voting technology. The Baltimore Sun notes that arguments wrapped up yesterday; a decision is expected by the end of the week. More here from WBOC and here from the Daily Record.
Friedman Appointed To Court of Special Appeals: Maryland’s position in the online ballot marking tool case was argued by Assistant State Attorney General Dan Friedman. And yesterday, Governor Martin O’Malley appointed Friedman to a seat on Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals – the second highest court in the state. Friedman has served as an assistant attorney general to the state legislature for the past eight years, advising lawmakers on legislation. Friedman’s appointment was one of 7 judicial appointments O’Malley made yesterday. The Baltimore Sun has more here; there’s more here from the Daily Record.
Medical Marijuana Regulations: The commission that’s writing the rules to create a medical marijuana industry in Maryland held its first public hearing on its proposed regulations yesterday in Annapolis. And those regs faced criticism from doctors, patients, and potential marijuana growers alike – who argued the commission didn’t collect enough public input before drafting the rules… and called them too burdensome and vague for the program to work. The Baltimore Sun notes that the rules are supposed to be done by September 15th… but that it’s unclear whether all the kinks will be worked out by that deadline.
Proposed Somerset Wind Farm To Get Additional Scrutiny: A proposed wind farm in Somerset County will get some additional scrutiny from the county’s Planning Commission this week. The Daily Times reports that the Commission is reviewing the ordinance that allows the development, which would put see 50 wind turbines put up along the Chesapeake Bay. The project has been controversial, with lawmakers from Southern Maryland – and some in Congress – trying to delay the project. The wind farm’s opponents worry that it could interfere with testing at the Patuxent River Naval Air Facility on the other side of the Bay, in St. Mary’s County.
Red Line Financing: Financing plans for the Red Line moved forward yesterday. That long-debated east-west mass transit project would run for 14.1 miles, and connect Woodlawn to Downtown Baltimore to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Yesterday, leaders from Baltimore City and Baltimore County announced that they’ve committed to spending $280-million on the project. And state officials said they’ll use a public-private partnership to help underwrite the Red Line’s total cost, now with an estimated price tag of $2.9-billion. The Baltimore Sun reports that the Red Line could open in 2022.
Neverdon Files Formal Appeal: Baltimore attorney Russell Neverdon has filed a formal appeal of a decision keeping him off the November ballot. Neverdon wants to run for the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office as an independent… but earlier this month, the city’s Board of Elections said that he submitted more than 1-thousand fewer valid signatures than he needed to put his name on the ballot. Neverdon says his campaign used a signature verification system to ensure they had enough signatures to get on the ballot. The Daily Record reports that a hearing on the case will be held next week. If his appeal fails, Neverdon says he may mount a write-in campaign.
Smoking Restrictions Coming To Ocean City Beaches, Boardwalk: Smoking will be banned at the beach next year in Ocean City. At least, at parts of the beach. Yesterday, the Ocean City Town Council voted 4 to 3 to restrict smoking to designated areas of the beach and the Boardwalk, starting on May 1st. The Daily Times reports that the town’s planning department will now work to figure out exactly where those designated areas will be.
Hurricane Cristobal Could Create Dangerous Rip Currents: Dangerous rip currents are possible off the coast of Ocean City later this week, created by Hurricane Cristobal, which is moving up the Atlantic coast, far out to sea. The Baltimore Sun reports that the storm is likely to pass Ocean City tomorrow, albeit hundreds of miles to the east. Earlier this month, Hurricane Bertha took a course similar to the one Cristobal is tracking, and the currents it created led to an increase in rescue activity at Ocean City’s beaches.
Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles won last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays 4 to 2. The two teams play again tonight; first pitch is set for 7:05pm at Camden Yards.
Washington Baseball: The Washington Nationals lost their game against the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday; the score there was 4 to 3.