Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur has officially entered the 2014 governor’s race. Plus: health exchange news, the minimum wage, a new contract for Giant and Safeway workers, offshore wind, higher fines proposed for sewage spills, schools to close in Baltimore, and more.
Mizeur Officially Enters 2014 Governor’s Race: Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur has now officially entered the 2014 governor’s race. Mizeur, and her running mate Delman Coates, filed their paperwork yesterday at the State Board of Elections in Annapolis. It took Mizeur about 15 minutes to file her paperwork – longer than it takes most gubernatorial candidates… and the Washington Post reports that’s because Mizeur has agreed to take part in the state’s public financing system. She’ll be the first gubernatorial candidate to do so in the last 20 years; doing so will limit her overall spending in the primary, but make her eligible for state matching funds on contributions of $250 or less. The Board Of Elections notes that Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown has also filed the necessary paperwork to be on the democratic primary ballot, as has the lesser known candidate Ralph Jaffe. State Attorney General Doug Gansler is also running for the nomination, but hasn’t filed the papers yet. The only Republican to have officially enter the race is Brian Vaeth… although other Republicans have announced their candidacy, including Harford County Executive David Craig, Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George, and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar.
Insurers Extend Enrollment Deadline: The four private insurers taking part in Maryland’s online health care exchange have agreed to a slight extension to their enrollment deadline. State officials say that deadline is being moved from December 23rd to the 27th for residents to start coverage on January 1st. The action was taken after the Maryland Health Connection website reported significant problems for more than its first two months of operation. Those problems prevented many residents from signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Governor Martin O’Malley says that the major technological problems have been fixed, and while some issues remain, the website is posting record traffic. The Washington Post reports that the state saw more people enroll in private plans on Monday of this week than on any other day since the exchange opened.
Why O'Malley & Brown Are Having So Many Press Conferences On Health Exchange: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Karen Hosler talk about the O'Malley administration's decision to bring in another contractor to fix the state's health care exchange website, and the governor's reaction to Rep. John Delaney's (D) idea to join the federal exchange. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.
Giant And Safeway Union Workers Agree To 3-Year Contract: Union workers currently employed by Giant Food markets and Safeway stores in the Baltimore/Washington region will not be shifted onto health care exchanges, under a contract approved overwhelmingly yesterday. The deal ensures that current employees – and some future workers – will keep current health benefits. The three year contract also includes a boost in wages, of between 15-cents an hour and 35-cents an hour; those raises are retroactive to early last month. The deal includes a similar raise next year and a smaller one in 2015. The Baltimore Sun notes that the agreement replaces a contract that expired in October and was extended twice, as negotiations continued.
Minimum Wage Hike Signed Into Law In Prince George’s: Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker signed into law yesterday a bill that will raise the County’s minimum wage. As the Washington Post reports, the measure gradually increases the rate from its current $7.25 an hour to $11.50 an hour by the year 2017. Montgomery County lawmakers have already approved their part of this so-called regional minimum wage legislation. The DC City Council gave final approval to its bill yesterday and DC Mayor Vincent Gray is expected to sign the measure today. Maryland’s minimum wage is likely to be a major issue during next year’s General Assembly session.
Maryland Chamber Of Commerce Outlines Legislative Priorities: The Maryland Chamber of Commerce says it’s opposed to a higher statewide minimum wage… and says fending off legislation to raise it is on its priority list next year. That word came yesterday, as the business group told lawmakers about its hopes for the General Assembly’s 2014 session. But the Chamber tells the Baltimore Business Journal that the minimum wage isn’t its top priority. That list is led by a push to lower the state’s 8.25 percent corporate income tax, efforts to increase jobs in the private sector, and legislation that would make stormwater management fees – called “the rain tax” by detractors – more consistent across the 10 jurisdictions that have to impose them. The Chamber also plans to oppose efforts to impose what’s called “combined reporting” – which would require Maryland companies pay income taxes on revenues they earn out of state. Combined reporting is already law in half the states in the US… Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur introduced legislation that would impose it in Maryland last year, but it died in a State Senate committee.
City School Board Votes To Close Six Schools: The Baltimore City school board has voted to close six schools at the end of the academic year. The Baltimore Sun reports that the schools slated for closure are Bluford Drew Jemison STEM Academy-East, Baltimore Civitas Middle/High School, Baltimore Talent Development High School, Baltimore Antioch Diploma Plus High School, Baltimore Liberation Diploma Plus High School, and the Friendship Academy of Science and Technology. Two other schools had been recommended for closure, but the school board heeded community protests and agreed to keep them open, for now.
Offshore Wind: Offshore wind farms are a step closer to coming to the waters off Maryland’s Atlantic Coast. WJZ reports that the Interior Department is getting ready to release plans to auction off almost 80-thousand acres of ocean, starting about 10 miles out of Ocean City, to companies that plan to build wind turbines off the Maryland coast. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell was joined by Governor Martin O'Malley yesterday to make the announcement. Details of the auction will be released on Thursday, and the auction itself will likely happen next year. Secretary Jewell says the wind turbines could produce enough energy to power 300-thousand homes in about five years. Maryland energy consumers will pay extra for the power these wind turbines create; residential electricity bills will go up about $1.50 a month once they’re online, and commercial ratepayers could see their bills jump 1½ percent. The Washington Post has more.
Lawmakers Call For Higher Fines For Sewage Spills: Two Anne Arundel County lawmakers say they’ll call on the General Assembly to double fines for sewage and sediment pollution. State Senator Bryan Simonaire and Delegate Barbara Frush tell the Capital Gazette that they plan to introduce legislation that would increase fines for the offenses to a minimum of $10-thousand… and raise the maximum fine to $100-thousand. The lawmakers say that companies that spill raw sewage or sediment in to the state’s waterways are currently getting just “slaps on the wrist.” They say the higher fines will serve as a more effective deterrent.
Indictments Served To Alleged Gang Members In Cherry Hill: Nearly two dozen suspected members of a Baltimore drug gang are waking up behind bars. Yesterday 20 of the 26 suspected gang members in the troubled Cherry Hill neighborhood were served indictments and taken into custody. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland says members of the gang, known as “Up Da Hill,” conspired to distribute drugs in the Cherry Hill section of Baltimore. Some of the suspects are also accused of using violence and intimidation to protect and enhance the group's power. The Baltimore Sun has more here.
Dwyer’s Bid For Prison Sentence Modification Denied: Anne Arundel County Delegate Don Dwyer has lost a bid to modify his prison sentence. Dwyer has been sentenced to 60 days in jail following a drunken boating accident and a drunken driving arrest. He’s been ordered to serve the sentence on weekends. The Capital Gazette notes that Dwyer had requested it be modified, but a Circuit Court judge has denied that request. The Delegate began serving the sentence in November, and will continue to do so until late May; that’ll have him report to the Ordnance Road Correctional Center every Friday during next year’s General Assembly session.
Police Training Instructor Sentenced: A Baltimore police training instructor who mistakenly shot a recruit was sentenced to spend two months behind bars. In October, a Baltimore County jury found the officer guilty of reckless endangerment for critically wounding s University of Maryland police recruit back in February. The recruit lost sight in one eye and is continuing to rehab out of state. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.