Tue May 6, 2014
Monday’s Bill-Signings, Prayer At Carroll County Commissioners Meetings, & Gubernatorial Debates
Governor Martin O’Malley has signed more than 200 bills into law, including a measure that will raise the state’s minimum wage. A Supreme Court ruling allows sectarian prayer to resume at Carroll County Commissioners meetings. Plus: gubernatorial debates, Baltimore’s pension system, background checks for Baltimore County volunteers, yesterday’s building collapse at Sparrows Point, and more.
Monday’s Bill-Signing Ceremony: More than 200 bills passed by the General Assembly earlier this year are now law following a signing ceremony yesterday morning. One of those bills was Governor Martin O’Malley’s top legislative priority for his final year in office -- a measure that will gradually raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. O’Malley was joined by US Labor Secretary Tom Perez at yesterday’s bill signing; Perez calls the minimum wage law an “example for the nation.” Perez and President Obama are backing legislation that would raise the nationwide minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. O’Malley yesterday also signed a bill that requires drivers to change lanes if they see a tow truck stopped on the side of the road, and another that requires most businesses to give their workers six weeks of unpaid parental leave while maintaining those workers’ health insurance coverage. A fourth bill expands Baltimore City’s needle exchange program; a fifth bans the sale of most grain alcohol in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun has more here; the Washington Post has more here.
Prayer At Carroll County Commissioners Meetings: A ruling by the US Supreme Court yesterday allows sectarian prayers to resume at public meetings of the Carroll County Board of Commissioners. A federal judge had issued an injunction, forbidding the Commissioners from opening their meetings with prayers to a specific deity. But the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the town of Greece, New York did not violate the Constitutional separation of church and state by offering prayers at the start of its public proceedings… so, as the Baltimore Sun reports, the injunction on the Carroll County Board has been lifted.
Gubernatorial Debates: A second debate is set for the four candidates seeking Maryland's Republican gubernatorial nomination. The first GOP debate was radio only; this one will be televised, and carried on ABC affiliate WMDT 47. It’ll take place on May 31st at Salisbury University; the state Republican Party says that Harford County Executive David Craig, Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George, former Ehrlich administration official Larry Hogan and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar will all take part. Meanwhile, the three top Democratic gubernatorial candidates are set to debate later this week – Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, state Attorney General Doug Gansler, and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur will square off tomorrow night; the debate will broadcast in the Baltimore area on Maryland Public Television. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Washington Post.
Brown’s Jobs Plan: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown is set to unveil a four-year plan today that he says will help create jobs and spur new business in the state. The lieutenant governor wants to expand public-private partnerships, make more grant money available to growing businesses and strengthen the Port of Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun reports that the plan would be paid for by expected tax revenues from two long-planned light rail projects: the Red Line in Baltimore and the Purple Line in the DC suburbs.
Building Collapse At Sparrows Point: Federal and state investigators are trying to determine if any workplace safety issues played a role in yesterday's building collapse at the old Bethlehem Steel Plant in Sparrows Point. Nine workers were injured when a roof collapsed during demolition work in an area of the old tin mill. Four of the workers had serious to critical injuries. The Baltimore Sun has more.
Noridian CEO Fired: The company that was hired to build Maryland’s health exchange website has fired its president and CEO. The Baltimore Sun reports that the board of Noridian Mutual Insurance Company voted unanimously yesterday to let CEO Paul von Ebers go. This amid massive losses for the company. Noridian was the prime contractor for Maryland’s health exchange website, but after massive problems with the rollout, the state terminated its contract with the company. Maryland had paid Noridian about $55-million before ending its relationship with the company. State officials say they are planning to get some of that money back, because the website Noridian designed never worked properly. The state is planning to use technology used for Connecticut’s health exchange for the next round of open enrollment.
Baltimore City Council Notes: The Baltimore City Council has approved changes to the city’s pension system. The measure will let new employees choose between a 401(k) style retirement plan and a hybrid plan that combines a traditional pension and a 401(k) style account. The Baltimore Sun notes that the bill doesn’t affect police or fire department employees – or elected officials. The City Council yesterday also approved sending more than $3.7-million to the federal government, it’s a repayment for a homeless services grant sent to the city in 2009.
Baltimore County Council Notes: The Baltimore County Council has approved a bill that requires background checks for volunteers who work with children at County-sponsored recreational programs. Under the legislation, the County will have until July of next year to create a policy to implement a background check system. The Baltimore Sun reports that the County Council also approved a bill that will require hookah lounges to close by midnight.
Anne Arundel County Council Notes: Anne Arundel County has 12 high schools. And the Annapolis Capital reports that it’s not getting a 13th any time soon. Last night, the County Council voted down a bill that would have created a reserve fund to pay for constructing a 13th County high school. It’s an idea that’s been debated for decades; and while County Executive Laura Neuman is supportive of a new school, she was opposed to the bill voted on last night, because it would have required an increase in income taxes.
Casino Earnings: Revenue at Maryland's four casinos is down a bit from record-breaking March. The April haul was almost $71.5-million dollars with all but about ten-million of that amount generated by Maryland Live Casino at Arundel Mills. On a year-over-year basis and excluding Rocky Gap, which opened last May, revenue was up some 15-percent at Maryland's casinos. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Daily Record.
Sewage In The Harbor: Baltimore’s Department of Public Works says nearly 30-thousand gallons of raw sewage flowed into the Harbor last week, due to a blockage of a sewer line. The DPW says the line was fixed on Friday. DPW officials say the state's Department of the Environment and the Baltimore City Health Department were notified about the spill. There’s more online here.
Baltimore Baseball: The Orioles will be in Florida tonight, to begin a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays.
Washington Baseball: The Washington Nationals won yesterday’s game against the LA Dodgers; the score was 4 to 0.