Fri February 28, 2014
More Problems With MD’s Health Benefits Exchange, Gansler’s Jobs Plan, and Meteorite Spotting
Problems with MD’s health exchange website mean the state could pay as much as $30.5-million to offer Medicaid coverage to people who aren’t eligible for it. Plus: Gansler’s jobs proposal, Brown’s proposed Dream Act expansion, Henson’s probation violation, home poker games, Bay Bridge safety upgrades, and a meteorite spotted over MD.
Health Exchange Problems Could Mean Unnecessary Medicaid Payments: Maryland could end up spending as much as $30.5-million to offer Medicaid coverage to people who aren’t eligible for it. Those payments will come due to ongoing issues with the state’s health exchange website. The Baltimore Sun reports that software problems have made it impossible for the state to accurately track Medicaid recipients who should not be on the Medicaid rolls. The Washington Post reports that thousands of people who have signed up with the flawed system have incomes which now exceed the level in which they would qualify for subsidies, but there's no way they can be caught. State officials say they made a “deliberate decision” to keep people covered while problems with the exchange are being fixed; they’ve reportedly reached an agreement with federal officials to allow the Medicaid payments to continue that the process is underway. The issue was revealed by a report from state budget officials; he report also found "significant uncertainty" about the how much it’ll cost to fix the exchange, and where the funding to do it will come from.
Gansler Unveils Jobs Proposal: State Attorney General Doug Gansler has put forth a new jobs plan, connected to his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. Gansler's 30-point plan calls for a resurgence of manufacturing jobs, the establishment of new connections between workers and education, and incentives for small business owners. The Baltimore Sun reports that Gansler says his plan is built around: "one core truth: Maryland needs more entry-level and mid-level jobs plus more workers for construction, engineering, and high-tech positions." There’s more here from the Washington Post.
Brown Proposes Dream Act Expansion: Children of undocumented immigrants would be eligible for low-interest state college loans in Maryland under a proposal made yesterday by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. The Democratic gubernatorial hopeful’s plan is an extension of the Dream Act passed by lawmakers and upheld by voters. Under the Dream Act, children of undocumented immigrants are eligible for in-state tuition rates to attend Maryland colleges and universities. Those same students would be able to obtain loans to pay for their education under Brown's plan. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun and here from the Washington Post.
Lawmakers Examine Immigrant Detention Bill: In Annapolis yesterday, the State Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee heard testimony on a bill that would limit the circumstances under which people who are not in the country legally can be held in jail. The measure would require local jails to ignore requests by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold undocumented immigrants for two days after they would normally be released. That extra detention gives ICE agents time to put those people under their custody. The practice is part of the federal “Secure Communities” program, which was intended to locate and deport repeat, violent offenders. The Baltimore Sun reports that more than 40 percent of the immigrants who’ve been deported from Maryland had no prior criminal record. That’s a far higher percentage than the national average.
Lawmakers Vote To Legalize Home Poker Games: Poker games played for money are currently illegal – when played in Maryland homes. Violating the obscure law carries a thousand-dollar fine plus a year in prison. But that could soon change. Yesterday, the state Senate voted unanimously to lift the home poker ban. A similar bill is being considered by a committee in the House. WBAL has more here.
Henson Faces Prison For Probation Violation: Political Consultant Julius Henson is facing a sentence of four months in jail for running for a seat in the General Assembly. Henson was on probation after being convicted of violating election law for his role in a misleading robocall sent out during the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. A condition of Henson’s probation said he couldn't work in any capacity on a political campaign – and while he argued that being a candidate wasn’t the same thing, a Circuit Court judge yesterday disagreed. Henson has 30 days to appeal the jail sentence. As WYPR’s Kenneth Burns reports, yesterday’s ruling also means that his probation is over, so Henson’s free to do any political campaign work that he’d previously been forbidden from undertaking. Henson says that, in addition to appealing the ruling, he’ll spend the next weeks stepping up his campaign for the State Senate seat currently held by Nathaniel McFadden. The Baltimore Sun reports that if Henson were to win election but lose the appeal, he’d have to go to jail, but would be allowed to serve in office. There’s more here from the Washington Post.
Pantelides Caught Between Two Allies: WYPR's Joel McCord and Jack Lambert of the Annapolis Capital talk about why Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides (R) is trying to stay out of the GOP primary for Anne Arundel County executive by campaigning for both candidates. It’s this morning’s look Inside Maryland Politics.
More Guilty Pleas In Baltimore Jail Corruption Case: Two more corrections officers are each facing up to 20-years in prison after pleading guilty to participating in the Baltimore City Detention Center smuggling ring. As the FBI reports, eleven jail guards have pleaded guilty in the case so far. So have four gang members, including Black Guerrilla Family gang leader Tavon White.
Fells Point Pier Up For Redevelopment: A redevelopment plan for the historic recreation pier in Fells Point is being backed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. The building, which was built in 1914, has been vacant since 1999, when it was used as a set for the police station on the television show "Homicide: Life on the Street." But now there is a plan to convert it into a boutique hotel on the waterfront. The Baltimore Sun reports that the pier is under contract with Sagamore Development which is a firm backed by Plank; city business leaders say they’re excited to see that he is a part of the plan.
AIDS Research In Baltimore: An AIDS outreach program is underway in Baltimore. The NAACP spoke to more than two dozen black faith leaders yesterday. The NAACP says Baltimore has over seven-thousand infected citizens who are unaware of their situation, and that more outreach programs are needed. The Baltimore Sun has more.
MdTA Announces Money For Bay Bridge Upgrades: The Maryland Transportation Authority says $500-thousand in safety upgrades are coming to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge this year. The enhancements include new electronic message signs warning drivers to use their headlights at all times on the bridge. Other signs will warn drivers of their current speed, impending congestion and curves ahead. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
Meteorite Sighted Over Maryland: Twitter was flooded last night with reports of people in Mid-Atlantic States seeing the fall of a meteorite. Most of the reports came from people in Maryland and Virginia, but it was spotted as far south as South Carolina and as far north as Pennsylvania. People report seeing the meteorite around 7 o’clock last night; they say the meteorite was like a bright shooting star and had blue tones. The American Meteor Society is asking anyone who witnessed the event to share it with them on its website.