Governor Martin O’Malley says that progress is being made “by degrees” in fixing problems with the state’s online health insurance exchange. Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown proposes more spending on school construction. Plus: the minimum wage, Preakness purse increases, and more.
O’Malley On Online Exchange: Governor Martin O’Malley says that progress is being made “by degrees” in fixing problems with the state’s online health insurance exchange. O’Malley says that that enrollment in private health insurance plans through the website is increasing… and he says most of the major problems have been fixed. O’Malley says that remaining problems with the website include computers’ screens freezing while their users try to use it. O’Malley tells the Washington Post that once that issue is fixed, the state will begin to plan a marketing campaign aimed at boosting enrollment. So far, only about 52-hundred people have signed up for private plans through the exchange; that’s a little less than 3.5% of the 150-thousand the state hopes will have done so by the end of March. Maryland also has a goal of enrolling 110-thousand people in Medicaid by the end of March – and it’s a lot closer to reaching that goal, having signed up about 15% of that number so far. More on this story here from the Capital Gazette and here from the Daily Record.
Brown Outlines Proposal To Increase School Construction Budget: Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown says he wants to spend significantly more money on school construction if he’s elected governor next year. The Baltimore Sun reports that Brown is releasing a plan that calls for raising the annual school construction budget by nearly 50%… from its current $340-million a year to a half-billion a year. The increase in construction spending would be phased in over several years, fully taking effect in 2019. The Lieutenant Governor also wants to offer $3-thousand tax credits to local businesses that give internships to teenagers. And he wants to spend $100-million to build vocational centers that would help students learn trade skills. Brown says he’ll pay for the programs with money from the state’s corporate income tax and with savings realized by making state spending more efficient.
Board Of Elections To Seek Outside Legal Advice: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler says that the State Board of Elections may seek legal advice from outside his office when it comes to an issue being raised by next year’s governor’s race. Gansler himself is running for the post, and elections officials asked for permission to seek outside advice, to ensure that there’s no conflict of interest. A spokesperson for Gansler tells the Washington Post that the Attorney General’s office doesn’t see a conflict, but is complying with the request anyway. The issue in question is about fundraising – and whether candidates who are connected to state officeholders can raise money while the General Assembly is in session. Gansler and his running mate – Prince George’s County Delegate Jolene Ivey – are prohibited from doing so… but the running mates of Gansler’s democratic gubernatorial rivals Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur appear to be under no such restrictions. State elections officials are prepared to issue a guidance letter saying that the running mates can raise money during the session as long as it goes to a separate account; that letter needs review from lawyers, and usually they come from the Attorney General’s office.
Delaney Encourages Business Leaders’ Involvement In Minimum Wage Legislation: Sixth District Congressman John Delaney is calling on Baltimore-area business leaders to get involved in crafting a law to raise Maryland’s minimum wage. As the Baltimore Sun notes, Delaney is a co-sponsor of a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage… and he’s vowed to spend his own money to push the General Assembly to approve a higher state minimum during next year’s session. The idea has the backing of Governor Martin O’Malley and the three Democrats vying to succeed him. Representative Delaney – who’s the only former CEO of a publicly traded company currently serving in Congress – says that if done correctly, raising the minimum wage should not have a negative effect on the economy. Delaney also says that if the business community continues to fight the idea, it’s more likely that the policy will be “misguided.” There’s more here from the Daily Record.
McClement, Aldermen Sworn In: Frederick Mayor Randy McClement has officially begun his second term in office. As the Frederick News Post reports, McClement and Frederick’s five-member board of Aldermen were sworn in yesterday.
Preakness Purse Increases: The Maryland Jockey Club says the purse for the 2014 Preakness Stakes will go up from $1-million to $1.5-million. It's the first increase for the race since 1998. The second leg of thoroughbred horse racing's prestigious Triple Crown will be held May 17th at Pimlico Race Course. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.
T. Row Price To Stay On Pratt Street: T. Rowe Price is staying put in downtown Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun reports that the money manager has signed a letter of intent to keep its headquarters on Pratt Street through 2027. In April, T. Rowe Price said it was considering a move to its Owings Mills campus, or constructing a new building on a vacant site in Baltimore. More than 12-hundred people work at the Pratt Street offices. The current lease expires in 2017.
“Gift Cards For Guns” Event In PG County: Prince George's County Police will hold "Gift Cards for Guns" events over the next couple of weekends. It’s part of a program aimed at reducing gun violence. Prince George’s County police tell the Baltimore Sun that they’ll will accept guns and exchange them for gift cards valued at up to 150-dollars. The first exchange takes place tomorrow at the Tabernacle Church in Laurel from 2 pm until 6 pm.
DUI Checkpoint In AA County: Anne Arundel County police will be looking for drunk drivers tonight in Crofton, setting up a DUI checkpoint on Crain Highway, near Route 450. The Crofton Patch notes that it’ll be the county's 97th checkpoint to date. Police say they've stopped more than 74-thousand vehicles during previous checkpoints, making 403 DUI arrests, as well as 110 drug arrests.
Baltimore Ranked “7th Least Attractive” City: Travel and Leisure Magazine is out with a new survey of where Americas’ most attractive and least attractive people can be found. Baltimore ended up on the latter list… ranking as the 7th least attractive city. The rankings were compiled based on the votes of “Travel and Leisure” readers – and the magazine speculated that the “Bawlmerese” accent may have factored into readers decision. But at least Charm City residents were ranked more attractive than our neighbors to the south; Washington DC was ranked as having the least attractive people in the country… with folks in the District being described as "both unfriendly and not so stylish.