Wednesday, April 9, 2014

JUICE: Status Check on Governor, MoCo Exec and Council Races // PLUS: Takoma Park Special Election, Hot Bills & More!

Below Maryland Juice provides a status check on a few campaigns of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1:  THE LATEST ON MARYLAND'S GOVERNOR'S RACE // BILL CLINTON ENDORSEMENT, TV AD WARS & MORE - A few interesting things have happened since we last reported on the status of Maryland's race for Governor. First, Lt. Governor Anthony Brown reported in a press release yesterday that former President Bill Clinton endorsed his campaign (excerpt below):
BILL CLINTON: “Anthony Brown’s lengthy record of public service to our nation and the state of Maryland is a powerful testament to his character and leadership... As Lt. Governor, Anthony has worked to create thousands of jobs, to make quality health care more accessible and affordable, to secure passage of some of the nation’s toughest gun safety laws, to protect women and children from domestic violence, and to make record investments in Maryland’s public schools. He is uniquely qualified to lead Maryland, and I am proud to support him for Governor.”
Meanwhile, Delegate Heather Mizeur continues her effort to wage an issue campaign on progressive causes with recent policy proposals to legalize marijuana, start school later, index the minimum wage, fully fund retiree pensions, reform redistricting, tackle women's pay equity and more. An interesting thing to note about Mizeur's platform is that it seems obvious that having a statewide candidate out front on these types of issues can help lead to a more robust discussion of them in Annapolis and create the political space for positive (albeit compromise) efforts to move forward. That being said, as the race heads into the home stretch, Mizeur has also taken to criticizing the positions of her rivals, including highlighting Doug Gansler's support for an estate tax cut and questioning Anthony Brown's leadership of Maryland's health exchange.

Lastly, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown are up on the air in different regional markets with television advertising. Check out a couple recent examples below:

JUICE #2: THE LATEST ON MOCO EXEC // IKE LEGGETT HIGHLIGHTS FLIP FLOP, DOUG DUNCAN CALLS OUT TRANSIT CENTER & PHIL ANDREWS QUESTIONS MOCO BUDGET    - In Montgomery County's three-way race for County Executive, several themes are emerging. So far, much of the press coverage has been centered around rival candidates putting incumbent Executive Ike Leggett's eight-year record on trial. Former County Executive Doug Duncan, for example, recently released the following snarky video criticizing Leggett's handling of the Silver Spring Transit Center:

IKE LEGGETT HITS BACK: But Leggett has fired back with multiple data points casting the blame for budget difficulties on Doug Duncan's previous tenure as County Executive. (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: ... In his budget letter to the County Council on Monday, Leggett never identifies his predecessor and opponent in the June Democratic primary. But he depicts Duncan as a profligate and reckless spender during Duncan’s three terms from 1994 to 2006. It’s certainly no mystery who Leggett is talking about....

“First, the County had to stop spending beyond its means,” he said. “Under the prior administration, tax supported County government spending increased by 36 percent in the three years immediately before I assumed office.” From there, Leggett piles on the data points. County payroll: up 28 percent. Tax-supported county spending: up 128 percent. Total budget growth: up 112 percent. “We have brought down the rate of growth in County government from the unsustainable levels prior to my taking office,” he said....
Leggett also highlighted a potential flip-flop by Doug Duncan on the county's recently approved $11.50/hour minimum wage increase. . Bethesda Magazine's last month (excerpt below):
BETHESDA MAGAZINE: ... “We’re rewriting history here this morning,” Leggett snapped after Duncan had answered a question on a minimum wage increase, as Leggett suggested that Duncan had changed his position from an earlier appearance.
PHIL ANDREWS CRITICIZES LEGGETT BUDGET: Lastly, the third County Executive candidate, Phil Andrews, has taken to criticizing Leggett's proposed 2015 budget by describing it as a "fiscal straightjacket." Andrews issued a litany of complaints in a press release (excerpt below):
PHIL ANDREWS: The budget proposed by County Executive Leggett would put County taxpayers in a fiscal straightjacket because it exceeds the amount required by the State’s Maintenance of Effort (MOE) law. This law requires funding MCPS at $28 million more than last year. Going above that amount by an additional $26 million, as proposed by Mr. Leggett, would lock County taxpayers into that amount year after year.... This is the second straight year that Mr. Leggett’s budget includes excessive pay raises for County employees of 6.75 to 9.75 percent, at a cost of approximately $33 million in FY15 and an annualized cost of $88.7 million.

In 2010, Mr. Leggett proposed a 100 percent increase in the County’s energy tax, and proposed it sunset after two years. In 2012 and 2013, I led efforts on the County Council that reduced the 2010 increase in the energy tax by 10 percent each year. The Council should continue to reduce the energy tax rate until it reaches its 2010 level. The cost of continuing to reduce it by an additional 10 percent in FY15 is $11.8 million....

JUICE #3: TURNOUT BELLWETHERS FROM APRIL'S TAKOMA PARK & DC ELECTIONS  // CONGRATS TO NEW TAKOMA COUNCILMEMBER KATE STEWART - Yesterday voters in Takoma Park's Ward 3 participated in a special election for a vacant City Council seat. , triggering a race to fill her seat for the remainder of her term.

KATE STEWART WINS TAKOMA PARK SPECIAL ELECTION WITH 8 VOTE MARGIN: Congratulations to newly elected City Councilmember , who won her race by a hair-splitting eight votes. Kate is an executive at the nonprofit organization Advocates for Youth, where she promotes youth education for reproductive and sexual health.

Kate Stewart (left) at election night party with supporter Howard Kohn

EXPLANATION OF THE FASCINATING TAKOMA PARK SPECIAL ELECTION RESULTS - There are many interesting aspects to the Takoma Park special elections to dig into, but first Maryland Juice explains the city's unique election methods. Notably, the city's elections are nonpartisan and both 16-year-olds and noncitizens can vote in the municipal races. Most importantly, the city uses a ranked voting election system known as "instant runoff voting" (aka IRV) for its races. Here's how it works: voters rank candidates in order of preference (eg: 1st choice, 2nd choice, etc). If a candidate wins a majority of first choices, the race is over. But if no candidate gets a majority, the last place candidate is eliminated and their votes are instead counted for the 2nd choices of the eliminated candidate. This is precisely what happened in last night's Takoma Park election count. The IRV system is designed to eliminate the so-called "spoiler" problem where election results can be tipped away from the ideology of the majority through vote-splitting dynamics.

In the Ward 3 Special Election, there were three candidates: Kate Stewart, Roger Schlegel and Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum. Stewart earned the support of Delegate Heather Mizeur and City Councilmembers Tim Male and Seth Grimes. But Schlegel was a former Mayoral candidate in 2009, when he earned roughly 40% of the vote. In any case, here's how the went:
  1. Kate Stewart - 323 votes
  2. Roger Schlegel - 315 votes
  3. Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum - 20 votes
  1. Kate Stewart - 332 votes
  2. Roger Schlegel - 324 votes
  3. Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum - ELIMINATED
In the first round of counting, no candidate won a majority of the vote, so the last place candidate's supporters determined the outcome of the race. After Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum was eliminated, his 20 votes were recounted for his supporters second choice candidates: 9 for Kate Stewart and 9 for Roger Schlegel. After this process was completed, Kate Stewart maintained her 8 vote lead and will be the next Ward 3 Councilmember for Takoma Park.

TURNOUT BELLWETHERS FROM TAKOMA PARK AND DC'S MAYORAL ELECTION? - One interesting thing to note in the Takoma Park results is the turnout figures. Indeed, a few candidates and operatives I've talked to this cycle have been trying to predict what turnout might look like in Maryland's upcoming June Democratic Primary. This is a bit of an x-factor, given that this is the first year Maryland is not holding its primaries in September. Here are a couple data points to consider. In 2011, Ward 3 had 2,241 voters, and turnout for this week's special election was 660 voters (or roughly 30%).

Meanwhile, nearby Washington, DC held Democratic Primary elections last Tuesday, April 1st. Like in Maryland, the early primary was a new feature for DC voters. In a post-election analysis, for the April elections and attributed part of this to the new date (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: A historically small swath of the city decided the race, with Tuesday’s turnout appearing to rival elections in 1986 and 1998 for the lowest in a mayoral primary in 40 years of District home rule. In part, the lower turnout reflected a new, earlier schedule for the city primaries, dictated by a federal law mandating more time between primary and general elections to expand absentee balloting.
Indeed, , even with a crowded field of candidates, multiple contested races, high profile political scandals, and heavy spending. Though in maps of voter turnout that I've seen, it is clear that the turnout drop was concentrated in a few Wards in DC. It remains to be seen whether any of these indicators are bellwethers for June turnout in Montgomery County and Maryland.

JUICE #4: STATUS CHECK ON MOCO COUNCIL RACES // ENDORSEMENTS BEGIN TO TRICKLE IN  - There are numerous competitive races for the Montgomery County Council this cycle. Here is a very quick round-up of developments in each of the contests. Note that a number of high-profile endorsements have not yet been announced in some of the county races.
DISTRICT 1: In District 1, incumbent Roger Berliner is facing off against former at-large Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg. Berliner has received the backing of the Sierra Club, , Brian Frosh, Rich Madaleno and Brian Feldman, and other community leaders. Meanwhile, Trachtenberg has been endorsed by a range of , one of whom described the . One report also indicates with promises to restore "effects bargaining" for MoCo police officers.

DISTRICT 3: In the District 3 open seat race, candidates include Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz, Gaithersburg Councilmember Ryan Spiegel, Rockville Councilmember Tom Moore, and activist Guled Kassim. In the D3 race, has earned the support of the teachers (aka MCEA) and public school retirees, while has the backing of the Sierra Club and the volunteer firefighters.

DISTRICT 5: In the District 5 open seat race, candidates include Delegate Tom Hucker, school board member Chris Barclay, and activists Evan Glass, Terrill North and Jeffrey Thames. Tom Hucker has earned endorsements from NARAL, Sierra Club, public school retirees and labor unions representing firefighters, police, county employees, electricians and more. Meanwhile, Chris Barclay has been endorsed by the teachers, alongside current and former Councilmembers: Valerie Ervin, Craig Rice, Cherri Branson and Nancy Navarro. Evan Glass has the support of Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams and City Councilmember Seth Grimes.Terrill North has endorsements from Takoma Park Councilmembers Jarrett Smith and Fred Schultz, along with former Takoma Park Councilmembers Kay Daniels Cohen, Hank Prensky and Donna Victoria.

AT-LARGE: Lastly, Montgomery County elects four at-large County Councilmembers, and all four incumbents are seeking re-election: Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer. Two challengers have entered the race: Beth Daly & Vivian Malloy. In previous election cycles, one at-large Councilmember typically loses, but it seems too early to size up the state of this race. So far newcomer Beth Daly has earned endorsements from the Sierra Club, public school retirees, Delegate Charles Barkley and Gaithersburg Councilmember Mike Sesma. Marc Elrich also has the support of the Sierra Club, while George Leventhal's supporters include Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams and City Councilmember Seth Grimes.

JUICE #5: MOCO SCHOOL BOARD RACES GETTING INTERESTING AS CANDIDATES ANNOUNCE ENDORSEMENTS - There is an unusual amount of activity in Montgomery County's non-partisan Board of Education races this year. All seats are contested, and the top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the General Election ballot to determine a winner in November. Note that in some of the races, there are only two candidates, meaning both will automatically advance to the General Election ballot. Here's a quick run-down of the races:
AT LARGE (OPEN SEAT): The open seat race for at-large school board has drawn four contenders: , Shebra Evans, Merry Eisner-Heidorn and Jill Ortman-Fouse. is the choice of the teachers union, has the support of the public school retirees, and has the support of Attorney General Doug Gansler, Sen. Jamie Raskin, and County Councilmember George Leventhal.

DISTRICT 1: Incumbent school board member Judy Docca is facing off against . Docca has the support of the teachers.

DISTRICT 3: Incumbent school board member is facing off against . O'Neill has the support of the teachers, public school retirees, and Coalition of Asian-Pacific American Democrats of Maryland.

DISTRICT 5: Incumbent school board member Mike Durso is facing off against Larry Edmonds. Durso has the support of the teachers. 

JUICE #6: BILLS THAT PASSED & FAILED THIS SESSION // ROLL CALL LINKS FOR MINIMUM WAGE, TRANSGENDER RIGHTS, MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION & MORE - Maryland's legislative session adjourned last Monday. Below we provide an update on the status of a few interesting and high-profile bills debated in Annapolis this session:

  • $10.10 Minimum Wage:  Roll Calls  [ 34-13 ] & [ 87-47 ]
  • Marijuana Decriminalization:  Roll Calls  [ 36-8 ] & [ 78-55 ]
  • Transgender Nondiscrimination:  Roll Calls  [ 32-15 ] & [ 82-57 ]
  • Tax Cut for Wealthy Estates: Roll Calls [ 36-10 ] & [ 119-14 ]
  • Ban on Shackling Pregnant Inmates: Roll Calls  [ 47-0 ] & [ 135-0 ]
  • License Plate Scanner Rules: Roll Calls [ 46-0 ] & [ 136-0 ]
  • Requiring Court Order for Electronic Surveillance: Roll Calls [ 46-0 ] & [ 134-0 ]
  • Shielding of Nonviolent Convictions:  Roll Call [ 44-3 ] & [ No House Floor Vote ]
  • Ban on Academic Boycotts:  [ ]

A final interesting bill worth mentioning is the proposed subsidy for the Netflix TV series "House of Cards." Though lawmakers approved $15 million in tax credits, the House and Senate were unable to agree on the full $18.5 million requested by the producers. on how the bill failed during the closing minutes of the Annapolis legislative session.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

JUICE: Final Marijuana Decriminalization & Minimum Wage Votes Imminent // PLUS: Updates on "House of Cards" & More!

Sorry for the long hiatus in posts recently, but my latest "project" is keeping me quite busy these days. And if it is successful, this blog will go through a bit of a transition. But that's a story for another day.

In the meantime, we thought it best to give a quick status check on high profile bills in Annapolis, given that the legislative session ends this coming Monday. It's now or never to get your final emails and calls in to lawmakers, but we already know the outcome of several high-profile battles. Below Maryland Juice provides a quick status check on various hot-button legislative initiatives of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION FACING "DO OR DIE" VOTE THIS SATURDAY MORNING  //  LAST CALL FOR EMAILS TO MD HOUSE MEMBERS - For the second year in a row, members of Maryland's State Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to remove jail time as a penalty for marijuana possession. Over a dozen other states have adopted this reform, and polling numbers indicate fewer than 10% of Marylanders believe incarceration is appropriate in these cases. But the bill has faced an oddly tortured debate in the House of Delegates, where Judiciary Chair Joe Vallario seeks to kill the legislation by turning it into a "study commission" bill. Reform advocates are now alerting supporters that there may be a "do or die" vote on the decriminalization bill today (Saturday). Sorry for the late notice. In any case, providing some details on the last ditch effort to pass marijuana decriminalization this year (excerpt below):
MARYLAND REPORTER: A wave of support among House Democrats for decriminalizing marijuana is apparently forcing the House Judiciary Committee to reverse itself and approve a Senate bill, SB364, removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The committee earlier this week had turned the legislation into a two-year study of the issue, but Del. Keiffer Mitchell sought to revive the bill on the floor Friday. Floor debate and a potential vote are set for Saturday.
After counting votes for decriminalization, House leaders apparently decided there was too much support for the move the Senate has passed two years in a row to go along with Judiciary Chairman Joe Vallario’s staunch opposition.... Mitchell said the racial disparities in marijuana arrests could not wait another two years....

CONTACT MD HOUSE MEMBERS ASAP: A diverse group of advocates who have joined forces under the umbrella of are calling on residents to contact members of the House of Delegates ASAP. You can send an email to your House members through the link below:

[    ]

The coalition includes groups ranging from the NAACP and ACLU to CASA de Maryland and Equality Maryland. Check out their urgent action alert and contact your House members as soon as possible. The vote on decriminalization is this Saturday, April 5th (excerpt below):
MARIJUANA POLICY COALITION OF MD: Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee gutted a decriminalization bill — SB 364 — and turned it into a study that wouldn’t even report its findings until December 2015. Since then, several delegates have made it clear they’re not going to let decriminalizing marijuana die a quiet death.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus plan to propose an amendment on the House floor to restore the bill to the version that passed the Senate! .

If you don’t have time to make a phone call, you can instead . It only takes a minute to let your voice be heard.

The vote will happen tomorrow (Saturday), so please don’t delay! Every year, about 20,000 Marylanders are arrested for possession of marijuana. Let your delegates know that it’s time for action, not yet another study. It’s past time for Maryland to stop branding its residents as criminals for using a substance that is safer than alcohol....

JUICE #2: MINIMUM WAGE HIKE FACING FINAL VOTE IN MD SENATE // HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED & WHAT COMES NEXT - Throughout the current legislative session, economic justice organizations have been calling on Maryland lawmakers to advance a minimum wage increase. Advocates specifically asked for the following reforms to the state's current $7.25 an hour wage rate:
  1. Raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour
  2. Raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the full minimum wage
  3. Index the minimum wage to adjust with inflation
THE HOUSE'S VERSION OF THE MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: The House of Delegates took up the minimum wage proposals ahead of the Senate, and (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: The Maryland House of Delegates on Friday approved a plan to increase the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 by 2017.... The bill approved by the House is somewhat less ambitious than what O’Malley (D) proposed....

This week, a House committee struck a provision from the governor’s bill that called for automatic increases in the minimum wage beyond 2017 based on inflation.... Under the bill, individual Maryland counties would be allowed to set higher minimum wages than the state. Late last year, the Montgomery and Prince George’s county councils voted to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017 in their jurisdictions.... The bill that passed the Maryland House would raise the minimum wage to $8.20 an hour on Jan. 1; to $9.15 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016; and to $10.10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2017.... The committee delayed the implementation date by six months to give businesses more time to adjust.

Lawmakers also carved out an exemption for Six Flags and other seasonal amusement park operators and, in response to pressure from the restaurant industry, changed the way that O’Malley proposed compensating tipped workers.... Tipped employees would have to be paid an hourly rate of $3.63 in addition to tips....
THE SENATE'S VERSION OF THE MINIMUM WAGE HIKE: In short, the House passed a $10.10 minimum wage to be phased in by 2017, but they removed advocates' "indexing" and tipped worker provisions, and they carved out an exemption for Six Flags. Tonight, the Maryland Senate settled on details of their version of the minimum wage bill and a final vote on the bill may happen tomorrow (SATURDAY). moving forward (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: Gov. Martin O'Malley's chief legislative priority to raise the minimum wage cleared another hurdle Friday as the Senate granted initial approval after a marathon debate. Lawmakers made 18 different attempts to redraft the proposal that incrementally raises pay for the state's lowest-earning workers from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2018.... the Senate could pass the measure as soon as Saturday....

The Senate created a "training wage" that allows employers to pay workers under 19 years old a lower rate for the first six months on the job. It also tied in the minimum wage increase to a hike in state pay for caregivers of the developmentally disabled, a plan that carries a $30 million price tag....
So the Senate's version of the minimum wage increase delays full implementation an extra year, compared to the House bill. Meanwhile, the exclusion of young workers is another twist in the narrative. (excerpt below):
RAISE MARYLAND: The Senate has completed the second reader of their version of the minimum wage bill, with one more scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday, April 5th). Unfortunately, their bill moved the phase-in period back so the minimum wage will not reach $10.10 until 2018, and it did not unfreeze the tipped minimum wage. However, this is still a big victory, given that advocates have been trying to raise Maryland's minimum wage since 2006. We look forward to both the Senate and House passing this bill right away!
Many of us are disappointed that the effort has been watered down, especially because removal of indexing means we will now be forced to fight for cost of living adjustments perpetually. But the context of the fight was happening in a seemingly (excerpt below):
WBAL: A marathon debate ensued in the Senate on Friday over the governor's minimum wage bill as time winds down before the close of the legislative session. They advanced the bill, paving the way for a rare Saturday voting session, giving both chambers just one day to find common ground.

An 11th-hour appeal arose as supporters of increasing the minimum wage formed a reception line to greet legislators entering the State House, urging them to get the bill on the governor's desk before the session ends midnight on Monday.

Liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans repeatedly tried to amend the legislation and for decidedly different reasons.... Liberal Democrats tried shorten the phase-in and tie future increases to the consumer price index, making a parallel to indexing the eventual elimination of the estate tax... The Senate is expected to take a final vote on the measure Saturday, but some wonder even then whether that's enough time to sort out differences before the session ends Monday....
Indeed, elimination of the tipped worker and indexing provisions is especially disappointing, but it seems these issues may have to return as advocacy efforts in future sessions.

JUICE #3: WHAT HAPPENED TO THE "HOUSE OF CARDS" HANDOUT, ESTATE TAX CUT, SECOND CHANCE ACT, TRANSGENDER BILL & MORE - A few bills of note were approved in recent weeks, and below we flag a few of the higher profile efforts:

TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES FOR THE "HOUSE OF CARDS" TV SERIES: were demanding millions of dollars in taxpayer handouts, while threatening to move production out of state if their demands were not met. Actor Kevin Spacey himself even personally lobbied lawmakers for the welfare payment, and Delegate Bill Frick introduced an interesting amendment in response to the extortion. (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Members of the Maryland House of Delegates are still stewing over a threat from the “House of Cards” producers to leave the state if they don’t get millions more dollars in tax credits. So delegates have issued a threat of their own: Sure, go ahead, leave this beautiful place that’s brimming with dedicated workers. But if you do that, state officials might use eminent domain to purchase, condemn or somehow seize your sets, equipment and other property.

The threat was proposed Thursday afternoon by Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) and quickly approved with barely any debate or even a roll-call vote. “I literally thought: What is an appropriate Frank Underwood response to a threat like this?” said Frick, referring to the Netflix drama’s lead character, a charming but conniving politician who murders, blackmails and threatens his way to greater power. “Eminent domain really struck me as the most dramatic response....  It’s a terrific show. I love it. You probably love it,” Frick said on the House floor. But, he added, the threatening letter that Media Rights Capital sent to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in January “went a little far....”
But alas, you can usually bet on the house to win, especially if the house in question involves industry lobbyists making lawmakers play "race-to-the-bottom" game theory. from the House of Cards bill, and so Maryland taxpayers will be paying the producers over $18 million to subsidize taping of Season 3 (excerpt below):
CAPITAL GAZETTE: A General Assembly conference committee has done away with a budget provision that would have allowed Maryland to seize the property of the production company for the Netflix television series "House of Cards...."

"House of Cards" is on track to have taken more than $30 million in tax credits through fiscal 2016.... The Senate has passed Senate Bill 1051, which would ramp up funding for the film credit from $7.5 million to $18.5 million....

MARYLAND SECOND CHANCE ACT: A bill to allow nonviolent offenders to shield their records from public view after a few years has . But advocates at the Job Opportunities Task Force were hoping to revive some of the provisions that were amended out during the legislative process (excerpt below):
JOB OPPORTUNITIES TASK FORCE: While we are thrilled that the senate committee listened to all of your calls and emails urging them to resist adopting the harmful amendments from the house bill to the senate bill and pass a clean senate bill, a conviction for theft under $1000 was removed from the list of crimes eligible for shielding.  This means that over 50,000 Marylanders convicted of theft will be unable to shield their record....

SHACKLING OF PREGNANT INMATES : Advocates have been attempting to ban the shackling of pregnant inmates in Maryland in recent sessions. But according to a press release from the ACLU, the bill has finally passed this year (excerpt below):
ACLU: Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland celebrated passage of House Bill 27, the Healthy Births for Incarcerated Women Act, which would impose restrictions on the shackling of pregnant incarcerated women during labor, delivery, and post-partum recovery. Delegates Mary L. Washington (D-Baltimore City), Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), and Barbara Robinson (D-Baltimore City), supported by a strong coalition of organizations, introduced HB 27 to ensure that Maryland’s women have protections against this barbaric and dangerous practice. The bill, which passed unanimously, now goes to Governor Martin O’Malley, who will hopefully sign it....

TRANSGENDER NONDISCRIMINATION: We previously reported that an effort to protect transgender residents from discrimination finally passed the Maryland Senate this year. Last week Senate sponsor Rich Madaleno reported that the House of Delegates joined the upper chamber in approving the legislation (excerpt below):
RICH MADALENO: I am thrilled to report that just moments ago, the Maryland House of Delegates passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act (Senate Bill 212) by a vote of 82-57.  Since the House passed the Senate bill without amendments, it now heads to Governor O’Malley for final approval.  When he signs this legislation, which I proudly sponsored, Maryland will be the 18th state in the nation – plus Washington, D.C. - to ensure equal civil rights protections for transgender persons....

TAX CUT FOR WEALTHY ESTATES: Liberal advocacy group Progressive Maryland has been fighting a cut to the state's estate tax for the wealthiest residents this year. But that the State House and Senate approved the tax cut this session (excerpt below):
PROGRESSIVE MARYLAND: Governor Martin O'Malley must soon decide whether to sign or , one of the General Assembly's most misguided bills to gift Maryland's wealthiest 3% a wholly unwarranted major tax cut at the expense of the rest of us. As Dan Rodrick's recent column in the Baltimore Sun, , explains:
"If Gov. Martin O'Malley signs it into law, the measure would raise the amount of an estate exempt from Maryland's tax from 1 million to nearly 6 million. The new exemption would cost the state more than 100 million in annual revenue by 2019, when it would fully take effect. Over the five-year phase-in, the loss to the state would be an estimated 431 million..."
This bill’s passage through the House and Senate is grossly ironic, given the struggles of so many families and recent disclosure that Maryland's in a budget hole that could place state employee pension funds on the chopping block. Politicians' arguments that Maryland isn’t competitive enough and that wealthy might move away if they don't cut this tax run counter to the facts....

MOCO SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION DOLLARS: Though lawmakers found funding to cut $431 million in taxes for wealthy estates and $18 million for Kevin Spacey's TV show, it appears that Montgomery County is not going to get increased funding for its overcrowded schools. (excerpt below):
GAZETTE: Maryland has three days left in its legislative session and ... Montgomery County’s top priority for the session appears to be headed nowhere. The session ends at midnight Monday. Montgomery County has been pushing since the outset of the 90-day session in January to establish a dedicated program that would provide the county with school construction funding. As of Thursday, both proposals to do just that are mired in committees with no hope of advancing. Montgomery asked for up to $20 million in extra school construction matching funds from the state by way of either a capital grant or an application program....

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