Could Global Factors Slow The Local Solar Boom?

Maryland has seen a rapid growth in both utility-scale and smaller-level solar generation capacity – witnessed by the land use pressures facing many parts of the state (and legislation in recent years to address those continuing pressures). See prior Conduit Street coverage of solar issues for a flavor of this ongoing challenge to local, especially agricultural, land use.

A report on the Bloomberg news site indicates that China’s recent announcement of reduced plans for new solar installations could trigger a contraction in this market, where growth has been strong in recent years:

The global solar market could do something this year that it’s never done before: shrink.

Solar installations in 2018 may total 95 gigawatts, down 3 percent from a year earlier, based on the most conservative of three scenarios modeled by Bloomberg NEF in a report Monday. For comparison’s sake, the typical nuclear reactor has about a gigawatt of capacity.

The forecast, even with its potential call for some retraction, still suggests an overall upward trend, possibly fueled by a decline in price for equipment and materials for installations, also resulting from reduced Chinese demand.

Floreen May Make Independent Run for Montgomery County Executive

In the wake of a still too-close-to-call Democratic primary, term limited Council Member Nancy Floreen turned heads as she filed a declaration to run as an independent candidate for Montgomery County Executive.

The filing of an intention to run is a necessary step toward a formal bid as a party-unaffiliated candidate for the office. As part of her filing, Floreen indicated that she has not yet committed to a run, but submitted the filing by Monday’s deadline to leave that option open. Floreen was term-limited from running again as an at-large Council Member, and did not run in this year’s Democratic primary for any office.

From coverage on the “Bethesda Beat” political section of Bethesda Magazine:

Floreen, who lives in Garrett Park, said in a statement released Monday afternoon that she filed the paperwork because she faced a Monday deadline to do so, but she will wait until the Democratic primary results are certified to decide if she will run for county executive.

At-large council member Marc Elrich and businessman David Blair remain locked in a tight race for the Democratic nomination for county executive that hinges on an ongoing count of provisional and absentee ballots. After the most recent count concluded on Friday, Elrich leads Blair by 149 votes.

Election officials plan to count more than 5,000 provisional and absentee ballots on Thursday and Friday, which is expected to decide who won the Democratic primary.

The Washington Post also detailed the potentially uncertain footing of an independent run, while currently remaining registered as a Democrat:

In her letter to the Montgomery County Board of Elections, Floreen wrote that she plans to change her party affiliation to independent from Democrat on July 9, when voter registration reopens.

“At that point, my petition drive will commence,” she wrote.

She added that she believed there was an “issue raised about my eligibility” to run as an independent, but she argued that there was nothing requiring her to be an independent until she is nominated, which wouldn’t occur until next month.

Floreen’s filing on Monday complied with the deadline for doing so, but was in discord with state law’s restriction that voters may not alter party affiliation until 11 days following the primary election.

Middleton Upset in Senate Race, Among Numerous Annapolis Leaders Departing

Senator Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and longtime county champion, was upset in his District 28 primary by challenger Arthur Ellis. With all precincts reporting, Ellis holds a 52-48% edge, likely enough to withstand any remaining provisional and other as-yet-uncounted ballots.

Middleton served as President of the Charles County Commissioners, and a member of the MACo Legislative Committee, before pursuing the State Senate seat in 1994. In the Senate, he rose through leadership to become a well-respected committee chair, and frequent floor “broker” of politically complicated compromises. He was also a stalwart defender of local governments, reflecting on his time as a county commissioner often as he weighed policy matters in the General Assembly.

Middleton was one of several General Assembly leadership victims. House Judiciary Committee Chair Joe Vallario was also a primary victim, running third in his two-member sub-district. Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affair Committee Chair Joan Carter Conway was slightly behind after Tuesday’s vote-counting in her Baltimore City primary bid.

Maryland Matters has prepared a thorough discussion of leadership changes in Annapolis from this week’s primaries, available online under the title “Stunning Developments.” Few political observers expected the Middleton primary defeat.

Coupling the primary defeats with a number of voluntary retirements or departures, the General Assembly in 2019 will likely see its greatest leadership transformation in a generation.

Davis Advances in Delegate Bid

Charles County Commissioner Debra Davis succeeded in her primary bid to join the House of Delegates, securing the Democratic nomination for District 28. She joins returning incumbents C.T. Wilson and Edith Patterson as nominees into the general election, where Democrats have held all three seats since 2006.

Commissioner Davis has served for two terms, after initially being elected to serve District 2 in 2010. In addition to various posts within Charles County, Commissioner Davis has also served since 2015 as the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Local Government Insurance Trust (LGIT), helping guide its delivery of insurance coverage for local governments across Maryland. Commissioner Davis practices law outside her public service roles.

See the State Board of Elections results for District 28 and elsewhere across Charles County.

State Secretaries Hance, Hutchins Advancing In Calvert Commissioner Race

Two familiar Annapolis figures have advanced in contested primary contests for Calvert County Commissioner – former Agriculture Secretary Earl “Buddy” Hance, and former Delegate and current State Homeland Security Advisor Thomas “Tim” Hutchins. These two will advance to the general election as Republicans, joining incumbent Steve Weems, Mike Hart, and newcomer Kelly McConkey.

Current Commissioner and MACo Board member Evan Slaugenhoupt, Jr. did not seek election to a third term. Incumbent Commissioner Tom Hejl was defeated in the at large primary by Hance.

For the last two terms, Calvert has elected all five Republican nominees.

Tim Hutchins served as a State Delegate from District 28 (Charles County) from 1995 to 2003, after which he joined the Ehrlich Administration. Across the two most recent Republican administrations, he has served in numerous cabinet-level capacities: Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs, Secretary of State Police, and currently as Governor Hogan’s Homeland Security Advisor.

Earl “Buddy” Hance served as Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 to 2015 under Governor O’Malley. During the same time, he served on the University of Maryland Board of Regents, and in his Secretary capacity as a leader or member of numerous state-level administrative and governance bodies.

See the Calvert County results from the State Board of Elections website.

MACo’s election coverage and analysis relies, as always, on unofficial results published by the State Board of Elections. Official results will follow, after a full accounting of pending ballots. Given the larger-than-usual expected number of provisional ballots (which would not be included in the unofficial vote total), readers are advised that any close unofficial results are subject to realignment in the days ahead.

Alsobrooks Earns Strong Victory in Prince George’s Exec Primary

Current State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks won a decisive victory in the Prince George’s County Executive race, establishing a full majority with nearly 62% of the vote from a nine-member field with multiple credentialed candidates. Among the other candidates included former Congressional representative Donna Edwards, current State Senator C. Anthony Muse, and one-time Lieutenant Governor Sam Bogley.

Alsobrooks has served since 2014 as Prince George’s County State’s Attorney, the first woman and the youngest official to serve in that role. After graduation from the University of Maryland Law School, Angela began her career as a Prince George’s County Assistant State’s Attorney in 1997, eventually becoming the county’s first full-time prosecutor assigned to handle domestic violence cases where she tried, and successfully prosecuted scores of cases against violent offenders. She has also served as an education liaison for Prince George’s County.

From the Washington Post coverage:

“We are so looking forward to moving our county forward,” ­Alsobrooks told cheering supporters Tuesday night.

“I have heard you loudly and clearly. More than anything, I know Prince Georgians,” said ­Alsobrooks, who promised to address residents’ concerns about county schools.

Republican Jerry Mathis will also be on the ballot in November, but in heavily Democratic Prince George’s, the primary is tantamount to winning the election.

See the Washington Post election night coverage.

See the Maryland State Board of Elections site for full Prince George’s County results.

Redmer Wins Narrow Republican Primary in Baltimore County Exec Race

In a widely-watched and close contest, former Delegate and sitting Hogan Administration official Al Redmer, Jr. d=has defeated Delegate Pat McDonough to advance to the general election contest for Baltimore County Executive. The eventual margin, roughly 55-45%, was the closest in the Republican primary in that county for several cycles.

Redmer had served in the House of Delegates for 13 years, including two years as it Minority Leader. He also served under two governors (Erlich and Hogan) as Maryland Insurance Commissioner. He has extensive private sector experience in both insurance and financial fields.

The Baltimore Sun reported from the campaign’s election night event:

Redmer thanked his family and campaign staff — and looked ahead to November’s general election.

“We will run the most energetic, organized and competitive Republican campaign in a generation,” Redmer said. He said he would reach out to “like-minded” Democrats who want to see a change in Baltimore County leadership. The county hasn’t had a Republican county executive since the early 1990s.

Read coverage from the Baltimore Sun on Redmer’s victory declaration.

Redmer will face the Democratic winner in the November general election. Following a very close Democratic primary, former Delegate John Olszewski, Jr. holds a narrow lead, but the final results will likely depend on remaining ballots. See Conduit Street‘s coverage of the close Democratic race.

MACo’s election coverage and analysis relies, as always, on unofficial results published by the State Board of Elections. Official results will follow, after a full accounting of pending ballots. Given the larger-than-usual expected number of provisional ballots (which would not be included in the unofficial vote total), readers are advised that any close unofficial results are subject to realignment in the days ahead.

Baltimore County Exec Dem Race Ends With Olszewski Atop Narrow Three-Way “Finish”

Among the closest contests from the primary results was the Democratic primary for Baltimore County Executive – where Tuesday’s counts end with former Delegate John Olszewski, Jr. as the leader – but only slightly ahead of both current Senator James Brochin and current Council Member Victoria Almond. Through Tuesday’s reporting (apparently with not quite every precinct even reported), the full margin between first and third finishers was a mere 1.3%. With only 361 votes separating the top two (Olszewski over Brochin), a final accounting will likely be needed to certify the primary winner.

In the Republican primary, former Delegate and current Hogan Administration official Al Redmer edged Delegate Pat McDonough, to advance to the general election contest. See Conduit Street coverage of the Republican Primary.

Olszewski had served two terms in the House of Delegates, representing the Dundalk-area District 6, and served during a part of that time as the Baltimore County Delegation chair. He was defeated in a run for the Senate seat in the district in the 2014 election.

See the State Board of Elections results page for all Baltimore County reported vote tallies.

MACo’s election coverage and analysis relies, as always, on unofficial results published by the State Board of Elections. Official results will follow, after a full accounting of pending ballots. Given the larger-than-usual expected number of provisional ballots (which would not be included in the unofficial vote total), readers are advised that any close unofficial results are subject to realignment in the days ahead.

Elrich Edging Blair in Tight Montgomery Exec Race

In a closely-watched multi-way Democratic primary contest, sitting County Councilmember Marc Elrich emerged Tuesday night with a narrow edge on businessman David Blair. The margin narrows the race to those two candidates, but the close margin will surely oblige a full accounting of absentee and provisional ballots to fully resolve the primary, which in recent elections has been tantamount to a determination of the eventual officeholder.

Council Member Elrich has served three terms on the Montgomery County Council, most recently serving as chair of its Public Safety Committee. He has been one of four at-large members of the Council, and was one of three affected by the recently-implemented term limits, adopted by charter amendment during the 2014 elections. Prior to his county service, Elrich served for 10 terms on the Takoma Park City Council.

Elrich’s campaign received wide support from labor organizations, among other county-level stakeholders. Marc attended Montgomery County Public Schools and graduated from Einstein High School. He earned a BA in History from the University of Maryland and a Masters in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University. Marc raised his now adult children in Montgomery County and has four grandchildren.

Visit the State Board of Elections site for detailed results from the 2018 primary election in Montgomery County.

MACo’s election coverage and analysis relies, as always, on unofficial results published by the State Board of Elections. Official results will follow, after a full accounting of pending ballots. Given the larger-than-usual expected number of provisional ballots (which would not be included in the unofficial vote total), readers are advised that any close unofficial results are subject to realignment in the days ahead.

SCOTUS Opens Door To State Taxation of Internet, “Remote” Sales

In a widely anticipated decision, the US Supreme Court has struck down a longstanding rule preventing states from imposing their sales taxes on sellers who do not have a physical presence in that state.

Today’s decision in the case South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. represents a stark turnaround from longstanding federal policy precluding state enforcement of sales taxes on sellers without a “nexus” (typically a physical presence such as a retail location) within that state. The decision, long sought by state and local governments, could promote far broader application of sales taxes, and remove a lingering tax inequity between local and remote sales.

Maryland does not authorize broad-based local sales taxes (like many other states do), so the local effects for county governments are likely to be far lesser than elsewhere. However, the potential effects on the state fiscal posture are significant. As the state grapples with a forecasted structural deficit, and anticipates substantial new education spending commitments, a broadened application of sales tax collection responsibilities by non-Maryland retailers could play a role in state fiscal planning.

Like in many states, Maryland’s sales tax is technically written as a “Sales and Use Tax,” meaning it obliges tax payment not only on taxable purchases within the state, but also on taxable items purchased elsewhere but brought into Maryland for use. The enforcement of those provisions, especially upon individuals, is understandably troublesome. Some Marylanders may receive notification from the Office of the Comptroller indicating a tax obligation after purchasing out-of-state furniture, for example, independent of whether the retailer collected sales tax. Taxpayers are able, and indeed obligated, to directly remit the “use tax” on such purchases. But implementation on smaller cross-border sales is administratively impossible. Efficient sales tax administration inherently relies on the seller’s willingness to calculate, collect, and remit the taxes due.

A more complex matter arises with online retailers, whose physical presence may be very limited geographically to one site, but who solicit and conduct business in Maryland and other states with similar tax laws. For decades, under previous court holdings, states could not impose any collection/remittance obligation onto such retailers, unless there was a physical tie to the collecting state. In today’s Wayfair ruling, the courts overturned that principle, and seemingly opened the doors for states, through legislation and/or administration, to seek broader application and collection of existing taxes.

In a joint statement, numerous local government organizations comments on the ruling:

State and local organizations applaud the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision recognizing that the 1992 Quill ruling put Main Street retailers at a competitive disadvantage to remote sellers and the efforts by states to simplify the sales tax collection process and giving those states remote sales tax collection authority. For 26 years Congress has failed to act and through the efforts of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the federal government has finally recognized the changing nature of commerce and state efforts to simplify the collection process.

For more background on the Wayfair case:

The SCOTOSblog site with links to arguments, filings, and other resources

The NACo coverage of April oral arguments on the Wayfair case