Delegate Aumann Bows out of Md. Senate race, Re-Election Bid

Delegate Susan Aumann, Courtesy of Maryland Manual Online

Baltimore County state Del. Susan Aumann is leaving elected office after four terms, the Republican confirmed in a statement Tuesday.

“Serving in the General Assembly is an incredible honor. To help our communities and to have had many successes over the last fifteen years has been an experience of a lifetime,” Aumann said.

WBAL reports,

Aumann represents District 42B, which includes much of northern Baltimore County. She was floated as a contender for Democrat Jim Brochin’s 42nd district state Senate seat. Brochin is considering a run for county executive in 2018.

“This past year has been challenging on a personal level with health concerns and deaths in my family that have required more time and focus,” Aumann said. “I want you to know that I will not be seeking election to either the House or Senate in 2018 so I may dedicate more attention to my family.”

The Daily Record, which broke the story of Aumann’s exit, reports she’s leaving elected office to care for her 90-year-old mother. She will complete the rest of her term.

She highlighted achievements of her time in office, including improvements at Towson University, air conditioning at Ridgely Middle School and restrictions on off-track betting at Timonium Fairgrounds.

“I am truly grateful to work on your behalf through these projects and others, too many to list,” Aumann said. “Thank you for your trust in me.”

Read the full article for more information.

MACo Seeking 2018 Legislative Initiative Ideas

MACo is currently welcoming suggestions for legislative initiatives for the 2018 legislative session.

Each year, MACo adopts up to four topics to forward as initiatives — working with supportive legislators to get those bills introduced and enacted. Past years have seen a wide range of MACo focus — from major budgetary topics to legal clarifications to public health measures.

County governing bodies, individual elected officials, MACo’s professional affiliate groups, MACo chapter organizations, and others within the county community are welcome to suggest topics for consideration. Suggestions may be submitted by email to MACo Executive Director Michael Sanderson by July 7.

MACo has an Initiatives Committee that meets through the interim period to review and evaluate the various proposals. The Committee typically presents its recommendations to the MACo Legislative Committee in the fall for the slate of initiatives to be adopted for the year ahead. From that point on, the membership and staff begin work on engaging supportive legislators, connecting with other interested players, and drafting the proposed statutory language needed.

Submit your suggestions to MACo for a 2018 MACo Initiative by July 7!

Speaker Busch Undergoes Liver Transplant

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch, one of the state’s most powerful political leaders, underwent a liver transplant Thursday to resolve ongoing health problems he has attributed to skin cancer medication.

In a brief interview with The Capital on Wednesday, the Annapolis Democrat said his health had taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks.

As reported in The Capital Gazette,

Busch’s physicians at the University of Maryland Medical Center diagnosed him with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, a form of liver disease, and determined in May that it was progressing.

At that point, Busch said he and his doctors decided on a liver transplant through the hospital’s living donor program. His sister provided the donation.

The speaker’s chief of staff, Alexandra Hughes, said Thursday evening that Busch was out of surgery and recovering.

Busch, 70, downplayed his health problems earlier this month when he filed to run for re-election as a delegate in District 30A. He said Wednesday his doctors told him he can expect a seven-week recovery period.

The speaker was upbeat about his surgery and the prospects for regaining his health. One of his daughters recently graduated from college and the other has completed her freshman year. Both are planning to spend the next few months at home with Busch and his wife, Cindy, during his recuperation.

“It’s good that they’ll be home this summer,” he said.

As word of the apparently successful surgery spread Thursday night, those who know Busch wished him well. His office sent an email with details to members of the House of Delegates just before 7 p.m.

“Liver surgery is obviously very serious,” Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh said. “My understanding is that it went very, very well, and in fact it could not have gone better.”

Busch’s fellow presiding officer, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, sent him well wishes.

“I wish him the very best and hope for a speedy recovery,” Miller said in a statement.

Busch, who is the longest-serving speaker in Maryland history, had previously brushed aside concerns about his health. He has lost a significant amount of weight in the last year, a complication from what he described as internal bleeding caused by medication prescribed to treat skin cancer on his legs.

When he filed paperwork to seek another term May 19, Busch said he was on the mend and hoped to be back to full strength by the fall.

In a statement released by his office Thursday, Busch acknowledged the situation has changed. He said he remained lethargic after a brief hospitalization last fall. In the final days of the General Assembly session in April, he could be seen taking brief breaks from floor proceedings.

Even in announcing the surgery, Busch made a political point in a veiled reference to ongoing Republican efforts in Washington to roll back the Affordable Care Act.

“Major surgery of this nature is always daunting,” he said in the prepared statement. “Unlike many in our state and our country, I am fortunate to have good health insurance and access to the best medical care in the country. This is the first significant medical issue I have had in my life and it does force you to reflect on those who may not have the same quality of care that many of us are blessed with.”

Read the full article for more information.

Governor Hogan Vetoes Sick Leave Bill

Governor Hogan today announced he will veto HB 1 / SB 230, Labor and Employment – Maryland Healthy Working Families Act, a bill that would have required employers with 15 or more full-time employees to provide workers with at least five days of sick and safe leave per year.

Hogan had proposed a rival bill that would require paid sick and safe leave for businesses with 50 or more employees and provide tax incentives to smaller businesses that provide leave. Democrats rejected that approach, noting that large businesses typically already provide employees with paid sick leave.

The bill was passed by veto-proof margins in both the Senate and House of Delegates. But unless the vetoed bill is taken up in a special session of the legislature, sick and safe leave advocates will have to wait until the Assembly reconvenes in January for a potential veto override vote.

Governor Hogan announced that his administration will submit a “common sense paid sick leave proposal” as emergency legislation on the first day of the next session. He also said he will issue three executive orders. The first will create a study to examine all aspects of sick leave in Maryland, the second will extend paid sick leave to all contractual employees of the executive branch of state government, and the third will give employers that offer paid sick leave a preference in seeking state government contracts.

The legislation would have also required county governments to provide sick leave to all employees. While county governments generally provide generous benefits, at a much higher rate than the legislation would require, MACo opposed the legislation, raising concerns about the bill’s potential effects on provision of emergency and essential services and with the bill’s broad requirements for providing leave to part-time, seasonal, and contractual employees in the same manner as full-time employees.

Useful Links

MACo Testimony on HB 1

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland General Assembly Gives Final OK to Democrats’ Sick Leave Bill

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Right-sized Sick Leave, a Goldilocks Debate

Hogan Plans to Sign More Than 200 Bills Today. Paid Sick Leave is Not Among Them

Governor Larry Hogan will sign 209 bills today in what is believed to be his eighth and final bill signing of the 2017 legislative session.

The list includes a package of measures to address the state’s growing heroin epidemic. But missing from the hundreds of bills are several high-profile measures that are awaiting action from Hogan, including a top priority of Democratic legislative leaders that requires employers to provide paid sick leave benefits to their workers.

The Washington Post reports,

Hogan also has yet to take action on several other measures, including one that gives the attorney general the power to take legal action against drug companies that dramatically increase the price of off-patent or generic drugs; a bill that allows pharmacists to dispense contraceptives and a piece of legislation that prohibits public and private colleges and universities from including questions about criminal history on their applications.

The governor has 30 days to take action on bills presented to his office. The clock runs out on the paid sick leave bill on Saturday, May 27.

“Too many families know all too well that even if you are lucky enough to have affordable health care if you can not afford to take a day off to see a doctor,” Liz Richards, the director of the Working Matters Coalition, said in a statement. “Governor Hogan has the power to make this smart policy change for a stronger, healthier Maryland by signing” the bill.

Hogan’s office would not comment on whether he plans to veto the paid sick leave bill or if he plans to let the bill become law without his signature.

If Hogan refuses to sign the bill, it won’t be the first time he has allowed a socially progressive piece of legislation to become law without his signature.

Earlier this year, the governor allowed a bill to become law without his signature that commits state funds to reimburse Planned Parenthood clinics for their services if Congress defunds the organization. Hogan also let a measure move forward without his signature that gives additional state money to the attorney general’s office to help it sue the Trump administration over health care, environment and immigration.

The bill would also require county governments to provide sick leave to all employees. While county governments generally provide generous benefits, at a much higher rate than the legislation would require, MACo opposed the legislation, raising concerns about the bill’s potential effects on provision of emergency and essential services and with the bill’s broad requirements for providing leave to part-time, seasonal, and contractual employees in the same manner as full-time employees.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Maryland General Assembly Gives Final OK to Democrats’ Sick Leave Bill

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Right-sized Sick Leave, a Goldilocks Debate

Anne Arundel County Council Chairman John Grasso to Run for State Senate

Term limits prevent Anne Arundel County Council Chairman John Grasso from trying for another four years on the council. But the outspoken Republican from Glen Burnie says he’s not ready to retire from politics.

Grasso recently announced he plans to run for Senate in District 32, mounting a likely challenge to incumbent state Sen. Ed DeGrange, a Democrat who has represented the northwest county district for nearly 20 years.

According to the Capital Gazette,

“As anybody’s seen, I’ve passed a boatload of legislation in Anne Arundel County, and there’s things I believe I can do in the state government,” Grasso said. “There’s certain things you can’t do as a county councilman that you can do as a state official.”

Maryland’s Republican party welcomed the news as another step toward its goal of identifying credible candidates to run in nine districts represented by Democrats where Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, won a majority of votes in 2014.

Grasso, who’s served twice as chairman of the council and once as vice-chairman, has broken with the party line before as a councilman. First elected in 2010, he’s developed a reputation as an occasional wild card.

An enthusiastic supporter of Donald Trump during the presidential election — he dubbed himself “the Trump of Anne Arundel County” — Grasso has also voted with Democrats on environmental issues, such as instituting a stormwater fee to pay for water quality improvements, and greater transparency in government.

“I’m not a political person,” he said. “I try to do what’s best for the people.”

A few ideas for legislation Grasso said he’s considering if elected include measures requiring judges to issue decisions on cases within 60 days, supporting school vouchers and finding a way to ensure child support payments are spent directly on children.

He said he thinks District 32, which represents parts of Glen Burnie, Fort George G. Meade, Jessup, Linthicum, Odenton and Severn, needs a new voice.

“You need people that are constantly going to move forward with new ideas, fresh ideas,” he said. “When you’re in there that long, you’ve got to go.”

DeGrange, who has not yet announced his intentions for 2018, said he’s proud of his record as a senator since 1999.

“I’ve been elected numerous times in the district and I’m not getting any sense that people are dissatisfied with the work and the representation that I’ve given them over the years,” he said.

The Democrat from Glen Burnie is no lightweight; he chairs the Senate’s capital budget subcommittee and has garnered 59 percent of the vote or more in all but his first election.

“I’ve always felt that the voters will implement term limits when they feel that people aren’t representing them properly,” he said.

Read the full article for more information.

Gov. Hogan Vetoes Redistricting Bill, Setting Up Showdown with Legislature

Governor Larry Hogan on Monday vetoed a bill that would put a nonpartisan commission in charge of drawing the state’s congressional districts if five other states agreed to do the same.

His rejection of the measure immediately sparked criticism from Democratic leaders and potentially sets up a veto-override vote next year in the state legislature, where Democrats have strong majorities in both chambers.

According to The Washington Post,

Hogan described the vetoed bill, sponsored by Sen. Craig J. Zucker (D-Montgomery), as a “phony bill masquerading as redistricting reform.” He noted that the measure failed to address redistricting of Maryland’s legislative districts and said the chances of a multistate compact for congressional maps are unrealistic in today’s political climate.

He said he preferred a single-state solution, which he has proposed for the past two years.

The Maryland chapters of Common Cause Maryland and the League of Women Voters, which have pushed for a nonpartisan redistricting process to end partisan gerrymandering, applauded the governor’s veto, saying in a statement that the proposal for a multistate compact “set an impossibly high bar.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) issued a joint statement criticizing the governor’s veto.

“Today’s veto reveals that, instead of supporting a true, non-partisan solution that could restore accountability and cooperation to Washington, Governor Hogan prefers his plan to simply elect more Republicans to Congress,” the leaders said.

They did not comment on whether they will try to overturn the veto, which requires 85 votes in the House and 29 in the Senate.

The bill received 30 votes in the Senate and 87 in the House.

Hogan has proposed that Maryland act alone in creating an independent redistricting commission to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts. The measures died in committee both years.

Maryland Democrats have said the state should not unilaterally switch to independent redistricting while many Republican-dominated states continue to gerrymander their voting maps.

Bryan Lesswing, a spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said Hogan’s redistricting plan would hand President Trump and congressional Republicans “more votes to carry out their agenda.”

The state Republican Party is working to end the veto-proof Democratic majority in the Senate by taking over five seats in the 2018 election, a change that could force Democrats to compromise with Hogan more on legislation.

Sen. James Brochin (D-Baltimore County), who stood with Hogan at the veto news conference, said he supports the governor’s proposal.

He said his party is “missing out on the boat, and they may end up being very sorry in the next election if they hold their ground.”

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: House Committee Votes Down Gov. Hogan’s Redistricting Bill

Read the full article from The Washington Post

Senator Madaleno at Metro Rally: I’m Running for Governor

Maryland state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) told a crowd of activists rallying around dedicated Metro funding Sunday that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in 2018.

According to The Washington Post,

In a soaring speech appealing to the pro-worker crowd, Madaleno said that he supported prioritizing public transit in the D.C. region and that the region must unite to “find bold solutions to solve our problems with the ­Metro system.”

“I’m committed to giving you a new, bold vision for our area — one that focuses on collaboration,” he said. “It is time for a change, which is exactly why I’m running for governor.”

The crowd erupted in applause.

Madaleno, a member of the Senate since 2007, has been a leading liberal critic of Hogan in Annapolis and is vice chair of the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. He was the first openly gay lawmaker elected to the Senate.

With more than 13 months until the June 26, 2018 primary, he is one of eight Democrats who have expressed interest in the race.

All eight participated in a Western Maryland straw poll of potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates last month. U.S. Rep. John Delaney (Md.), whose district includes Western Maryland, finished first in the poll with 66 votes. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz received 41 votes; former NAACP executive director Benjamin Jealous received 22; Baltimore attorney James L. Shea garnered 16; former state attorney general Douglas F. Gansler won 13; and Madaleno and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III each received 12.

Entrepreneur Alec Ross, the only Democrat who has officially launched his campaign, did not get any votes in the straw poll.

Madaleno served four years in the House of Delegates before joining the Senate. Before that, he was a budget analyst with what is now the state Department of Legislative Services.

He and several of the other hopefuls have been busy in recent weeks, appearing at Democratic gatherings around the state. He told The Washington Post he will make a formal announcement of his candidacy at a later date.

Hogan has said he will seek a second term, but he has not formally launched his campaign.

Useful Links

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Tech Entrepreneur from Baltimore Becomes First Democrat to Enter Md. Governor’s Race

Read the full article from The Washington Post

Governor Hogan Signs 20 Environmental Bills Into Law

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan took a bipartisan ride with state Democratic leaders in an electric car Thursday to a waterside bill-signing ceremony for environmental initiatives.

Hogan, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch smiled and posed for photographs before they stepped into an electric blue Hyundai. Hogan took the front passenger seat and a state trooper took the wheel.

According to WBAL,

“We’ve got bills that we’ve worked together, with both sides of the aisle, to protect the air, to protect the water and protect the soil, and we’re going to continue to do it,” Hogan said at the Annapolis City Dock, not far from the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Here’s a look at some of the legislation:

ELECTRIC CARS

Maryland will increase investment in the Electric Vehicle Tax Credit program by more than 30 percent. The Charging Station Tax Rebate will be doubled, to a maximum of $4,000, and the electric car tax credit program will allow deductions for $100 per kWH of battery life per vehicle, up to the same maximum tax credit of $3,000.

CLEAN WATER COMMERCE

The state will allow up to $10 million each year of the Bay Restoration Fund to be used to pay for pollution reductions Maryland will use to meet the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Improvement Plan by 2025.

MARYLAND ENERGY INNOVATION INSTITUTE

A new institute at the University of Maryland will collaborate to develop and attract private investment and commercialize clean energy innovations.

HEALTHY SOILS

The Maryland Department of Agriculture will provide farmers with research, education, technical assistance and potential financial assistance to improve soil health on Maryland farms.

COWNOSE RAYS

A moratorium will be put in place on killing cownose rays in contests through July 1, 2019. The measure requires the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a fisheries management plan for the rays by Dec. 31, 2018.

OFFSHORE WIND

Hogan declined to taking a position on a decision the Maryland Public Service Commission is expected to make this month on two offshore wind proposals near Ocean City. The PSC could enable Maryland to host the nation’s largest offshore windfarm.

“The law was passed a while ago,” Hogan told reporters after the ceremony, referring to the 2013 Maryland law creating a regulatory framework for offshore wind. “It’s finally come to fruition, but that’s a decision that the independent body – the PSC – has to make, and we’re following it very closely but don’t have any role in the process.”

Read the full article for more information.

Unfinished Business Over Medical Cannabis, Parental Rights Push Calls for Special Session

A Baltimore Sun article (2017-04-18) reported that the late-Session failure of two bills have prompted calls for the Maryland General Assembly to reconvene in a special session. The two bills dealt with issuing licenses to minority-owned medical cannabis firms and removing the parental rights of alleged rapists. From the article:

In the final hours of this year’s session, lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have let rape victims who become pregnant during the assault terminate parental rights of their alleged attackers. …

The other [failed bill] would have expanded the medical marijuana industry to specifically include minority-owned firms, and the Legislative Black Caucus has demanded the governor and presiding officers recall lawmakers to Annapolis to pass it.

On Tuesday, [Senate President Thomas V. “Mike”] Miller acknowledged that no conversations have taken place to reach a deal on calling a special session. Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch remain divided on whether the medical marijuana expansion should automatically award licenses to two specific companies.

“We haven’t talked about it,” Miller told reporters after a bill signing in Annapolis.

But Miller said that if a special session is called, he wants to revisit the proposed law about parental rights of alleged rapists.