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School Schedule Changes, The Estate Tax, The "Taxi Tax," and Speed Cameras

A roundup of this morning's school schedule changes, a result of freezing rain. Plus: General Assembly matters, including the estate tax, speed cameras, retroactive health insurance, and Del. Don Dwyer's loss of a committee assignment. Also: Baltimore's "taxi tax," a Medicare waiver, and more.

School Schedule Changes: Freezing rain in the morning forecast has prompted 2-hour delays for schools in Baltimore City and Baltimore County2-hour delays also in effect for schools in Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Howard, and Montgomery Counties. Schools in Cecil County, Kent County and Queen Anne's County are now closed.

Emergency Legislation On Retroactive Health Insurance: Lawmakers in the General Assembly have set a date for hearings on a piece of emergency legislation that would allow retroactive health insurance for people who were unable to sign up for coverage in the final days of 2013, due to problems with the state’s online exchange. Committees in both the House of Delegates and the state Senate will consider the bill on Tuesday and final passage could happen by the end of next week. The measure was introduced by Governor Martin O’Malley’s administration. The Washington Post reports that it could cost the state between $5-million and $10-million, depending on how many people enroll and how much medical care they need.

Medicare Wavier To Be Approved Today: Under a plan set to be announced today, Maryland could become a national model regarding Medicare. Federal officials will announce approval of a waiver for the state today. Under it, Maryland will continue setting hospital payment rates for patients. The Baltimore Sun reports that it’ll lead to a change in the way Maryland hospitals do business… instead of getting reimbursed based on admissions, they’ll get a pool of money that will be tied to the size of the state’s economy. State Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein says the plan should result in significant cost savings.

Legislative Leaders Call For Estate Tax Reductions: Maryland’s legislative leaders are calling for a reduction in estate taxes. Maryland imposes taxes on estates valued at $1-million or more; that’s a lower threshold than the $5-million level set by the federal government for estate taxes. The Capital Gazette reports that State Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch are calling for Maryland to realign its estate tax with federal standards. Busch calls it a “fairness issue,” while Miller says it would keep people with large estates from moving out of Maryland.

Delegate Dwyer Stripped Of Committee Assignment: Anne Arundel County Delegate Don Dwyer is now the only lawmaker in his chamber not to have a committee assignment. Yesterday, House Speaker Michael Busch removed Delegate Dwyer from House Ways and Committee and did not assign him to another committee. Dwyer is serving weekends in jail for a drunk driving conviction. House Speaker Busch tells WYPR that lawmakers who break the law must face consequences. Dwyer can still debate and vote on bills on the house floor… and he is reportedly running for re-election.

Lawmakers To Consider 24/7 Speed Cameras In PG: Lawmakers from Prince George’s County want speed cameras in their jurisdiction to be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. State law only allows the cameras to operate between 6am and 8pm. But Prince George’s County lawmakers have filed legislation with the General Assembly that would allow ‘round the clock operations. The Gazette notes that there are currently 72 cameras speed cameras in Prince George’s County.

Why Dereck Davis Is A Maryland Politician To Watch: WYPR's Fraser Smith and Josh Kurtz of Central Maryland talk about Del. Dereck Davis, chairman of the influential House Economic Matters Committee. It’s this morning’s edition of Inside Maryland Politics.

Board Of Elections Calls For Dismissal Of Fundraising Suit: The state Board of Elections is calling on the Anne Arundel Circuit Court to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at stopping Howard County Executive Ken Ulman from raising campaign funds while the General Assembly is in session.  Ulman is the running mate of Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, who’s in the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The lawsuit was filed by backers of one of Brown’s rivals in the race, state Attorney General Doug Gansler. Maryland law forbids state office holders, like Gansler and Brown, from raising money during the annual session – but the Board of Elections says the law doesn’t apply to county office-holders like Ulman. In calling for a dismissal, the Board argues that the court doesn’t have the power to issue an injunction – and that, even if it did, doing so would be premature. Lieutenant Governor Brown was also named in the suit; he’s calling for dismissal as well, saying that the action doesn’t provide a reason why he’s named as a defendant. The Baltimore Sun has more here.

“Taxi Tax” Amendment Considered: Baltimore City Council members are considering an amendment to the city’s so-called “taxi tax.” Council members want to change the tax so that it’s applied per trip, rather than per passenger. City Councilman Carl Stokes tells the Baltimore Sun that the change would make the tax more efficient and effective. A spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake says she "remains committed to finding the best compromise that works best for all parties involved."

Port Workers To Meet Monday: Members of the union representing longshoremen who work at the Port of Baltimore will meet on Monday to talk about the new contract proposed by the group that represents the port’s employers. The two groups have taken a 90 day break from contract talks – a “cooling off” period order by an arbitrator in October after a strike that shut down port operations for three days. The Baltimore Sun reports that the proposed contract includes some raises and considerations for workers’ safety. A vote on it could come at Monday’s meeting.

Comedy Club To Come To Western MD Casino: Rocky Gap Casino in Western Maryland is expanding its entertainment options. The resort is adding Bonkerz Comedy Club, a national chain that has been in operation for 30 years and boasts 20 locations across the country. A soft opening is slated for January 23rd. There’s more here from the Baltimore Sun.