Five things to watch as another week gets underway in Annapolis

Members of the Maryland House of Delegates. (Photo by Mark Gail/The Washington Post)

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Several high-profile bills should get some attention this week in Annapolis. Legislation to legalize marijuana will get a hearing in the Senate, for example. And bills inspired by the scandal at the state-run Baltimore jail should be on the House floor.

But the political side shows might be more entertaining. The deadline for statewide and legislative candidates to file for office is Tuesday. And there are a couple of court hearings on noteworthy political cases. And what would a week in Annapolis be without more news on the state’s online health insurance exchange?

Gansler calls health care ‘a right’ in his latest TV ad

Gansler calls health care ‘a right’ in his latest TV ad

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O’Malley turns to West Wing Writers for speech help

O’Malley turns to West Wing Writers for speech help

The payment appears on the Democrat’s latest finance report for his political action committee.

Mizeur to propose initiatives for Md. senior citizens

Mizeur to propose initiatives for Md. senior citizens

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful’s plan includes making the state “an epicenter for Alzheimer’s research.”

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As the week gets underway, here’s a look at some of the things to watch:

What surprises will the filing deadline bring?

Candidates have until 9 p.m. Tuesday to make their bids official. While most have already done so, the fields in some races are not set — and odds are good that there could be a few late-hour surprises.

Two of the major Republican gubernatorial hopefuls — Charles County businessman Charles Lollar and Del. Ronald A. George (R-Anne Arundel) — had not filed with the State Board of Elections by close of business on Friday.

Lollar is expected to formally unveil Kenneth R. Timmerman, an investigative journalist and conservative political activist, as his running mate on Monday morning and then make the trip with him to Annapolis to sign the necessary paperwork.

George is advertising a Tuesday event in Annapolis at which he will name his lieutenant governor candidate — a prerequisite for officially filing as a ticket with the state board.

Keep an eye on the field for attorney general. As of Friday, there was still not a single Republican candidate. If no one comes forward by Tuesday night, it will be the second cycle in a row that the Republican party has failed to put up a contender.

It also remains unclear if all four Democrats in the attorney general’s race will stay in.

Will the battle of Maryland vs. Noridian continue through another legislative oversight meeting?

On Monday, Maryland lawmakers will hold their second oversight meeting to discuss the future of the state’s health insurance exchange, which has been riddled with technical problems since its launch on Oct. 1.

At the last meeting two weeks ago, Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Joshua M. Sharfstein said the exchange has “serious IT defects” and officials are exploring other options for the next enrollment period, which starts on Nov. 15. He largely blamed the problems on off-the-shelf software and Noridian Healthcare Solutions, the North Dakota-based company hired to build the exchange.

Since then, one of Sharfstein’s deputies has sharpened the department’s attack on Noridian, saying that the company “severely misrepresented the maturity” of the system it could build using off-the-shelf software. He was also critical of Noridian’s outsourcing of “its leading role to an unauthorized subcontractor under an undisclosed profit-sharing agreement.”

Will a court battle over fundraising during the legislative session have any practical implications?

A lawsuit filed Dec. 26 by supporters of the gubernatorial campaign of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D) is finally scheduled to land in a courtroom on Wednesday.

The Gansler supporters are trying to block Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D), the running mate of Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), from raising money during the session even though he has the blessing of the State Board of Elections officials to do so.

Under Maryland law, legislators and statewide officials are prohibited from soliciting contributions during the 90-day session. The state board said back in December that the ban doesn’t apply to county officials such as Ulman even if they’re on the same ticket as a state official.

A judge in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court is scheduled to hear motions Wednesday to dismiss the case filed by lawyers for Brown, Ulman and the state elections administrator.

Brown, meanwhile, announced in a recent opinions piece in The Washington Post that his ticket doesn’t plan to raise money during session after all — which could render the entire matter moot. Daniel M. Clements, a lawyer for the Gansler supporters, is now seeking sanctions against Brown and Ulman for not making that clear sooner.

Will the state Senate bid of Julius Henson continue?

Political consultant Julius Henson, who spent a month in jail as a result of Maryland’s 2010 “robocalls” scandal, is due in a Baltimore court on Thursday for a hearing on whether he has violated the terms of his probation.

Henson, who was working for the comeback bid of former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), masterminded an election-night call that told voters in Baltimore and Prince George’s County that they could “relax,” suggesting Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) had already won the race.

Henson, a Democrat, has now launched a bid to unseat Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore). At issue is whether he violated a judge’s order that he “shall not work in any political campaign paid/volunteer during probation.” Henson contends running for office was not covered by the order.

Besides his campaign, his freedom could also be at issue.

Will Del. Heather R. Mizeur get some headlines out of the legislature this week?

Last week, Mizeur's two Democratic rivals for governor — Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler — got attention for their advocacy of bills that would allow judges to impose harsher sentences on abusers who commit acts of domestic violence in front of a child.

This week, Mizeur (D-Montgomery) has a full dance card in the General Assembly. On Tuesday, she is scheduled to testify for a bill she authored to provide tax rebates for small businesses. On Thursday, she will appear in support of her legislation on foreclosure protections. And on Friday, she is pushing a fracking moratorium bill.

Delman Coates, a Prince George’s pastor who is Mizeur’s running mate, also has some planned appearances this week in hearing rooms in Annapolis — including on a bill to legalize marijuana, a priority for his ticket.

 
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