They taxed rain, now chickens

First, Maryland taxed the “rain.” Now, a pair of Montgomery County lawmakers want to tax chickens. On Monday, Sen. Richard Madaleno and Del. Shane Robinson introduced bills — entitled the Poultry Fair Share Act — that would impose a 5-cent fee on every chicken in the flocks of contract poultry growers. Before imposing fees and taxes to clean up the Bay, let’s look at the sources of pollution, how much it will cost to clean up that pollution and who should pay for the cleanup costs. That way, we can impose fees or taxes, if necessary, that reflect the true costs of cleaning up the Bay and actually make everyone pay their fair share. (Star-Democrat)

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The pro-pollution AGs

The cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay has posed an extraordinary challenge. It has taken decades of effort, cost billions of dollars and required shared sacrifice from setting aside shoreline "buffer" strips to banning phosphate detergents. Now comes word that the fight will not only be against pollution but also against nearly half the country, too. That's because the attorneys general from 21 states have joined a lawsuit brought by the American Farm Bureau Federation that seeks to toss out the so-called "pollution diet" or "Total Maximum Daily Load," the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-led effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The four-year-old campaign has already had a positive impact on the estuary and has raised hopes that real progress is at hand. (Balt. Sun)

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C. Fraser Smith: Pre-K’s lessons reach politicians

Democrats and Republicans are finding a lot to like in President Obama’s renewed commitment to starting education two or three years earlier for children. Studies show the American system of education loses important years of cognitive growth because it starts too late. Much of a child’s mental capacity is in place by age 3. To wait years beyond that squanders a national resource — not to mention individual potential. But suddenly lawmakers seem to get it. So here’s the test: Will the federal and state legislators write the checks? (Daily Record)

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Bob McWilliams: Maximum political gain with the minimum wage

Today, there’s this odd idea that you should somehow be able to support a family of four by working at minimum wage. Frankly, that’s a bunch of nonsense, but as the minimum wage debate unfolds, we’re seeing the same, tired old claptrap come from both the Republicans and the Democrats. On the right, there’s a claim that raising the minimum wage will cost the country jobs and mess with the free flow of market forces. On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats are busy with the usual demagoguery suggesting government legislation can somehow make money fall out of the sky for free. A more productive discussion regarding the minimum wage would benefit from some compassion and empathy on the right, along with a recognition of basic economics and how the free marketplace works for those on the left. (Capital)

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Todd Cherkis and Roxie Herbekian: Fair development for a fairer Maryland

People elsewhere in the nation are taking action to tackle the issue of the growing divide between the rich and poor, but here in Maryland, the richest state in the country, we have a seismic inequality problem and are doing little to address it. For Maryland and Baltimore to lead on issues of inequality, it will require a new fair development agenda that prioritizes human dignity and strengthens public resources. (Balt. Sun)

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Elizabeth Barrett: Cheapest isn’t an option for premier school system

In its 2013 year-end report, the Board of County Commissioners claimed credit for our “premier school system.” But in Frederick County, the reward for success — for being premier — is an unworkable budget. The BoCC has allocated “maintenance of effort” funding, the bare minimum required by the state, for the last few years. MOE funding for Frederick County Public Schools aligns with the county’s current vision — that cheap is better. There are countless examples of how this false economy plays out in the school system. (News-Post)

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We all have a dog in this fight

Unlike the victim of a dog attack, the owner chose the dog, knows the dog and has the best opportunity to control the dog. When something goes wrong, then, the owner is the one who should bear the burden of proof. Adopting that standard will encourage responsible dog ownership, protect dog owners from strict liability and ensure that all victims face the same standard if they need to go to court, regardless of the type of dog that attacked them. (Daily Record)

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Mark Newgent: Maryland education needs fundamental reform

"Maryland, No. 1 in education!" We've heard that boast ad nauseam over the last five years, every time Education Week releases its Quality Counts rankings. We hear it especially from the state's political establishment, as it takes every chance it can to claim credit for this top ranking in the nation. But what does No. 1 really mean? The actual Education Week report — which this year did not include an overall state ranking — and other data show that all that glitters is not gold when it comes to education in Maryland. (Balt. Sun)

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