Richard Cross -- 2014: A GOP year in Maryland?

By any reasonable measure, 2014 should be a year of opportunity for Maryland Republicans. President Barack Obama’s approval ratings are stuck in the low 40s, a victim of the bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, here in Maryland, no incumbent governor will be seeking re-election for the first time since 2002. The Democratic front-runner, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, is running for an office no lieutenant governor has ever succeeded in winning. (News-Post)

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Maryland should slow down on pot legalization

Maryland gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has said he’s “not much in favor” of following Colorado and Washington state down the path of legalizing marijuana sales. His opposition probably seals the fate of the major pro-pot bills introduced in the state legislature this year. Still, momentum for legalization is building, and the term-limited Mr. O’Malley will be gone in a year. So here’s a question for cannabis-loving lawmakers in Annapolis, led by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert): What’s the rush?  (Wash. Post)

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Minimum-wage increase worthy of consideration

Among the hottest issues in Annapolis this session will be minimum-wage legislation. Lawmakers will decide whether to join 21 other states that currently set the minimum wage in excess of the federal government’s $7.25 an hour. Few serious policymakers suggest that $7.25 an hour approaches a comfortable wage. What’s debatable is whether raising the wage does more harm than good by encouraging employers to hire fewer workers, thus driving up the unemployment rate. The economic back-and-forth over the minimum wage can be maddeningly circular. (Herald-Mail)

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Mandates need funding

Expanding full-day prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds by 2018 is an ambitious goal that, if the state is serious about implementing, must include additional resources for local school systems to implement the changes. Last week Gov. Martin O’Malley said that the expansion to full-day prekindergarten for all 4-year-olds was a priority of his this legislative session, and he promised that he and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is running to replace his boss as governor, will lay out a plan to accomplish the goal. (Carr. Co. Times)

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Find common ground in Annapolis

“No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session,” goes the old saying often incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain. Well, the General Assembly is in session in Annapolis for the next three months, and no doubt a number of Eastern Shore residents are worried about the status of their lives, their liberty and their property. (Daily Times)

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Maryland’s costly health-care blunder

There's now a preliminary price tag on Maryland’s failure to roll out a functional health-insurance Web site: $5 million to $10 million. That’s an estimate of how much it will cost the state to offer emergency health coverage to people who couldn’t sign up on Maryland’s online Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace before Jan. 1. Extending last-minute coverage to these people is the right thing to do. But it’s not a substitute for a working Web site, nor for holding the state’s leaders to account. (Wash. Post)

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Feedback on budget needed

Another budget battle is shaping up between the board of county commissioners and the board of education. Residents should provide their feedback to both elected boards, to help guide them in the decision-making process. Last year’s budget battle was fierce, as members of the board of commissioners split on wanting different levels of funding for the school system. (Carr. Co. Times)

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Diversity likely to advance in this year's election

Democracy, if it is to work, must be a bottom-up affair. That’s why, five years after Barack Obama became this nation’s first African-American president, we believe it’s important — “a revolutionary moment,” as Rick Hutzell put it in his column on Thursday — that more minorities than ever will be trying for local offices this year. At a meeting of the Caucus of African American Leaders in Annapolis on Thursday, six African-Americans were among 10 candidates announcing they will try for seats on the County Council and in the House of Delegates. (Capital)

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