House Republicans want to ax Maryland's health exchange

A group of Republican state legislators are looking to repeal Maryland’s health exchange and shift the state to the federal marketplace. A bill introduced by Del. Michael J. Hough, who represents Frederick and Washington counties, calls for the state to get rid of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange and turn over responsibility for the insurance marketplace to the feds. The bill (HB1229) is scheduled for a hearing Friday in the House Health and Government Operations Committee. (Balt. Bus. Journal)

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Montgomery council members mull gubernatorial endorsements

Two Montgomery County residents are among the major contenders in the Maryland governor’s race, but some County Council members are backing a third major candidate — Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown from Prince George’s County. Other council members are waiting to see how things shake out. (Gazette)

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March 6 // Brown, Gansler launch TV ad drives

For Maryland TV viewers, the blitz is about to start. Democratic gubernatorial rivals Douglas F. Gansler and Anthony G. Brown announced Wednesday that they have bought time on local stations and will launch television ad campaigns over the next two days. It is the beginning of what is certain to become a drumbeat of 60-second spots that will continue through primary day June 24, at a cost running into millions of dollars in both the Baltimore and Washington media markets. (Balt. Sun)

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Maryland House gives preliminary OK to raising minimum wage

The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval Wednesday to legislation that would raise Maryland's minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, rejecting a flurry of amendments offered by opponents. The action clears the way for a final House vote on the measure Friday. Votes on amendments indicated that proponents of the increase — a top priority of Gov. Martin O'Malley — have more than enough votes to pass the bill and send it to the Senate. (Balt. Sun)

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Assembly leaders back cutting estate taxes, but opponents knock break for wealthy

General Assembly leaders say they are fearful wealthy Maryland residents are moving out of state because of Maryland’s high estate tax and are promoting legislation that would cut the “death tax.” Maryland imposes a tax when property is transferred from the deceased to a living relative, if that property is valued at more than $1 million — the tax caps at 16% of the entire estate. Senate President Mike Miller is one of the lawmakers spearheading legislation — along with House Speaker Michael Busch — that would reduce the death tax. (Md. Reporter)

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O’Malley adds Mass. to destinations in coming months, as he considers 2016 presidential bid

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has been booked as the keynote speaker at a Massachusetts Democratic Party awards reception in May. The event is the latest in a string of out-of-state speaking engagements planned by O’Malley in coming months as he prepares for a possible 2016 presidential bid and campaigns for other Democrats around the country. (Wash. Post)

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Md. lawmaker proposes single-payer health care system

A state senator wants to expand the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange into a universal single-payer program by 2017 — but the cost could be steep.  Senate Bill 667, sponsored by Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, is strikingly similar to the Vermont legislation that created Unified Green Mountain Care, a universal health care system, in 2011. Pinsky said the federal Affordable Care Act gives states “the opportunity to experiment” with single-payer systems beginning in 2017 as long as the state can show that its program would be more efficient and cover more people. (Daily Record)

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Sheriff's pay hike passes Md. Senate with single objector

A state legislator who objects to the Frederick County sheriff’s stance on immigration enforcement opposed a bill on Wednesday authorizing a pay increase for the agency head.  The proposal, which would raise the sheriff’s yearly salary from $100,000 to $125,000, cleared the Maryland Senate with 45 votes of support. The lone opposing vote came from Sen. Victor Ramirez, who said he is concerned about Sheriff Chuck Jenkins’ attitude toward the immigrant community. (News-Post)

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