Latest blog entries - Center Maryland - Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=latest&Itemid=178 Sat, 24 Jun 2017 18:35:33 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Karen Barbour: Why we support a vibrant downtown Columbia http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1603&Itemid=178 http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1603&Itemid=178 As the founders of Alliance for Hispanic Commercial Contractors (AHCC), we know that over 6% of Howard County residents identify as Hispanic, and that the Hispanic population is growing every year. The AHCC is dedicated in promoting the growth, prosperity and participation of Hispanic Commercial Contractors in commercial and government procurement contracts through education, training and guidance, especially here in the Mid-Atlantic region.  

We are a central part of the 21st Century economy and intend to play an integral role in Maryland’s growth in the years to come.  That growth will require a strong commitment to creating the communities that will attract businesses and citizens in the changing economy. As such, we believe the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) package proposed under Howard County Bill CB56-2016 is crucial to creating the Downtown Columbia envisioned in the Downtown Columbia Plan and urge the Howard County Council to pass this legislation during the November 7, 2016 legislative session. Furthermore, because we believe in the principles of affordable housing and expanded housing opportunities for all residents, we also support the Joint Recommendations on affordable housing. 

The TIF presents to AHCC a creative solution to fuel the economic engine of Downtown Columbia.  We want a vibrant town center, well-paying jobs, and growth opportunities in the heart of central Maryland. AHCC sees the new construction enabled by the TIF as a driver for its member base that will allow our Hispanic commercial contractors and their families to become first-time stakeholders in building a “new” community.  Therefore, the AHCC supports the TIF proposal and Joint Recommendations on affordable housing and urges the Council to support this package as well. 

AHCC sees Howard County as the launch pad for its success, just as Howard Hughes sees this county as a launch pad for Maryland’s new economic engine.  The new Downtown envisioned by this legislative package will create the vibrancy needed to attract our millennials, small business innovators, and notable large businesses that, like Howard Hughes Development, will provide true concern and outreach to heal the socio-economic disparity present in the Hispanic community.  We want a future where Hispanic contractors are building and promoting the community they live in.  This package does just that.

Karen Barbour is Founder and President of the Alliance for Hispanic Commercial Contractors.

 
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info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 25 Oct 2016 21:30:33 -0400
MEDICAID 50 Years Old and Still Going Strong http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1601&Itemid=178 http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1601&Itemid=178 This week Congressman Elijah Cummings keynoted an event celebrating the fifty years of Medicaid in Maryland. Medicaid launched in Maryland in July of 1966. In 1966, Maryland Medicaid provided coverage for over 113,000 Marylanders. Today, approximately 1.2 million Marylanders receive health insurance coverage under Medicaid. 

The federal law that created Medicaid, The Social Security Amendments of 1965, was signed into law July 30th 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson. That legislation provided government-sponsored health insurance coverage for seniors, low-income children, caretaker relatives, the blind, and individuals with disabilities. Maryland was actually ahead of the Federal Government as the first state to adopt a medical assistance program administered outside of a welfare agency. For nearly 20 years prior to Medicaid’s passage, Maryland’s State-funded medical assistance program helped poor and elderly Marylanders gain access to health care. That Maryland fund would later be replaced by Medicaid after the federal legislation. 

Medicaid is our health safety network providing access to care to over a million Marylanders. MedChi works closely with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to protect and improve Medicaid. In order for Medicaid to remain strong and effective, MedChi thinks focus on three areas that require continued vigilance. These areas include ensuring that Medicaid patients have access to a physician, Healthchoice is funded and regulated properly, and that Maryland continues the tradition of innovation in delivering healthcare services. 

All Maryland Medicaid patients should have access to a physician. This need was seriously compromised when Medicaid reimbursement rates were reduced to 13% below Medicare reimbursement for all physicians for Evaluation and Management (E&M) codes. At the request of MedChi, 7% points have been returned to the payment over the last two years. Maryland physicians are now asking Governor Hogan and General Assembly leaders to finish the job, continue their good work, and restore Medicaid reimbursement to parity with Medicare. The question that we must ask is should people of lesser means receive the same benefit as seniors? Medicaid payment cuts to physician reimbursement create significant barriers to patient access and ultimately increases the cost of care as people seek treatment in more expensive locations like emergency rooms. The tremendous increase in Medicaid enrollment that has occurred with the implementation of federal health care reform makes retention of parity reimbursement essential. Maryland’s ability to maintain an adequate physician network and ensure patient access to necessary services is at risk if action isn’t taken. So the next question is, will Maryland’s 

leaders take up the challenge and put Medicaid in shape to meet the needs of Maryland citizens? 

As Medicaid continues to grow and expand, we need to make sure Healthchoice is properly funded and regulated. Healthchoice is the Maryland Medicaid mandatory managed care program that was approved by the General Assembly in 1997. HealthChoice features inclusive eligibility, statewide mandatory enrollment, risk-based purchasing, capitated rates, and service carve-outs, including mental health services. Roughly 80 percent of all Maryland Medicaid participants are enrolled in a HealthChoice Managed Care Organization. 

In order to make sure this major part of the Medicaid system works, we must continue a tradition of proper funding and regulatory protections for patients, physicians and the public health of Maryland. Unlike the private insurance market the Maryland Managed Care Organizations actually have competition as currently Maryland contracts with 8 MCOs to manage services under its HealthChoice. That competition is a positive for patients in Maryland. 

Finally, Maryland should continue its tradition of innovation and leadership in the area of Medicaid. One project that is currently being considered by DHMH displays that desire to continue to improve. The Maryland Medicaid Department is currently working on a possible dual eligible Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program. A duel eligible Medicaid patient is receiving both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. The focus on dual eligible was based on the consensus that was achieved through an Advisory Council and multiple workgroups that full duals should be a top priority as a population with substantial health and social support needs who are largely unmanaged in the current delivery system. One barrier to innovation is a long out dated technology needs and data management systems. Once these improvements are made, the Maryland Medicaid Department will be able to consider even more improvements. 

As we look back at fifty years of innovation and service, it would be an extreme oversight to not mention the amazing staff at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who serve the citizens of Maryland and work to provide access to care to so many. Some of these dedicated public servants have worked to improve healthcare for the most vulnerable for decades, and should be honored and appreciated for their work. Their dedication is why I believe we will see continued positive improvements as we work together to protect and improve health care for all Marylanders. 

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info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Thu, 20 Oct 2016 22:52:43 -0400
Josh Kurtz: The Ficker Finger of Fate http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1598&Itemid=178 http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1598&Itemid=178 Whatever happened to the Good Old Days in Montgomery County, when Robin Ficker, consistently, was Public Enemy No. 1?

Year after year, Ficker, the gadfly extraordinaire, the chronic candidate who lucked into a seat in the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1982 and has been trying to claw his way back to respectability ever since, has won the enmity of the Montgomery County political establishment by doing the things that gadflies do. 

Specifically, Ficker would advance a ballot question – usually to lower or limit taxes or to impose term limits on county officials – and watch with glee as the establishment scurried to defeat him.

Predictably, there would be a unity news conference – or a series of them – featuring Democrats and Republicans, business and labor and civic leaders and environmentalists, coming together to say why Ficker’s prescription (or sometimes just Ficker himself) was plain wrong, a threat to the way the county traditionally conducts its business and indeed to the county’s cherished way of life.

Ficker has enjoyed a couple of successes here and there – most notably, he narrowly passed a ballot initiative in 2010 that requires the Montgomery County Council to vote unanimously to raise property tax revenues above the local limit. But more often than not, the empire has struck back.

So here we go again in 2016. Ficker is back, pushing a measure to limit county executives and council members to three terms in office. His two previous efforts to impose two-term limits in Montgomery County, in 2000 and in 2004, fell short.

But so far there has been very little outcry about it from the usual suspects. There have been no unity news conferences. No tales of doom and gloom. No efforts to impugn Ficker’s character. 

Sure, some individual elected officials and civic leaders have spoken out against the term limits initiative. To the extent that there is an organized effort to defeat it, it is being led by former Rockville city councilman Tom Moore – and that has largely focused thus far on getting the measure thrown off the ballot.

So where is that unified voice of opposition we’ve come to expect?

A lot of the interest groups that have traditionally come together to oppose term limits in the past are now concluding – some more vocally than others – that a change at the top of county government wouldn’t be so bad. After three terms of Ike Leggett as county executive, and with half the council – Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Marc Elrich, Roger Berliner and possibly Nancy Navarro, depending on how the courts rule – now in their third or fourth terms, a shake-up, these groups believe, is badly needed. Why not let Robin Ficker do the dirty work for groups that have not been able to oust these elected officials before? 

Especially disdainful of this current crop of county officials is Gino Renne, the president of MCGEO, the principal employee union of the Montgomery government, who has seen labor contracts and negotiating terms abrogated over the past several years. And a lot of business groups would be just as glad to see a whole new crop of councilmembers, because they believe, fairly or not, that this council has impeded economic progress.

The councilmembers did themselves no favors, at least with the burgeoning “throw the bums out” constituency, when they approved a 9 percent property tax increase this spring – the highest in seven years. Nobody is sticking up for them and their actions in an organized way. So term limits look a lot likelier to happen than they ever did before.

But it’s not as if Ficker is investing huge resources into his campaign. There is no organized, well-funded effort to pass them. Citizens will go into the voting booth with very little information, and will have to decide for themselves.

The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee recently voted to oppose the term limit measure, and will note the opposition on sample ballots that will be mailed out to voters and handed out at the polls. That could be significant.

The Washington Post, always an influential voice in Montgomery County politics, is almost certain to editorialize against it, even though it doesn’t think much of the current council – if only to limit the influence of Ficker in county affairs.

But in the most toxic and cacophonous presidential election year in modern history, with several prominent downballot races on tap in Maryland this fall, how closely will voters actually be following the term limits issue? With limited knowledge, will they be more or less likely to vote for it? Montgomery’s neighboring jurisdictions, Prince George’s and Howard counties, have term limits for their elected officials, and there has been no apocalypse.

There’s no doubt that if term limits are imposed, a big shakeup is coming in Montgomery County politics – perhaps the biggest in 30 years.

Every time there is a vacancy for a big office in Maryland, drooling political junkies imagine a multi-candidate race, with myriad dominoes falling farther down the ballot. Yet those delicious scenarios rarely come to pass. In the end, just as there were only two major Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate this year, just as only three Democrats lined up to run for governor in 2014, the field is winnowed before the candidates hit the starting gate.

But couple term limits with Montgomery County’s new public financing law, and it really is conceivable that six candidates could run for county executive in 2018. Because funding will potentially be easier to come by. And what does anyone have to lose?

Similarly, there will be more candidates for council than usual – including, most likely, younger members of the legislature who are antsy about their lack of progress in Annapolis. Term-limited councilmembers, by turn, could wind up seeking legislative seats if they don’t see a path for themselves in the county executive’s race. 

It’s enough to almost root for the Ficker amendment to pass. But give this guy a little more power and credibility and he could become a whole lot more dangerous.

Josh Kurtz is editor of Environment & Energy Daily on Capitol Hill. He can be reached at joshkurtzw92 [AT] gmail [DOT] com. Follow him on Twiiter -- @joshkurtznews

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joshkurtz92 [AT] gmail [DOT] com (Josh Kurtz) Blog Thu, 29 Sep 2016 18:33:11 -0400
Featured Content | Towson University Taps Margrave Strategies' Ulman to Advance Placemaking Strategies http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1597&Itemid=178 http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1597&Itemid=178

Towson University President Kim Schatzel announced on Sept. 27 that Margrave Strategies president Ken Ulman will help the university map future growth strategies. Schatzel made her announcement on the steps of the Old Courthouse building in downtown Towson along with Ulman and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.]]>
info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Wed, 28 Sep 2016 12:09:41 -0400
Center Maryland Op-Doc: Columbia, MD Named Money Magazine’s Best Place to Live in 2016 http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1596&Itemid=178 http://centermaryland.org/index.php?option=com_easyblog&view=entry&id=1596&Itemid=178
Columbia was just named Money Magazine's #1 Best Place to Live. Howard County residents discuss their hopes to remain on top for the future.]]>
info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:03:14 -0400