The Progressive Maryland BlogSpace Weekend Reader

News and views you might have missed this week: Maryland prescription drug prices; being a holdout in the clean power stakes; Hogan's slippery ways; getting public officials to divulge public information.

WHOSE INFORMATION IS IT, ANYWAY? Anybody out there who has had trouble getting information out of their local government – town, city or county? Did you go so far as to file a request under the Maryland Public Information Act? The state Attorney General, Brian Frosh, wants to know how well that’s working and who’s not complying, so if you did use the PIA you should take his survey about it. The Annapolis Capital editorialized  that “The law was changed last year, creating an ombudsman to mediate disputes and a compliance board to review fees requested by the "custodians" of public records that total more than $350. The law also changed the rules for waiving fees and how reasons for denying a request under the law must be cited.” So there are new protections which you may not know about and that local officials may conveniently be overlooking. Check it out.

IT COSTS HOW MUCH? The recent outrage over the huge increase in prices for some very popular drugs – the emergency asthma and allergy relief applicator Epipen, for instance – mask the wider burden the big drug companies put on consumers, who frequently have no generic alternative. Since Congress won’t make any moves against some of their favorite fund sources (or even let Medicaid and Medicare negotiate for low bulk drug prices) advocates are pushing the state of Maryland to step in. The Wapo reports “Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative wants the Democratic-majority legislature to require prescription drug companies to disclose how they come up with their prices; notify the public of significant price hikes; and authorize the state attorney general to take legal action to prevent price-gouging.”

The Sun reported that “This year, 10 other states have considered similar legislation. Only Vermont adopted it.” Stay tuned; there may be legislation in the spring 2017 session on this. (Thanks to the Maryland Reporter for this handy aggregation of articles on the drug price challenge.)

 WE LOVE RGGI, BUT ONLY ON OUR TERMS Early in September, members and allies of the state Sierra Club packed a meeting with officials in the state Department of Environmental Regulation to insist that Maryland, a pioneer in the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, should not even think hard about staying in the multistate compact as new and more ambitious goals for renewable energy are being negotiated. Department officials have remained two-faced about this critical moment, telling the 85 or so people at the meeting of course the state wants to keep its rep as a leader in fighting climate change and promoting health and clean, green jobs in the state. But the Hogan appointees in DER are still threatening to leave the RGGI compact if they don’t get easier goals to live up to, and the administration’s coddling of the asthma-inducing coal-fired power industry in the state persists. The Sun wrapped the situation up very nicely here in an editorial, “Maryland’s RGGI Choice,” that leaves no doubt about the right path.

HOW DOES HOGAN ESCAPE CONSEQUENCES OF THOSE WILD WORDS AND DEEDS? Josh Kurtz, operator of the aggregator Center Maryland, opens up on Gov. Larry Hogan’s slickster capacity to do something provocative (like pushing school opening past Labor Day), ride it out and make his critics writhe. He likens the Hogan-Peter Franchot bromance to the one between William Donald Schaefer (as ex-Gov. and comptroller) and Gov. Bob Ehrlich, and points out that the odd couple have a secret weapon in a supremely slick political op behind the scenes who keeps the Assembly leadership buffaloed.