August 22, 2014

State Roundup, August 22, 2014

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GRAIN ALCOHOL BAN: Maryland’s ban on grain alcohol has affected two business sectors in surprising ways, writes Jessica Contrera of the Post. Violin makers and repairers use it to dry varnishes faster and cake bakers use it in decorating. The story appears in the Frederick News Post.

FRACKING STUDY: State officials and members of a task force studying hydraulic fracturing in western Maryland say they hope to draft a set of best practices by the end of the year even though not every question has been answered, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

TRANSPORTATION LOCKBOX AMENDMENT: Donald Fry writes in Center Maryland that all voting ballots for Maryland’s Nov. 4 general election will include a state constitutional amendment to enact something long-sought by transportation advocates – a “lockbox” for the state’s transportation fund. Question 1 on the ballot will ask voters to ratify a lockbox amendment that was passed by the General Assembly in 2013 as part of a legislative package expected to raise more than $4 billion in new revenue over six years to fund the state’s roads, bridges, transit, port and airport infrastructure.

GUNS & SUICIDE: Americans are twice as likely to die from turning guns on themselves as they are to be murdered with one, according to a News 21 analysis of 2012 data reported in MarylandReporter.com. The  analysis found 18,602 firearm suicides in 44 states compared with about 9,655 firearm homicides in 49 states. That means at least 50 people died per day from firearm suicide; 26 died from firearm homicides.

ARUNDEL POLICE UNION DONATES: The officer involved in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., is getting support from the Anne Arundel County police union. The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 70, the union that represents officers in Anne Arundel, has donated $1,070 to an online defense fund for Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. That’s the largest donation listed for the campaign on the website gofundme.com, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun.

NO MORE SENATE COMMITTEES: John Wagner of the Post is reporting that Senate President Mike Miller  put the kibosh on talk of expanding the number of committees in his chamber, a move that would have allowed him to reward additional members with coveted chairmanships. The prospect was of particular interest to Montgomery County senators, who have seen their clout wane with the departures of two members in leadership positions.

IMMIGRATION & SCHOOLS: Josh Bollinger of the Easton Star Democrat reports on a Talbot County forum that addressed the immigration issue and how it impacts the schools. Out of the 4,537 students in Talbot County public schools, 6% are English language learners. That population increased from 161 students in 2007 to about 300 students at the end of the last school year.

CANDIDATE MEET & GREET: About 160 people attended the Washington County Democratic Central Committee’s 2014 Annual Summer Democratic Picnic Thursday evening, where they were able to meet with local and statewide Democratic candidates for office as the clock clicks down to the Nov. 4 general election, reports Dave McMillion for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Among Democrats attending the event were lieutenant governor candidate Ken Ulman, Comptroller Peter Franchot and state attorney general candidate Brian Frosh.

BUDGET DETAILS NEEDED: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that since gubernatorial candidate Larry Hogan has proposed more than a $5 billion reduction in tax revenue over five years by eliminating all Maryland income taxes on pensions and other retirement income, it’s reasonable for him to spell out exactly how that would affect the rest of the budget. That’s the only way to know whether rival Anthony Brown’s suggestions about the potential effect on school funding, college tuition and neighborhood safety are worrisome.

UNCLEANSING RAIN: In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Elvia Thompson writes that rain events big and small result in the washing of a toxic, hot soup into our waterways. It includes fecal matter from pet waste and failing septic systems, along with unabsorbed fertilizer, oil and other car fluids, and much more.

TU PRESIDENT TAKES LEAVE: The Sun is reporting that Towson University President Maravene Loeschke is taking a leave of absence through the end of the year because of “health and personal challenges,” she wrote in a letter to the university community Thursday.

DRAFT FREEMAN: University of Maryland Baltimore County President Freeman A. Hrabowski III says he is not interested in becoming chancellor of the University System of Maryland. That is a shame, says a Sun editorial. “He is extraordinarily qualified for the job, and if he could do for the entire system what he has done for UMBC, Maryland would benefit enormously.”

BAKER TO DRESS PART: For the celebration of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 in Bladensburg this weekend, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker has decided to dress the part, after learning that blacks did indeed play a role on both sides of that war, writes Arelis Hernandez in the Post.

SUSPENSION POLICY SHIFT: The Anne Arundel County Board of Education on Wednesday approved a new policy for student suspensions and expulsions that focuses on rewarding positive behavior instead of punishing negative behavior, reports Kelcie Pegher for the Annapolis Capital.

REFERENDUM REFORM: After the Court of Special Appeals struck down a Howard County petition drive to take parts of last year’s comprehensive zoning bill to referendum; followed by last week’s decision by the Court of Appeals, the state’s top judicial body, not to take up the case, petitioners are looking for other avenues to make their voices heard. Members of the Citizens Working to Fix Howard County, want to see referendum reform pass next session, and they will support any candidate who is willing to back it, Amanda Yeager reports in the Sun.

CASINO FUND DIVERSION: Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports that state Sen. Bill Ferguson is blaming the French conglomerate Veolia for Baltimore City’s diversion of casino impact funds set aside for South Baltimore communities, the money instead channeled to a steam-heating project. Ferguson, who chairs the casino’s Local Development Council, said Veolia refused to pay for the relocation of a large steam pipeline at the Horseshoe Casino, thereby “forcing” the city to tap into $3 million earmarked for communities impacted by the new casino.