December 19, 2014

State Roundup, December 19, 2014

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O’MALLEY TOUGH ON CLEMENCY: Gov. Martin O’Malley has rarely exercised his power to grant clemency to convicted criminals over his two terms, even as many gubernatorial counterparts have been more lenient amid a changing attitude toward these acts of mercy. Justin Fenton of the Sun reports that the Democratic governor has rejected nearly 1,300 cases that have come across his desk. Even after the General Assembly passed legislation intended to prod him to make a decision on requests for certain commutations, he has granted only 133 pardons over the past three years.

MAYOR TO PUSH STATE CENTER: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake promised Dec. 17 to try to find a way to redevelop the State Center site no matter what happens with a longstanding plan that’s been called into doubt. She’s even talked about its future with Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, Rick Seltzer reports in the Baltimore Business Journal.

BPW FORGIVES $1.5M LOANS: John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports that the Maryland Board of Public Works, led by Gov. Martin O’Malley, has authorized the forgiveness of $1.5 million in loans to two Baltimore non-profit groups that rehab houses in urban neighborhoods. TRF Development Partners and Jubilee Baltimore Inc. received a series of loans to help revitalize blighted areas of Baltimore City. But during Wednesday’s board meeting, Maryland Department of Housing officials say the groups cannot repay the loans and consequently, they are unable to secure any additional funding from banks.

SHARFSTEIN’S SENDOFF: Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein is getting a warm sendoff after surviving a public relations nightmare that cost others their jobs and reputations, Sarah Gantz reports in the Baltimore Business Journal. “Thank you and good luck Chairman Sharfstein,” read the vanilla sheet cake presented to Sharfstein Dec. 17 at his last board meeting for the state health exchange.

SHORE REPS READYING FOR ANNAPOLIS: “Put these folks to work.” At Salisbury University on Thursday, the call from Ernie Colburn with the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce was aimed at a room full of county dignitaries, college presidents and county citizens. The “folks” in question? The eight men and women who will be sworn into office on Jan. 14 to serve as the Eastern Shore’s representatives in the Maryland General Assembly, writes Phil Davis for the Salisbury Daily Times. The mixture of veteran and rookie legislators fielded questions from their constituents at an afternoon forum on Thursday.

MEA CHIEF JUMPS TO FEDERAL JOB: The chief of Maryland’s Energy Administration, Abigail Ross Hopper, landed a new job Thursday, running the federal agency that oversees development of offshore oil and gas and wind energy, Timothy Wheeler reports for the Sun. U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced Hopper’s selection as director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, effective Jan. 5.  She will become the bureau’s second official chief, taking over from acting director Walter Cruickshank.

SCHULZ AS DLLR SECRETARY: The next secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation has spent much of her legislative career fighting against business regulation — and supporting small beer makers. James Briggs of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that Gov.-elect Larry Hogan on Wednesday announced state Del. Kelly Schulz, R-Frederick County, as his choice for DLLR secretary. Schulz will lead a sprawling state agency that oversees financial regulation, licenses, workforce development, unemployment insurance and the Maryland Racing Commission, among other things.

HOGAN LIGHTS MENORAH: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan made a special appearance at the annual menorah lighting ceremony in Baltimore’s McKeldin Square Tuesday evening along with several local politicians, rabbis, and approximately 100 members of Baltimore’s Jewish community-to celebrate the first night of Chanukah, Bryan Renbaum writes in the Baltimore Post Examiner.

Hogan lights Hanukah minorah with Rabbi Smuel Kaplan

Gov.-elect Larry Hogan lights the menorah in downtown Baltimore Tuesday night with Rabbi Shmuel Kaplan.(From Change Maryland Facebook page) 

Hogan dancing with rabbis

Hogan dances with rabbis as part of the Hanukkah ceremony.

VITALE ON LIST FOR CIRCUIT JUDGE: Del. Cathy Vitale, R-Severna Park, is on the short list for an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge opening, a vacancy Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration plans to fill before he leaves office on Jan. 21, reports Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital.

CARET GREAT CHOICE: Political columnist Barry Rascovar writes in MarylandReporter.com, “Hooray for the University of Maryland Board of Regents for making a common-sense choice in choosing Bob Caret as the new chancellor of Maryland’s state university system. In an Oct. 2 column, I listed Caret as one of the best candidates with in-state higher education experience. He’s got the right personality to keep 12 competing academic institutions on the same page.”

LOESCHKE RESIGNS TU: Towson University President Maravene Loeschke, who had been on leave since August after having been diagnosed with cancer, announced her resignation Thursday. The university announced in April that Loeschke had adrenal cancer. Loeschke, an alumna, former professor and dean at Towson, became president in January 2012, Joe Burris, Carrie Wells and Colin Campbell report for the Sun.

I-270 TRAFFIC: U.S. Rep. John  Delaney said Thursday that toll lanes might be needed to ease traffic and congestion on Interstate 270, a corridor vital to the future of Montgomery and Frederick counties. Leaders in the region must make sure the highway operates as efficiently as possible, Delaney (D-Dist. 6) of Potomac told legislators and business leaders from the two counties Thursday in Frederick at a meeting on the I-270 corridor, writes Ryan Marshall for the Gazette.

DUMAIS BLASTS KURTZ: Del. Kathleen Dumais of Montgomery County responds to the recent rebuke by Center Maryland’s Josh Kurtz of the Montgomery County Annapolis delegation’s seeming lack of fighting spirit when it comes to negotiating for its needs in Annapolis.

LEOPOLD STAFFS SCHUH: Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold wants you to know County Executive Steve Schuh has embraced 18 Leopold appointments, bringing them into his administration in the first few weeks. Columnist  Rick Hutzell of the Annapolis Capital opines that this was something former County Executive Laura Neuman warned us about in her testy primary contest with Schuh. She used words like cronyism.

ACLU APPEAL IN LEOPOLD CASE: Judges are set to hear an appeal by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is trying to pursue a case against former County Executive John Leopold dismissed by a lower court. Attorneys are scheduled to make oral arguments on Jan. 14 in Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis. In December 2012 the ACLU sued over documents it had sought in a public information request. The documents were dossiers allegedly compiled by Leopold’s executive protection unit, writes Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital.

BUDGET REQUESTS IN HOWARD: Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman heard budget requests from institutions and suggestions from individuals from across the county Wednesday. In all, 46 people testified. Though the evening was framed by Kittleman’s call for financial prudence, many groups asked for continued support – and some asked for extra funds, Amanda Yeager reports for the Howard County Times.

ETHICS DEBATE IN FREDERICK: Debate over changing Frederick County’s ethics law could reach new intensity following Blaine Young’s recent acknowledgment that he was involved in an 18-month relationship with a county employee during his time in office, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner and Council President Bud Otis agreed Thursday that the revelation exposes weaknesses in the ethics ordinance, namely that it does not prohibit liaisons between elected officials and staff.