April 22, 2015

State Roundup, April 22, 2015

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SCHOOL FUNDING PUSH: Public pressure mounted Tuesday on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to release $68 million in school funding, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. House Speaker Michael Busch, top education advocates, prominent state Democrats and some Republicans called an Annapolis press conference to implore Hogan to agree to spend cash the legislature set aside for the state’s 13 costliest school districts. They warned that failing to spend the money would cause larger classrooms and teacher layoffs.

Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, stands with House Speaker Michael Busch and Sen. Richard Madaleno on Tuesday just steps away from Government House, the governor's official residence. They led a press conference calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index, funding for public schools where the cost of education is higher.

Maryland State Education Association President Betty Weller, in green, stands with Speaker Michael Busch and Sen. Richard Madaleno on Tuesday just steps away from Government House, the governor’s official residence. They led a press conference calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index, funding for public schools where the cost of education is higher. Photo by Rebecca Lessner. Click photo to enlarge.

NEW TAX OR NO NEW TAX: Gov. Larry Hogan and even the Democratic leadership were crowing that they passed a balanced budget with no new taxes. But that wasn’t for lack of trying by some legislators. Rebecca Lessner of MarylandReporter.com looks at which major tax or fee changes may be signed into law and which were killed in the legislature, at least this year. Included are a tax on on-line travel sites, the 5-cent poultry tax and a tax on tobacco.

PG GETS LIQUOR ON SUNDAYS:  Prince George’s County will now permit some liquor stores to sell liquor on Sundays after Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill April 14 ending Prohibition-era “blue laws” in the county writes Jon Banister in the Diamondback. Washington and a majority of this state’s surrounding counties already allow Sunday liquor sales, which forces consumers in this county to leave if they want to purchase liquor every day of the week.

SMITH OUT – AGAIN – AT MTA: Robert Smith is no longer the head of the Maryland Transit Administration, Adam Bednar is reporting in the Daily Record. Erin Henson, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said Smith’s last day was on Friday, and she declined to characterize the nature of his departure.

BRINKLEY AMONG FREDERICK TAX SCOFFLAWS: The state’s budget secretary, a Maryland delegate and two town officials are among the hundreds of property owners who, as of Sunday, had yet to cough up the money they owe the Frederick County government, writes Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post. A weekend notice printed in the Frederick News-Post shows the county is looking to collect roughly $2.46 million in delinquent property taxes and other fees. The listing is the first of three that will the county will publish in the lead-up to a tax sale for properties.

CASINO SUED OVER MINORITY CONTRACTING: Lauren Kirkwood of the Daily Record reports that a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Monday claims MGM National Harbor failed to award contracts for a significant portion of the construction of a $1.2 billion casino to minority businesses, despite receiving federal housing and community development funds earmarked for that purpose.

PURPLE LINE FLAP: The pro-Purple Line Action Committee for Transit on Tuesday wrote to Montgomery County officials, questioning whether the Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase — long a source of resistance to the light rail project — had violated a 2013 formal agreement to drop its opposition to construction of the line. The flap, involving two entities with a history of acrimonious relations, comes several weeks before Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to announce a decision on the fate of the 16-mile long Purple Line, writes Louis Peck for Bethesda Magazine.

BROWN’S VERY BAD SHOWING: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland eats Anthony Brown’s lunch in his piece about Brown’s poor showing on the fund-raising front for his run for the Democratic nomination for Congress, as he seeks U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards’ seat. Kurtz, as usual, digs deeper into the issues and the people.

SHOT IN ARM FOR WA CO DEMS? Kaustuv Basu of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that some Democrats are aiming to revitalize the party by starting a political club in Washington County. The United Democrats of Washington County plans to have its inaugural meeting on May 6, with U.S. Rep John Delaney as the guest speaker.

JUSTICE OPENS GRAY PROBE: Officials and community leaders welcomed Tuesday the Justice Department’s announcement that it is opening a criminal investigation into Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore police custody — an incident that continues to spark angry demonstrations report Doug Donovan and Mark Puente in the Sun. . “The Department of Justice has been monitoring the developments in Baltimore, Md., regarding the death of Freddie Gray,” spokeswoman Dena Iverson said in a statement. “Based on preliminary information, the Department of Justice has officially opened this matter and is gathering information to determine whether any prosecutable civil rights violation occurred.”

TRUMP HEADLINES MD GOP FUNDRAISER: The Maryland Republican Party has booked real-estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump as the keynote speaker at its annual fundraiser, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. Trump, who has flirted with the idea of running for president next year, has agreed to be the headliner at the GOP’s annual Red, White and Blue dinner on June 23. “He’s a celebrity,” GOP executive director Joe Cluster said.