April 27, 2015

State Roundup, April 27, 2015

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FREDDIE GRAY: National and state leaders of the Black Caucus plan to call on the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a comprehensive investigation of  potential civil rights violations by the Baltimore City Police Department, Erin Cox is reporting in the Sun.  “We want a complete federal investigation,” said state Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Baltimore Democrat who is also president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.

  • Top officials in Baltimore City acknowledged Friday that Freddie Gray was not treated properly when he was arrested nearly two weeks ago but said they are still investigating the severe spinal injury that appears to have led to his death, Peter Hermann and Ovetta Wiggins of the Post report.  Gov. Larry Hogan has asked Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford and former state Del.Keiffer Mitchell, who is from Baltimore, to serve as his liaisons to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake with regard to the investigation of Gray’s death.

WHY FREDDIE GRAY RAN: The editorial board of the Sun seeks to answer the question: Why did Freddie Gray run? He had been arrested a number of times in the past on relatively minor drug charges and other piddling offenses, like having “gaming cards, dice.” Did that make him a bad person, a shady character? His friends and neighbors say no. What it makes him is all too typical in a neighborhood where generations of crushing poverty and the war on drugs combine to rob countless young people like him of meaningful opportunities.

POLICE PAYOUTS: Gov. Larry Hogan plans to sign legislation that would double how much people injured by police can collect in civil lawsuits. The announcement Friday afternoon follows the governor’s promise Thursday to sign three other bills to encourage police departments to begin body camera programs and require them to report all police-related deaths to the Maryland State Police, Mark Puente and Erin Cox are reporting in the Sun.

LAURYN’S LAW: Linda Diaz told the story of her 15-year-old daughter’s suicide in 2013 to state lawmakers in Annapolis last month as part of a crusade to increase awareness of teen suicide. Her advocacy helped push the General Assembly to approve a bill dubbed “Lauryn’s Law,” which would require that school counselors undergo regular training to recognize signs that students are dealing with mental illness, are in distress or are contemplating suicide.Ovetta Wiggins writes the story for the Post.

CONCERNS OVER NOMINEES: Gov. Larry Hogan has yet to appoint a judge in any state court, but who might be helping him vet candidates in Baltimore County has raised concerns. The Women’s Law Center of Maryland, in a letter written last week, asked the governor to remand nominations for the county’s Trial Court Judicial Nominating Commission because all four people are white men, Danny Jacobs reports in the Daily Record.

CRACKDOWN ON HEROIN: A priority during their campaign, Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford have renewed their promise to crack down on the state’s heroin addiction crisis, reports C.J. Lovelace for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. “As we were traveling around the state last year, everywhere we went … almost across the board, every single answer everywhere was heroin was the number one problem,” Hogan told members of the media during a post-legislative forum in Annapolis.

DANGEROUS NEW TAX: Steve Shur of the Travel Technology Association writes in an op-ed for the Post that a “common-sense” bill to tax online travel booking is masking something sinister. The bill is a dangerous new tax on local small businesses and Maryland’s travel and tourism economy.

FIXING STRUCTURAL DEFICIT: Can Republican Gov. Larry Hogan tame Maryland’s long-standing structural budget deficit? Judging from his first stab at it, he’s more than halfway there, opines opinionator Barry Rascovar for MarylandReportercom. But high hurdles lie ahead if he is to reach the point where the state’s ongoing revenues far exceed annual spending.

5 QUESTIONS FOR GILL: When Gov. Larry Hogan appointed R. Michael Gill to be the new head of the state Department of Business and Economic Development, it was not the first time Gill had taken on a public role. The longtime businessman served on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents in 2004 and has sat on the boards of numerous companies, schools and nonprofits in the area. Still, he said, to find himself in the middle of state government was a change in perspective. Natalie Sherman of the Sun poses five questions to Gill to get a clearer picture of where he intends to take the agency.

YUMI HOGAN PROFILE: Yumi Hogan, wife of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, has spent the past four months adjusting to a schedule of events, lunches and photo ops, writes Elisha Sauers in a Capital-Gazette profile. It’s a role far removed from her career as an art teacher, and one she never anticipated over 30 years ago when she emigrated from South Korea.
Hogan Yumi in hangbok Lunar New Year

Maryland first lady Yumi Hogan in traditional Korean dress with husband Gov. Larry Hogan at a Lunar New Year reception at Government House in February.

INNOVATIVE ECONOMY: In business, government and even sports, the word innovate is continually being bandied about. Today, the Maryland Economic Development Association’s annual conference in Cambridge will host a panel that will examine what that term means in the context of economic development, writes Adam Bednar for the Daily Record.

WANTED: REGIONAL COOPERATION: The GBC’s Don Fry, writing in Center Maryland, says, “We live and work in one of the top regions in the U.S. for biotech development. But even with all of its biotech assets, achieving its full potential as a driver of economic growth will depend largely on regional cooperation between Maryland, the District of Columbia and northern Virginia. That reality was evident at the recent Maryland Regional Biotech Forum, a two-day event held in Gaithersburg to highlight the economic importance of the biotech industry in the region.”

DEMS CALL FOR UNITY: Caleb Calhoun of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that a Maryland congressman running for the U.S. Senate and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer spoke to local and state Democrats at the annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Hagerstown Friday night, bringing a familiar message of the need for unity. “We’re in this together,” said Hoyer, D-Md.

CARDIN PUSHES ISSUE: The Sun’s John Fritze is reporting that a proposal to allow the United States to refuse visas and freeze assets of human rights abusers more easily is receiving renewed attention in Congress now that Sen. Ben Cardin, a chief architect of the measure, has become the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.