May 7, 2015

State Roundup, May 7, 2015

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HOGAN LIFTS STATE OF EMERGENCY:  Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday officially lifted the state of emergency he put on Baltimore 10 days ago. Speaking from the city building where he moved state government last week, Hogan said, “tensions still remain high. It’s calmed down, but it’s still right beneath the surface.” Hogan pledged to help the city rebuild and said he would immediately withdraw $20 million to pay for response, but the economic cost of the unrest hasn’t been tallied, writes Erin Cox for the Sun.

JUSTICE PROBE SOUGHT INTO BPD: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked the Justice Department on Wednesday to conduct a full-scale civil rights investigation into the pattern and practices of the Baltimore Police Department — a probe that would examine excessive force, discriminatory harassment, false arrests, and unlawful stops, searches or arrests, reports Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

STATE WORKERS TO KEEP RAISE: Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that Maryland state employees will not lose the 2% raises they received in January, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday, despite initial efforts by the governor to cut the raises as a way to address an inherited budget shortfall. Hogan said he would spend the $68.7 million that the General Assembly set aside in the budget to pay for the salary increases.

SCHOOL FUNDING: Rebecca Lessner of MarylandReporter.com writes that public schools are set to receive record funding in the projected 2016 state budget, with Gov.  Hogan increasing funding by $109 million. However, Maryland school districts and their unions say they will not be able to fill 3,283 jobs they had hoped to have if Hogan chooses not to fully fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index. It was projected to provide $68 million more.

USM RAISES TUITIONS: The University System of Maryland Board of Regents approved a systemwide tuition increase of up to 5% for in-state undergraduates Wednesday and imposed an additional fee on students in three majors at the University of Maryland, College Park. Daniel Leaderman of the Daily Record reports that the  undergraduate tuition increase will apply to both in-state and out-of-state students. Graduate school tuition will increase up to 13.1% for in-state students and 5.4%for out-of-state students.

VETO FLAWED PRIVACY BILL: In an op-ed for the Sun, James Steyer of Common Sense Media writes that among the bills awaiting action from Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk is House Bill 298, a proposal that does more harm than good when it comes to keeping kids’ private and personal information out of the hands of technology companies. “Hogan should veto the bill. We applauded Del. Anne Kaiser’s efforts to introduce and pass meaningful student privacy legislation that would protect Maryland students. Kaiser’s original version of the bill would have established a number of these protections. Sadly, the measure was hijacked in the state Senate by industry lobbyists.”

PURPLE LINE COULD BE CHEAPER: Maryland could build the light-rail Purple Line in the Washington suburbs for about 10% less than previously estimated, state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn said Wednesday. The potential savings will be presented to Gov. Larry Hogan in the next week or so as he considers whether to proceed with the 16-mile transit project, Katherine Shaver and Bill Turque report in the Post.

TOLL REDUCTION: A proposal to reduce tolls could bring relief to motorists who use some of the state’s toll roads and bridges if approved by a state board this morning. The Maryland Transportation Authority Board is scheduled to vote on a proposal during a public meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday in a facility near the Bay Bridge. The details of the plan remain private until they are presented to the board for consideration, Bryan Sears writes in the Daily Record.

AG DEPT. WARNS ON HERBICIDE USE: As farm operations of all sizes and types get into the full swing of planting season, the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the University of Maryland Extension is encouraging anyone who will be applying herbicides to be mindful of best management practices and to use good communication with their neighbors, Michel Elben of the Carroll County Times reports.

BROKEN BAIL SYSTEM: Todd Oppenheim, a felony trial attorney in the Office of the Public Defender, writes in an op-ed in Baltimore Brew, that the six Baltimore police officers charged with assault to second-degree murder in the death of Freddie Gray are all home after posting bail. My client, meanwhile, remains in jail on a $250,000 bail, which he cannot make. His alleged offenses? Misdemeanors committed during the community’s response to the Gray case.  Something is wrong with this picture.

PLANE SURVEILLANCE OVER BALTIMORE: Discovery of surveillance flights over Baltimore City during the recent unrest — which involved at least two airplanes and the assistance of the FBI — has prompted the American Civil Liberties Union to demand answers about the legal authority for the operations and the reach of the technology used. Planes armed with the latest surveillance systems can monitor larger areas than police helicopters and stay overhead longer, raising novel civil liberties issues that have so far gotten little scrutiny from courts, Craig Timberg writes in the Post.

BALTIMORE BUSINESS: Sarah Meehan of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that the sense of panic that hit Baltimore’s convention industry last week is starting to subside. Immediately after the April 27 riots that streamed through Baltimore, both the Door and Hardware Institute and the It’s Time Network canceled their meetings at the convention center. A number of other groups, including the American Heart Association, scrapped their meetings at downtown hotels. But Visit Baltimore CEO Tom Noonan said things have stabilized this week.

SANDTOWN-WINCHESTER: WYPR’S Dan Rodricks, Maureen Harvie and Melody Simmons revisit West Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester — “Freddie’s neighborhood” — with people who live there and who have been involved in the two-decades-long effort to raise the quality of life of its residents.  Guests: U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings; Carol Reckling, executive director of Child First Authority and a senior leader for BUILD; Bart Harvey, former CEO of the Enterprise Foundation; and the  Rev.  Louis Wilson of New Song Community Church. This is Part 1.

IMAGE VS REALITY: Laslo Boyd of Center Maryland writes that even with order apparently restored, putting the recent events in Baltimore City into clear perspective is not easy.  Some have suggested that what happened here should be a wake-up call for the nation. Others have seen the events as confirming their deeply held negative opinions about poor people and African Americans.  For some of the media, the opportunity to show footage of a fire burning and to apply a stereotypical story line to their reporting was irresistible. But not all the press was as bad as Fox or CNN.

VA DELEGATE STICKS FOOT IN MOUTH: Laura Vozzella of the Post reports that Virginia state Del. Hyland F. Fowler Jr.­ responded to riots in the state next door by posting a photo of a menacing police dog on Facebook and asking, “I wonder if a few of these would help bring calm to Baltimore?” “Go ahead and run,” read the caption with the photo, which showed the dog with teeth bared as well as an officer in riot gear. “He likes fast food.” He posted the photo Monday, removed it Tuesday and apologized after it was brought to the public’s attention.

Wyatt Omalley

The legislature just ended its session, reporters and others are celebrating at a bar, and the governor shows up. But wait a minute, that’s AP reporter Kristen Wyatt, who moved from Annapolis to Denver to cover the Colorado legislature, and the governor was Martin O’Malley, on the road in his quest for the presidency. (From Kristen Wyatt’s Facebook page.)

CARSON IN EAST, NOT WEST, BALTIMORE: Ben Carson, the former Hopkins neurosurgeon who announced his candidacy for president this week, will visit with Baltimore faith and community leaders on Thursday. Carson, a longtime Baltimore County resident who led the Johns Hopkins Hospital pediatric neurosurgery department, will meet with those leaders in East Baltimore — not in West Baltimore, where the recent unrest and protests took place, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

RUNNING FOR VAN HOLLEN’S SEAT: Maryland Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez and attorney Will Jawando are the latest candidates to join the race for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, Kate Alexander writes in the Gazette. Competition for the seat heated up in March when incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen  (D) of Kensington kicked off a campaign for U.S. Senate. Van Hollen decided to run when Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D) of Baltimore announced she would not seek another term.

DELANEY TOUTS TRANSIT PLAN: U.S. Rep. John Delaney was in Hagerstown Wednesday to pitch his proposal for long-term funding of transportation and other infrastructure projects by repatriating the overseas earnings of American corporations. “There hasn’t been anything really transformative to put a lot of money into infrastructure,” Delaney, D-Md., told a small group of businesspeople at Bulls & Bears restaurant, Don Aimes writes for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.