May 12, 2015

State Roundup, May 12, 2015

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BILL SIGNING TODAY: Robert Lang of WBAL-AM reports that Gov. Larry Hogan is due to sign hundreds of bills today passed during this year’s legislative session. The governor, Speaker of the House Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller have scheduled two bill signing ceremonies. One of those ceremonies makes up for a bill signing ceremony postponed two weeks ago, due to the riots in Baltimore.

EX-FELON VOTING RIGHTS: Perry Hopkins expects his future grandchildren to ask where he was the day the United States elected its first black president. He’ll have to say he was a convicted felon, released from prison but not yet allowed to cast a vote. Erin Cox of the Sun is reporting that Hopkins and a handful of other ex-offenders rallied in Baltimore on Monday in the hope of persuading Gov. Larry Hogan to sign a bill that would restore voting rights to felons before they complete the terms of their probation and parole.

RAISING SPEED LIMIT: It took three years, but a bill that could allow drivers to cruise a bit faster on the long stretches of Interstate 68 in Western Maryland and other highways in the state has moved into the fast lane. The bill would allow an increase of the speed limit to 70 mph on state highways. Gov. Larry Hogan plans to sign Senate Bill 44 into law today, reports Matthew Bieniek for the Cumberland Times News.

IMPROVING COP-CITIZEN RELATIONS: Gov. Larry Hogan is signing measures aimed at improving policing and community relations, but advocates for greater police accountability say lawmakers missed opportunities to do more. The bills Hogan are signing today were approved before the death of Freddie Gray last month in Baltimore police custody, according to an AP report at WBFF-TV.

ADVOCATE FOR ABUSE VICTIMS: Charles County Del. C.T. Wilson is a man with a painful past. He was sexually abused as a child by his adopted father. “I can’t sit here and describe for you the pain of being beaten, sodomized and molested for years,” said Wilson. He testified in Annapolis before the very lawmakers he works alongside every day in an effort to help victims of child sex abuse fight back, giving them more time to come forward and sue their abusers, Mary Burbala reports for WJZ-TV.

HEROIN DEATHS RISE: Jon Banister of the Diamondback writes that heroin-related deaths have grown steadily every year since 2010. In 2013, the 464 people who died from heroin in this state outnumbered homicide deaths by more than 75. In Prince George’s County, heroin deaths have doubled in the past four years. The 26 deaths between January and September of 2014, the last reported time frame, matched the county’s highest death rate for any full year in the last decade. Heroin-related emergency room visits have more than tripled since 2010, with 1,200 statewide.

POOP TO ENERGY: Jason Lambertson’s Pocomoke City farm is expected to show how anaerobic digesters can provide a renewable alternative energy source on the Eastern Shore and solve the Chesapeake Bay’s agricultural nutrient pollution problem from its very source — chicken waste. As the tall, thick-concrete towers heat up to 95 degrees, bacteria inside the chicken poop will decompose the waste, in the process releasing methane gas. The collected biogas will provide enough energy to power the digesters and generate electricity for the 50-acre farm, according to a CNS story in the Daily Record.

GERRYMANDER FIGHT: Tom Fitton of Judicial Watch writes in Newsmax.com about the continuing litigation that Judicial Watch is a part of to ensure that three-judge panels — and not lone judges — hear complaints of gerrymandering. Of course, the gerrymandering that he is writing about is Maryland’s.

FRANCHOT HONORED: The Arbutus Roundtable honored Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot Monday afternoon with an honorary membership to the political club, making him only the second politician to ever receive the designation. Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, an Arbutus native, is the other honorary knight. In addition to the relationship the group has developed over the years with the comptroller, Franchot’s popularity in a relatively thankless role has impressed many, Heather Norris reports for the Arbutus Times.

YOUNGEST MAYOR IN MARYLAND HISTORY: A Maryland town will swear in the youngest mayor in the state’s history Tuesday. Multiple news outlets report 19-year-old Brandon Paulin will become mayor of Indian Head, a town of about 4,000 residents on the Potomac River Tuesday. Paulin is a political science major at the College of Southern Maryland. During the election on May 5, he was up against the town’s current mayor and vice mayor. Paulin won with 239 of the 383 votes cast, according to an AP story in the Daily Record.

SBA OKS DISASTER CALL FOR BALTIMORE: Josh Hicks of the Post reports that the U.S. Small Business Administration has approved a physical-disaster declaration for Baltimore that allows businesses, homeowners and renters to apply for low-interest loans to repair damages from recent unrest in the city. Gov. Larry Hogan announced the decision in a news release Monday, calling the program “an important tool for helping businesses rebuild and return to being a vital part of Baltimore’s community and economy.”

A DIFFERENT TACT: Len Lazarick reports in MarylandReporter.com that the 60th anniversary annual meeting of the Greater Baltimore Committee Monday night was more resolute than joyous, as business leaders promised to focus on rebuilding and restoring a city whose long-simmering boiled into looting and arson covered in national and international media. “I think we have to try some different things in Baltimore,” said Brian Roberts, chairman of T. Rowe Price.

CALL FOR ED FUNDS: Dozens of education advocates at two separate events Monday called on Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to increase funding for the city’s schools, arguing the recent rioting in Baltimore shows the money is desperately needed, Luke Broadwater and Yvonne Wenger report in the Sun.

MEDIA BLITZED-OUT MOSBY? Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has raised eyebrows in several quarters with a media blitz that has spanned from a CNN interview that focused on her courtship with her city councilman husband to her decision to appear on stage with Prince during a rock concert for a song dedicated to Freddie Gray. Legal experts say Mosby is in danger of running afoul of the Maryland Bar standards barring prejudicial conduct by prosecutors, or at the very least traveling down a well-worn path of failed celebrity prosecutions, Jeffrey Scott Shapiro writes in the Washington Times.

KKT ENDORSES VAN HOLLEN: Former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Monday endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s bid to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, ending her own dream of a revived political career. Instead of carrying the family torch into a new political campaign, Kennedy Townsend chose to lend it to Van Hollen, who is running for the Democratic nomination in a race that so far also includes Rep. Donna Edwards, writes Rachel Weiner for the Post.