May 13, 2015

State Roundup, May 13, 2015

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350 BILLS SIGNED: Gov. Larry Hogan signed a long list of bills into law on Tuesday, including bills that require police departments in Baltimore and Baltimore County to create special “behavioral health” units and that establish a review board to study the impact on businesses of proposed state regulations, Josh Hicks of the Post reports.

COMMERCE SECRETARY BILL SIGNED: Maryland will soon have a new commerce secretary charged with leading economic development efforts in the state. The legislation is part of a package of five bills that stem from recommendations of the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission, more commonly known as the Augustine Commission after its chairman Norman Augustine, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

UBER BILL SIGNED: Gov. Larry Hogan has signed into law a bill legalizing rideshare operations in Maryland. The Uber bill authorizes the Maryland Public Service Commission to regulate Uber, Lyft and other app-based ride services operating in the state, Luz Lazo reports in the Post. Hogan’s signature makes Maryland the latest jurisdiction in the region to set regulations for the growing industry, ending months of uncertainty about its future in the state.

EMPTY OPEN-MEETINGS BOARD: Five months after Maryland’s open-meetings compliance board ruled that the Housing Authority of Prince George’s County violated open-meetings law, the public housing agency has been accused again of holding an illegal gathering. But the compliance board that issued two citations against the housing authority in December is unable to address the new complaint filed by Maryland Legal Aid. Why? Because the board has no members, writes Doug Donovan in the Sun.

STATE URGES OVERTURNING OF UNGER: The judges on Maryland’s top court were unusually silent Tuesday as an attorney for the state urged them to overturn their controversial 2012 decision that reopened courthouse doors to many inmates convicted of violent crimes before 1980, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record. But the Court of Appeals’ seven judges remained just as stoic when a defense attorney pressed them to hold fast to their historic opinion in Unger v. State that trial judges prior to 1980 routinely violated defendants’ constitutional rights to due process by instructing jurors that their judicial instructions were “advisory.”

FRANCHOT NOT HOT FOR TAX CUTS: Comptroller Peter Franchot supports a long-term moratorium on increases on taxes and fees, but he also opposes major tax cuts, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. “We should have a multi-year moratorium on taxes and fees,” Franchot told the Arbutus Roundtable Monday as the group of generally conservative Democrats honored him for his fiscal responsibility. The comptroller had opposed many of the tax hikes during the O’Malley years, a constant target of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan during his campaign. But, Franchot said, “I think the idea of major tax cuts is not sustainable. …”

MOSBY’S NEXT STEPS: WYPR-FM’s Fraser Smith talks to Andy Green, editor of the editorial page for the Sun, about the work ahead for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

PUSHING FOR THE RED LINE: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is calling on Gov. Larry Hogan to OK funding for the Red Line project to help residents gain access to jobs, writes Sara Salinas of the Baltimore Business Journal. Rawlings-Blake on Tuesday called a “summit” to stress the importance of the proposed 14.1-mile, $2.9 billion Red Line project following riots that rocked Baltimore in the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. The rail line would stretch from Woodlawn in Baltimore County to Canton’s waterfront.

REACHING OUT TO BALTIMORE CITY: The editorial board for the Sun urges the Greater Baltimore Committee to follow through with its pledge to help Baltimore City’s most vulnerable citizens, reaching out to help those who have faced incarceration find jobs and talk with those they wouldn’t normally talk to.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE DEFENDS SELF: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake defended her handling of the recent rioting in Baltimore, arguing Tuesday that more aggressive police or military tactics could have escalated the violence, write Luke Broadwater, Erin Cox and Yvonne Wenger for the Sun. “Nobody died during the riots,” Rawlings-Blake said. “Out of the two weeks of demonstrations, we only had a few hours of unrest, and then we were able to restore peace and calm. …”

BUSCH THANKS HOGAN: The governor and Speaker of the House of delegates may not have the most tension-free relationship but that doesn’t mean that it’s not without its moments, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Speaker Michael Busch Tuesday praised Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford for the state response during the riot in Baltimore that resulted in a nearly 10-day state of emergency.

MANDEL AT 95: Karen Hosler of WYPR-FM writes about former Gov. Marvin Mandel, who is celebrating his 95 birthday, and what he’s up to these days. Living longer than nine decades seems mostly a matter of genetics, healthy habits and luck.  But Mandel says that continuing to enjoy life in your mid-90s may also require feeling useful.

KITTLEMAN SIGNS HOWARD GUN BAN: Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman has signed a bill banning firearms in county buildings for everyone but police officers and people who have to carry guns on county business, he announced Tuesday. Amanda Yeager of the Howard County Times writes that the bill passed the council 4 to 1 on May 4. Kittleman said he struggled over whether to sign the bill into law but ultimately was swayed by safety considerations.

POLITICAL DRAMA IN CHEVY CHASE: Bill Turque of the Post writes about the political drama encircling the town of Chevy Chase,  where the trees are tall, the lawns are lush and the median household income is $250,000. The outcome of last week’s town election never seemed in doubt, he writes, since two incumbents were on the ballot, running unopposed. But a surprise write-in candidate won 168 votes, enough to knock off Pat Burda, architect of the town’s robust opposition to the light-rail Purple Line. A kind of civic panic set in. Attorneys were retained. A member of the ethics board declared that the 2,800-resident community had suffered “a trauma.”

COMMUTER PASSES IN FREDERICK: Kelsi Loos of the Frederick News Post writes that a program that allows Frederick County area commuters to pay a discounted rate for a combined Metro, MARC and bus pass could be coming off the chopping block. After a public meeting last week to hear concerns from commuters, WMATA staff plan to recommend to the board that the administration continue offering the Transit Link Card. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority had made plans earlier this year to discontinue the Transit Link Program as part of its shift to a smart-card system. The move could have cost some Frederick County commuters $1,500 more each year.