May 14, 2015

State Roundup, May 14, 2015

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YOUTH JAIL OK’D: State officials approved plans Wednesday to build a $30 million, 60-bed jail to house Baltimore teenagers charged as adults, a step to address years of concern about the practice of housing young city defendants alongside adults, Erin Cox reports in the Sun. The U.S. Justice Department has said the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center has been violating the law by keeping the youths in the same facility as grown-ups, where teens often are secluded and do not receive school or other services while incarcerated.

MOODY’S POOH-POOHS TOLL CUTS: Toll reductions announced last week for bridges and tunnels across Maryland are a “credit negative” for the Maryland Transportation Authority, according to an analysis by Moody’s Investors Service. Kevin Rector of the Sun reports that the move to cut rates, made at the urging of Gov. Larry Hogan, also “signifies the state’s departure from non-intervention in toll rate setting,” concluded Jennifer M. Chang, an analyst at the prominent bond rating agency.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION COST OF CONCERN: State school construction officials are raising concerns about the rising costs of construction and the potential impact to projects as early as next year, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. One of the biggest concerns appears to be related to the state’s prevailing wage law in addition to an improving economy and the state’s regulatory environment, according to David Lever, executive director of the state’s Interagency Commission on School Construction.

Ehrlich Hogan Klasmeier Franchot Kopp

Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich joined the current members of the Board of Public Works Wednesday as they honored retiring assistant comptroller Jerry Klasmeier, longtime liaison to the board. From left: Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Ehrlich, Gov. Larry Hogan, Klasmeier and Comptroller Peter Franchot. (Photo by Governor’s Office)

STUDYING OVER-TESTING: Maryland lawmakers decided that the first step to solving over-testing in Maryland public schools is to understand the full problem, so they passed a bill creating a 19-member commission that will attempt to alleviate the pressure of excessive student testing, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com.

FIGHTING OPIOID ABUSE: Jim Schwartz, of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, writes in a column for Center Maryland that in 2013, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported that 316 people died in Maryland from unintentional opioid-related overdoses and 464 people died from unintentional heroin-related drug overdoses. Schwartz praises lawmakers for recently passing legislation that will help in the fight against opioid abuse, by improving access to so-called abuse-deterrent formulations of the drugs.

HOGAN PRAISES BIZ GROWTH: On Wednesday, standing just feet from where a new manufacturing center is being built on AstraZeneca’s Frederick campus, Gov. Larry Hogan congratulated all who made the expansion happen, and all who made it happen in Frederick, Jen Fifield report in the Frederick News Post.

POLICE REVIEW: In a piece for WYPR-FM Kenneth Burns explains how the Justice Department review of Baltimore policing practices will work in conjunction with other reviews of the Baltimore Police Department.

HOGAN CAN HELP: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has taken the full force of derision for her handling of the riots. All kinds of experts, both the self-asserted and those lettered in criminology, have offered hours of merciless criticism of Rawlings-Blake. She needs to realize that she has an opportunity to transform her city (and maybe salvage her political career), but she needs to act in a bold and urgent way. She needs to build an alliance with the governor.

CONCENTRATED POVERTY: Laslo Boyd, in a Center Maryland column on solutions to the problems in Baltimore City, writes that highly concentrated poverty contributes significantly to every other problem you can identify.  We’ve actually known that for a long time. The dilemma is that all our efforts to deal with it have faded before strong political backlash.The irony is that failing to confront that problem has weakened the entire Baltimore region and the rest of the State.

DAMAGE ESTIMATED AT $9 MILLION: The government’s first estimate of damage from rioting last month in Baltimore puts the cost at $9 million, according to an AP story in the Daily Record. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s office said Tuesday the preliminary estimate comes from a Small Business Administration survey of 284 businesses and two homes damaged during riots following the death of Freddie Gray.

DELANEY’S BRIGHT IDEAS: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post praises 6th District Rep. John Delaney, saying  he continues to make a name for himself as an innovative lawmaker. One of his main strengths is that he keeps his eye on the financial ramifications of legislation. Delaney’s latest proposal addresses one of the most critical issues facing Maryland, the United States and, indeed, the entire world: Climate change due to greenhouse gases created by human activity such as generating electricity at coal-fired power plants. At the very least, we think this proposal deserves a good, open debate in Congress.

O’MALLEY’S ANNOUNCEMENT: Former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has been ramping up for a potential White House bid, plans to make an announcement about his political future on May 30 in Baltimore, John Wagner reports in the Post.

O’MALLEY ON BALTIMORE: Former governor and potential Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley incorporated the recent unrest in Baltimore into his pitch as he visited New Hampshire on Wednesday, saying the nation has an obligation to rebuild its cities, writes John Wagner of the Post. O’Malley aid the death in police custody of 25-year-old Freddie Gray was the match that sparked rioting in the city. But, O’Malley said, “it was not the kerosene itself. The kerosene, if you will, is that hopelessness that fuels the anger, and the extreme poverty that makes extreme violence likely.”

NEW TAXES IN MO CO: Bill Turque of the Post reports that the Montgomery County Council, which is looking for fresh sources of revenue, approved new taxes Wednesday on e-cigarettes and private lodgings booked online through such sites as Airbnb.