State Roundup, May 18, 2015

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PURPLE LINE COST ‘NOT ACCEPTABLE:’ Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday signaled a reluctance to accept the Purple Line rail project with its current cost estimates, adding that he expects to make a decision “in the next month sometime” about whether to move forward with the long-planned transit program, reports Josh Hicks for the Post. Hogan said the existing price tag of $153 million per mile for the project, which would link New Carrollton with Bethesda, is “not acceptable.”

HOGAN’S HOGWASH: Gov. Larry Hogan makes it sound like he’s riding to the rescue of Maryland’s underfunded pension program that has been continually “raided” by evil Democratic legislators in Annapolis. What a bunch of hogwash, writes Barry Rascovar in a column for It’s pure Hogan hypocrisy. His torpedoing a $68 million education appropriation to the state’s most populous jurisdictions and shifting some of that money into the state pension fund is based on politics, not policy. Indeed, Hogan is a late convert to the cause of pension-fund integrity.

HOGAN’S CAPITAL BUDGET IDEA: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday that he would reopen a state police barracks in Annapolis and add 100 troopers to the law-enforcement agency despite the legislature refusing to fund those moves as part of a budget amendment. Hogan said he would pay for the actions by vetoing $2 million from the capital budget that is dedicated to renovating the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, reports Josh Hicks for the Post.

PIG IN A POKE: A Hogan spokesperson said of the plan: “This demonstrates Gov. Hogan’s overall commitment to general savings for Maryland taxpayers…”  The decision represents quite a few things, but a commitment to cost savings clearly ain’t one of them. This audacious proposal has so many problems that one really needs to question just who has been advising the governor, writes Todd Eberly in his Freestater blog.

EX-FELON VOTING RIGHTS: Gov. Larry Hogan has yet to decide whether he will sign or veto a bill that would restore the voting rights of ex-felons once they get out of prison, rather than wait until they have completed parole, Robert Lang of WBAL-AM reports. On Maryland’s News This Week, Baltimore City Del. Cory McCray, who sponsored the bill, said this measure has bi-partisan support and helps ex-offenders get back into society. You can click into his audio interview.

Hogan and horse

Gov. Larry Hogan greets one of the Preakness contenders. The awarding of the Woodlawn vase to the winner is the annual chance for Maryland governors for national TV exposure.(One of many Preakness photos on his Facebook page.)

A NEW JUVIE JAIL: The editorial board for the Sun opines that in approving plans to build a $30 million jail in Baltimore City for teenagers charged as adults, state officials may have settled on the least-bad alternative from an unattractive range of options. It’s certainly better than the current practice of housing juveniles awaiting trial or assignment to a treatment program in facilities alongside adult offenders. But there is little in the plan that addresses the larger issue of the shortage of treatment slots available to troubled youth, and it skirts entirely the issue of whether juveniles should automatically be charged as adults for certain crimes regardless of their age.

EXELON-PEPCO MERGER GREENLIGHTED: The Maryland Public Service Commission has given its approval to a proposed merger between Exelon and Pepco Holdings Inc., but attached conditions to the deal, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. In a 3-2 decision, the commission approved the $6.83 billion merger but imposed nearly four dozen separate conditions, including higher reliability standards for areas served by Delmarva Power and Light and the Washington DC suburbs served by Pepco; a $100 rate credit for customers in both of those areas; and $43.2 million in energy efficiency programs in the Montgomery and Prince George’s County areas and Delmarva service area in Maryland.

TOLL CHANGES: WYPR-FM’s Fraser Smith and Bryan Sears of the Daily Record discuss how Gov. Hogan has changed EZPass fees and the Bay Bridge toll, and if his changes will stick.

MILITARY ARMS FOR CAMPUS COPS: Police departments at four Maryland public universities have received more than $190,000 worth of surplus military equipment – ranging from rifles to an armored truck – from the federal government at no charge, according to an article by Capital News Service that appeared in the Daily Record. Records show that the equipment went to campus law enforcement agencies at the University of Maryland College Park, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and Salisbury University.

BAKER’S BUDGET FIGHT: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker is in the fight of his political life, trying to persuade the County Council to back a highly unpopular tax increase that would generate more money for a long-struggling school system, Arelis Hernandez reports for the Post. The council, however, isn’t buying it.

SCHUH’S GRANTS: In an article in the Annapolis Capital, Elisha Sauers writes that County Executive Steve Schuh has either added or personally recommended three programs to his grants list that operate outside of Anne Arundel County. He sits on the boards of all three.

SENATE RACE FOR DUTCH? There may be a U.S. Senate campaign in U.S. Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s future. Then again, there may not, writes CNS’s Anika Reed in the Salisbury Daily Times.  “Too soon,” said the Cockeysville Democrat. “I’m not afraid to take a risk, believe me,” added the seven-term congressman, 69, who said he is likely to make a decision by the summer. His House seat is considered relatively secure.

O’MALLEY UNANNOUNCED, RUNNING: John Wagner of the Post outlines the 10 ways that everyone can tell that Martin O’Malley is running for president, despite the fact that O’Malley was hoping to leak the decision first to a circle of supporters.

  • John Wagner of the Post writes that as he moved through a diner in New Hampshire this past week, former Gov. O’Malley was followed by a crush of reporters. But many breakfast patrons at Chez Vachon seemed to have little idea who he was. One woman asked if O’Malley had been governor of South Carolina.  “Nobody knows him,” said a retired construction worker, noting, “I don’t think anybody can say anything bad about him.”

O’MALLEY ON TSARNAEV SENTENCE: O’Malley, who is poised to launch a White House bid this month, reaffirmed his strong opposition to capital punishment Friday following a federal jury’s decision to sentence to death one of those convicted for the Boston Marathon bombings, John Wagner writes in the Post.