State Roundup, May 21, 2015

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WHITE HOUSE MEETING ON BALTIMORE: Members of Maryland’s congressional delegation met at the White House on Wednesday to discuss ways the Obama administration can continue to address the recent unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

EDWARDS BACKED VAN HOLLEN FOR DEM LEADER: The Sun’s John Fritze is reporting that before they were competitors in Maryland’s high-profile Senate contest, U.S. Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen were allies in a secret effort to make him the leader of House Democrats, according to a report Wednesday.

NEW ENVIRO CHIEF: Ben Grumbles, Gov. Larry Hogan’s choice to lead the environmental agency, said his challenge will be to “accelerate the pace of environmental progress in Maryland,” including improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay, even as he attempts to improve the perception that his agency contributes significantly to what is seen as an unfriendly business climate in the state, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

MGM HITS BACK: MGM National Harbor has struck back against a lawsuit filed last month that claimed it failed to award contracts for its casino project to minority businesses despite receiving federal funds for that purpose, demanding the complaint be withdrawn, calling it “frivolous,” “illogical” and “nonsensical,” Lauren Kirkwood reports for the Daily Record.

MD 13th IN ELDERLY HEALTH: A new study ranks Maryland the 13th-healthiest state overall for seniors in the country, but many older residents still aren’t getting the hospital care they need. The annual America’s Health Rankings Senior Report, published Wednesday by the United Health Foundation, declared Vermont to be the healthiest state for seniors and Louisiana the least healthy, Daniel Leaderman of the Daily Record writes.

STATE CENTER REDEVELOPMENT: For a few hours at the end of last week, State Center’s supporters from nearby Baltimore City neighborhoods tried to conjure their vision of how a planned redevelopment of the massive, 1950s-era government office complex could change their lives. “The Gathering at State Center” event on Friday was meant to be both a lively celebration and a reminder of how much better the State Center space could be utilized, writes Danielle Sweeney for Baltimore Brew.

LOW-INTEREST LOANS TO AID B’MORE BIZ: Maryland officials are looking to use micro-loans as a key tool in neighborhood revitalization, congratulating one state department on its efforts to support small business following the Freddie Gray protests. Gov. Hogan praised the Department of Community Housing and Development at the Board of Public Works meeting last Wednesday, saying its assistance to Baltimore City small businesses after the state of emergency will help move the city toward “business as usual.” Rebecca Lessner has the story in

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: New drivers in Maryland no longer need to worry about practicing the dreaded act of parallel parking. CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that the longtime staple of the state’s noncommercial driving test was officially removed Tuesday by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration after officials determined the maneuvers required to parallel park were already being evaluated in other portions of the test, according to MVA spokesman Buel Young.

Blue Angels

Lots of photos of Blue Angels over Annapolis floating around on Facebook. A couple of the best are on Susan O’Brien’s page.

HOGAN’S LEARNING CURVE: Larry Hogan was elected governor last November and inaugurated in January.  As of May, however, it’s begun to look as though he hasn’t quite figured out the job, writes Laslo Boyd for Center Maryland. That’s really not surprising nor is it actually a criticism. Most people take a while to become familiar with a new position.  Any of last year’s candidates would have needed some on-the-job training and a learning curve. In Hogan’s case, almost all his professional experience was in the private sector.  He’s finding out that governing the State of Maryland is quite different from running a real estate business.

UPDATE ON MARYLAND HALL: Both (Gov. Hogan picks a fight with Speaker Busch) and the Baltimore Sun (Hogan can’t make spending switch without Assembly OK) have pointed out this week that Gov. Larry Hogan cannot use the $2 million in bond funding he cut for Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in House Speaker Michael Busch’s district to add state troopers and reopen the Annapolis barracks of the State Police (also in Busch’s district).

But an interesting twist has gone unnoticed: Gov. Hogan’s original capital budget (HB71, page 21) introduced Jan. 23 had proposed spending $500,000 on the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts project. The House Appropriations Committee added an additional $1.5 million (Amended HB71, p. 21), quadrupling the amount of the grant in the House speaker’s district without changing a word in the project’s description.

FORMER DELEGATE HOPEFUL CHARGED: A former candidate for delegate has been charged with stealing $17,000 from the North County High School booster club he headed to pay for his campaign and at least one trip to the casino, Ben Weathers reports in the Annapolis Capital.

EX-TV ANCHOR MAY RUN: Kathleen Matthews, a longtime television news anchor in Washington who is rumored to be considering a run for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, is leaving her post at Marriott International to “seek a challenging new role in public service,” John Fritze reports in the Sun.

MO CO POLICE CHIEF BACKS OBAMA BAN: Montgomery County’s police chief this week said he supports President Barack Obama’s executive order that bans some military-style equipment from going to local police departments. Aaron Kraut reports for Bethesda Magazine that Chief Thomas Manger, who’s serving as president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said the move will “ensure that we can acquire and utilize needed equipment in a manner that ensures transparency and maintains public confidence.”