May 27, 2015

State Roundup, May 27, 2015

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YOUTH JAIL PROTESTED: About 40 demonstrators blocked traffic for more than an hour on Interstate 395 in Baltimore Tuesday morning — the first of what Pastor Jamal Bryant said would be “10 biblical plagues” unless state officials scrap plans for a $30 million youth jail. At the protest, which snarled traffic for miles and created backups that lasted two hours, Bryant demanded that Gov. Larry Hogan reverse funding for the jail and pump $11 million more into the city’s schools, the Sun’s Luke Broadwater and Jessica Anderson report.

TRANSIT FARES TO RISE: The cost of taking public transportation in Maryland is about to increase. Transit fares — including on buses, light rail, subway and the MARC Train — will all rise on June 25, Ryan Sharrow reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

2 BOE MEMBERS NAMED: Gov. Larry Hogan just named two new members of the state Board of Education — both supporters of the Common Core as well as charter schools. Hogan, a Republican, tapped Chester Finn, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, and Andy Smarick, partner at Bellwether Education Partners, to take the open seats on the 12-person board created by the departures of Charlene M. Dukes and Donna Hill Staton, reports Valerie Strauss for the Post.

FROSH PUSHES MTBE LAWSUIT: Attorney General Brian Frosh is seeking outside help to pursue a lawsuit against the oil industry for putting an additive in gasoline that caused widespread contamination of groundwater across the state. A notice posted on the attorney general’s website Tuesday invites proposals from private lawyers interested in serving as “special litigation counsel” in developing a case against refiners for using methyl tertiary butyl ether, or MTBE, in fuel sold in Maryland and much of the rest of the nation, Timothy Wheeler is reporting for the Sun.

PROTECTING OYSTER FARMS: As oyster farming grows in Maryland, legislators moved to protect the product that protects the Chesapeake Bay by enacting HB 287, to help leaseholders of aquaculture plots — oyster beds suspended in open water cages — to recoup damages from poachers. Rebecca Lessner of MarylandReporter.com writes that those caught poaching would be subject to pay three times the cost of their illegal harvest directly to aquaculture farmers, who are collectively leasing 4,000 acres of the Maryland Bay.

GEARING UP FOR RXPOT INDUSTRY: Mitchell Trellis is putting everything on the line for a chance at what could be one of the most lucrative new business opportunities in Maryland: medical marijuana. Trellis’ company, Maryland Wellness Access LLC, is among those gearing up to compete for one of 15 licenses Maryland will issue to cultivate cannabis and sell it to dispensaries. Trellis thinks the company’s best shot for a strong application — and being able to open for business — is to have the company ready to fire out of the gate, should Maryland give the signal. Sarah Gantz writes about Trellis and his plans for the BBJ.

STATE CENTER’S NEIGHBORHOOD: The State Center project in Baltimore City, which would replace the aging state office complex with office, residential, retail and public space, has become even more important, said Bryan Dunn, vice president of the Seton Hill Association neighborhood group. Rick Seltzer of the BBJ writes that recent unrest has highlighted some of the major issues the mixed-use State Center project would address, like a lack of available grocery stores and jobs in some West Side neighborhoods, he said.

CARROLL HIRES LEGISLATIVE LIAISON: Carroll County will soon have another voice in Annapolis tasked with fighting for residents’ concerns by assisting legislators in developing and reviewing bills with the potential to affect the county. Phil Hager, the county’s director of the Department of Land Use, Planning and Development, has been named as the Carroll government’s legislative liaison, a job he will begin June 4, Wiley Hayes reports in the Carroll County Times.

SRB CRITICIZES HOGAN, PROTESTERS: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Tuesday criticized both Gov. Larry Hogan over his recent funding decisions and a group of protesters led by Pastor Jamal Bryant who blocked traffic coming into Baltimore — a decision she suggested could have prevented hospital workers from reaching medical centers and patients from getting treatment, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.

SBA REACHES OUT TO BALTIMORE BIZ: Sara Salinas of the BBJ reports that Baltimore City businesses are hurting, but few are asking for help from the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA officials joined Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and William Cole, president of the Baltimore Development Corp., Tuesday morning to reiterate that the SBA is here to help Baltimore’s businesses after last month’s unrest. The SBA is offering low-interest loans of up to $2 million to businesses and residents that suffered damage or economic loss during the riots.

MORE TURNOVER IN MAYOR’S OFFICE: The highest-ranking remaining member of the Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice has submitted her resignation, officials confirmed Tuesday. Shannon Cosgrove, deputy director of the office, will be the fourth member of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s criminal justice team to leave in recent weeks, reports Yvonne Wenger and Luke Broadwater for the Sun. Three others have left the office as Baltimore endures a rash of homicides and other violence following last month’s unrest.

A VISIT WITH OBAMA: Some 80 years after graduating from school, Vivian Bailey has taken the field trip of a lifetime. The 97-year-old Columbia woman — a World War II veteran and retired federal employee who for more than a decade has been raising money for Howard County students — met Tuesday with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. John Fritze of the Sun writes about her visit to the White House.

PG PARENTS PUSH SCHOOL FUNDING: A number of parents appeared outside Cool Spring Elementary School in Adelphi on Tuesday to support Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker’s plan to increase education spending by dramatically boosting property taxes, Arelis Hernández reports in the Post.

MUSIC WITH O’MALLEY’S ANNOUNCEMENT: While former Gov. Martin O’Malley will be too busy making his big announcement on Saturday, Baltimore-based Kelly Bell Band will perform for those who turn out to hear the surprise news, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

O’MALLEY COULD BENEFIT: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland has kind words to say about former Gov. Martin O’Malley as he prepares to launch his presidential campaign. O’Malley, he says, brings undeniable attributes to the table: his record as governor and as mayor of Baltimore; his intellect and policy chops; his youth and vigor; and his rock star persona. But all these may be of little import. Politics is situational, and O’Malley could be the beneficiary of two very big train wrecks in national Democratic politics.

RAND PAUL TO VISIT MD: Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, who captured national attention last week by helping to scuttle legislation reauthorizing bulk data collection by the National Security Agency, will speak to Baltimore County Republicans next month, writes John Fritze for the Sun.