May 29, 2015

State Roundup, May 29, 2015

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VETO CHALLENGES LIKELY: Gov. Larry Hogan last week vetoed six bills that had broad support from the Democratic-controlled legislature, but his actions may not hold up when lawmakers reconvene next year. Josh Hicks of the Post writes that sponsors for three of the measures told the Post this week that they will rally support to override the governor’s actions or that they expect such efforts from others.

HOGAN ON A TRAIN: Gov. Larry Hogan is taking a bold, adventurous trip that could be huge for the future of Maryland business. James Briggs of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that he’s not talking about Asia — although that’s part of it. He’s talking about a train ride. Yes, Hogan, a Republican governor, is going to get on a train. A maglev train, to be specific. It’s part of his 12-day trip through Asia that began May 26.

Hogan bouquet

Gov. Larry Hogan’s Facebook page did not explain why he was being given what looks like a bridal bouquet as part of his trip to South Korea.

NEW GAMING REGS: State gaming officials have approved compromise regulations governing electronic games including claw machines that award high-value prizes. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Commission gave its approval Thursday to the new regulations, which were revised based on industry recommendations. The approved changes appear to close out a controversial three-year effort that later became an issue in the 2014 gubernatorial campaign and drew criticism from then-candidate Larry Hogan.

REDEVELOPING STATE CENTER: Sheilah Kast of WYPR-FM, in this extended radio report (9 minutes), speaks with John Kyle, a Bolton Hill resident and president of the State Center Neighborhood Alliance, to speak about the potential for redeveloping State Center. its potential to support shops and updated office space.  The re-development has been stalled for various reasons.

SENATORS FOR THE BAY: U.S. senators from Maryland and Pennsylvania are raising concerns over the nitrogen levels in the Susquehanna River, which in turn threatens the health of the Chesapeake Bay. They are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase aid to watershed states, writes Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com.

TOO MUCH TESTING, VOTERS SAY: Nearly two-thirds of voters in Maryland who participated in a recent poll commissioned by the state teachers union say they are frustrated by the number of standardized tests given to students. Ovetta Wiggins of the Post writes that the poll, released Thursday by the Maryland State Education Association, found that 64% of voters said too much time is spent on standardized tests in classrooms and only 27% think that testing is “an important tool” to measure how well students are doing.

WHY THE PROTEST? GBC’s Don Fry, writing in Center Maryland, says that protesters who stopped traffic last Tuesday on major Baltimore City commuter arteries no doubt get creativity points for organizing attention-getting, non-violent dissent. What was the issue that was being protested?  State funding for the a youth jail to get kid out of adult prison. Protesters instead want the governor restores $11 million that were not provided to the Baltimore public school system’s operating budget. What were they thinking in crafting a “protest” around two very disjointed state budget decisions?

NATION’S MOST PRAGMATIC GOP GOV?: Generally praising Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes, the Sun editorial page has some interesting observations about the new governor and his “softer approach:” “This is a governor who is not interested in picking fights, in provoking opponents or for expending political energies on matters about which he has limited interest. When it comes to things he cares about, he’s more than willing to fight, sometimes unwisely. But on most everything else, Mr. Hogan’s predilection is to sidestep. … Affable but inexperienced, tax-averse but not above allowing tuition at Maryland’s public colleges and universities to rise, pro-business but also willing to accept tougher regulations when they are strongly supported, Mr. Hogan may prove to be the nation’s most pragmatic Republican governor, or at least its least predictable. But the one thing that’s certain is that he’s no ideologue — and that makes him a far greater threat to Democratic hegemony in Annapolis than Mr. Ehrlich ever was.”

VA PATIENT WAITS: Veterans Affairs clinics and hospitals in Maryland are taking a closer look at how long patients are waiting to be seen for their appointments in the wake of an investigation released by the Associated Press last month.  Lauren Sagl of Capital News Service reports the story in the Easton Star Democrat.

PG COUNCIL OK’S SMALL TAX HIKE: The Prince George’s County Council on Thursday rejected County Executive Rushern Baker’s pleas for a major tax increase to generate more education funding but passed a budget that would require a modest tax hike and end a property tax cap that’s been in place since 1978, writes Arelis Hernandez for the Post.

DELAUTER’S FOOT IN BIG MOUTH: Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter has once again found himself publically humiliated at his own hands — or mouth. According to the Bill Turque of the Post, Delauter went on radio last week to denounce the actions of both County Executive Jan Gardner and Council President Bud Otis who are working to prevent a possible conflict of interest by preventing councilmembers from bidding on — and winning — county contracts. He’s since apologized for the crassness of the language, but still …

SCHUH SHOULD HAVE KNOWN: The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital writes that you shouldn’t have to tell a politician that appearances matter. And County Executive Steve Schuh, after two terms in the General Assembly, shouldn’t have needed anyone to tell him there would be complaints if he penciled in county grants for out-of-county organizations on whose boards he serves.

SRB’S FALLING FORTUNES: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake could face a tough race against at least one challenger in next year’s election, political analysts say. Luke Broadwater and Yvonne Wenger of the Sun writes that a few months ago, many pundits considered the mayor practically unbeatable. The city’s crime and unemployment rates were down. She had substantial money in her campaign account. She even flirted with a run for U.S. Senate. Then rioting broke out — followed by a dramatic spike in homicides.

Now, with the Democratic primary less than a year away, many are speculating whether Rawlings-Blake could survive a formidable challenge, though no opponent has officially emerged.

DIXON ON THE SCENE: There was high drama at a meeting in Sandtown-Winchester last night to begin the process of creating a community association – something this long-struggling neighborhood hasn’t had in more than a decade, reports Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew. Former Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon — who has toyed with re-entering politics — showed up and three representatives from the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan came as well.

O’MALLEY’S ABILITIES: In an unfortunately obscure way of presenting an editorial online, the Baltimore Sun has cut its editorial board’s opinion piece “Does O’Malley have what it takes to be president?” into eight photos with extended cutlines. You can discover its conclusions in a photo gallery beginning here. (In the print edition, it occupies almost a full page.)

PROTESTING O’MALLEY: A Baltimore-based group is planning to protest former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s expected presidential announcement on Saturday, arguing that his policing strategy as mayor is partly responsible for the riots that occurred last month, John Fritze writes in the Sun.

J STREET BACKS EDWARDS: The liberal Jewish group J Street is backing Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) in Maryland’s U.S. Senate race, but the endorsement is not exclusive. Instead Edwards will go into the group’s “On The Street” program, which allows supporters to donate to her through J Street’s PAC. J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement that Edwards “has been willing to buck political tides to stand up for the national aspirations of both” Israelis and Palestinians, Rachel Weiner of the Post is reporting.