June 5, 2015

State Roundup, June 5, 2015

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MAGLEV INTRIGUES HOGAN: Gov. Larry Hogan took a ride Thursday on Japan’s high-speed magnetic levitation train and expressed enthusiastic interest in a technology that has been touted as a way to travel between Baltimore and Washington in 15 minutes, Michael Dresser writes for the Sun. During a maglev ride on a 27-mile line outside Tokyo, Hogan was wowed by a technology the Japanese want to sell in the United States. “It was an incredible experience, even more impressive than I expected,” Hogan said after the lightning-fast trip, with speeds reaching 314 mph.

PURPLE LINE ADVOCATES REACT: Gov. Larry Hogan rode a high-speed train in Japan on Thursday, but a Montgomery County transit advocate says the governor should also visit local communities that would benefit from the light rail Purple Line, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Magazine.

ELECTIONS PROBE TRANSPARENCY: Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com writes that the ranking Republican on the Maryland State Board of Elections is calling for more transparency when staff investigates campaign finance violations that have the potential to be referred to the State Prosecutor’s Office. In March, state election staff cleared former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s campaign of alleged campaign finance coordination during the 2014 gubernatorial primary election, but board members are still waiting for written documentation that supports the finding. “The parties and the public deserve to know the rationale for the board’s decision,” said State Board of Elections Vice Chair David McManus.

STAPLES OWES STATE $14 MILLION: The office-supply retailer Staples owes Maryland more than $14 million in unpaid taxes from between 1999 and 2004, an administrative court has ruled. Danny Jacobs of the Daily Record reports that the Massachusetts-based company reorganized in 1998, creating two Delaware entities: one that handles administrative functions and one that oversees franchise operations.  The state comptroller’s office alleged the entities were set up in part to avoid income taxes in Maryland. The Court of Appeals last year held the comptroller can tax income of out-of-state-subsidiaries of a company doing business in Maryland if the subsidiaries are dependent on the parent company, which the administrative court agreed with last week.

CITY DEMS SEEK $1 MILLION FOR YOUTH JOBS: In a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, five Democrats are asking the state to chip in $1 million more for the city’s summer jobs program for youth — and the governor’s office says he’s open to the idea. Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes that the letter asks Hogan to use $1 million from a $20 million pot of money transferred out of the state’s rainy day fund into a contingency fund. One purpose of the fund is to “aid in the recovery of Baltimore City,” the letter states.

CITY POLICE CALL FOR STATE, FED HELP: Mark Reutter reports for the Baltimore Brew that Baltimore Police are calling on federal, state and local law enforcement agencies (with the exception of the National Guard deployed after the April 27 riot) to stem the tide of homicides and shootings in the city. “This is an all hands on deck – all hands, every single resource, every single body, every single personnel on the streets of Baltimore,” Police Commissioner Anthony  Batts said.

BUSCH TOUTS SCHOOL AID: House Speaker Mike Busch talked about one of his long running causes Tuesday at the annual meeting of an influential Annapolis residents group. “We have the poorest (school) feeder system in Anne Arundel County,” he told the Ward One Residents Association. “Better than 80% of the kids in elementary school have free and reduced meals, the middle schools are 50% and Annapolis High School, 40%.” Rick Hutzell of the Annapolis Capital writes that the Annapolis Democrat was one of several dignitaries at the meeting on the campus of St. John’s College, including Del. Herb McMillan and Mayor Mike Pantelidies.

FOR TRANSPARENT ETHICS RULES: The Frederick County Ethics Task Force hopes that county’s processes can become more transparent and its ethics rules can be made more clear, writes Jen Fifield for the Frederick News Post. The task force voted Thursday to finalize recommendations for the county executive and council on changes to be made to the county’s ethics ordinance, procedural changes for elected officials and the ethics commission, and changes to the Maryland Public Ethics Law.

GARDNER TO ISSUE 2nd EXEC ORDER: Jan Gardner’s second executive order is coming. Gardner plans to issue an executive order to place a hold on all applications for the Frederick County Register of Historic Places, Jen Fifield reports for the Frederick News-Post. The county executive can use the orders to give directives to staff, Gardner said at a news conference. Gardner said executive orders only add transparency to government processes, then gave examples of the ways other counties use them. In Montgomery County, for example, County Executive Ike Leggett issued 214 orders in 2014. A review of those orders showed that 115 of them were traffic orders for specific streets.