June 8, 2015

State Roundup, June 8, 2015

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IMPROVING POLICE TRAINING: A bipartisan group of Maryland lawmakers today will begin its work to develop recommendations for improving police training and enhancing police-community relations. The legislative panel was formed last month by House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert) and tasked with providing the General Assembly legislative proposals to improve public safety and policing practices, Ovetta Wiggins reports for the Post.

BALTIMORE CITY CRIME: Doug Donovan of the Sun reports that as recently as January, former Gov. Martin O’Malley personally offered state help for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s crime-fighting efforts. The Democratic former mayor wrote an email to Rawlings-Blake on Jan. 13, a little more than an hour before he appeared at a morning news conference with Prince George’s County officials to praise that jurisdiction’s reductions in crime and its partnerships with the state.

HOGAN’S INCREDIBLE MAGLEV JOURNEY: Gov. Larry Hogan’s praise this week for a high-speed magnetic levitation train didn’t sit well with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Rep. Elijah Cummings, who have been lobbying the governor to support the Red Line light rail project they view as a way for residents of West Baltimore to travel to jobs, Luke Broadwater writes in the Sun.

  • Political prognosticator Barry Rascovar, writing in MarylandReporter.com, says that in the name of improved economic ties with Japan, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan allowed himself to be used as a marketing tool for a pie-in-the-sky, ultra-expensive transportation project known as “maglev.” It’s “an incredible experience” Hogan said of his 300-mph ride on a test track in Japan. What’s really incredible is Hogan’s willingness to become a promoter of this technology with eye-popping costs just as he nears a decision on building two crucial, but far cheaper, conventional mass-transit routes in Baltimore and the Washington suburbs that he previously called “too expensive,” says Rascovar.
  • The editorial board for the Sun opines that Gov. Hogan got two things right when he took an ultra-fast ride this week on Japan’s  maglev train. First, building a maglev line between Baltimore and Washington would be utterly transformative by all but collapsing the distance between the two cities. And second, given the fact that the state is not being asked to put any of its own money into the project, there’s no reason not to proceed. Their hope is that he will apply the same sensibility to two other projects that would also be transformative, if less exciting: the Red and Purple light rail lines in the Baltimore and Washington regions.

REGULATING CHICKEN POOP: The Salisbury Daily Times’ Jeremy Cox reports that today, farming changes forever on the Eastern Shore. The long-awaited — and, in some camps, long-dreaded — phosphorus management tool goes into effect in Maryland. The regulation represents the state’s biggest effort yet to control the amount of manure that Eastern Shore farmers spread on their fields. Cox offers answers to key questions about the new ag rules and their answers.

OVERALL CASINO REVENUES UP: Maryland’s five casinos set a new record in May, posting $96.3 million in revenue, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. The record, which surpasses the old high-water mark of $91 million set in March, came during a month when Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore City posted lower than expected revenues as a result of the April riot and soaring level of homicides that followed in May. The overall state figures are $20.5 million more than the same time a year ago — a period before the opening of the Baltimore casino.

O’MALLEY COURTS YOUNG VOTERS: Martin O’Malley came to Hanover, N.H., bearing pizza, and a message he hopes will click with the young voters who could be critical for his long-shot bid for president. “One thing I’ve been struck by is a big generational shift underway in our country,” O’Malley told about 100 students gathered May 31 in a small library meeting room at Dartmouth College last week. “I’ve rarely met someone under 40 who denies climate change is real. I rarely meet anyone under 40 who wants to scapegoat immigrants.” The line brought murmurs of agreement from the crowd of young Democrats, John Fritze of the Sun reports.

O’MALLEY COURTS LATINO VOTERS: Post reporters Arelis Hernandez and John Wagner, in a piece that appears in the Frederick News Post, write that O’Malley stepped up his efforts to court Latino voters, appearing before a Hispanic business group and on Spanish-language television. While his proposals on immigration, education and driver’s licenses have applause from national immigrant rights advocates — with some declaring O’Malley’s record the strongest in the Democratic field — Maryland lawmakers present a more nuanced view.

Omalley makes pitch to young people

On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Martin O’Malley speaks to a group of mostly young people. (from his campaign Facebook page)

STATEWIDE NARCONON FIGHT: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that if opponents truly want to stop the Church of Scientology’s questionable drug treatment program called Narconon from coming into Frederick County, they need to broaden their scope and start to petition members of the Maryland General Assembly. The state has serious problems with opioid and heroin addiction. Only the most effective, science-based treatments should be acceptable.

FORMER CALVERT GOP CHAIR DIES: Former chairman and cornerstone of the Calvert County Republican Central Committee, Frank McCabe, 77, died of cancer Tuesday evening. McCabe and his wife moved to Calvert County from northern Virginia in 1992, and he retired from the Federal Aviation Administration in 1999. The Solomons resident dedicated his time and efforts to volunteering in Calvert County for the Republican Party and served as chairman of the Calvert County Republican Central Committee for six years, Sara Newman writes in the St. Mary’s Enterprise.

MO CO ELECTIONS BOARD SHIFTS: Former county executive candidate Jim Shalleck will lead the Montgomery County Board of Elections as the board majority shifts from Democratic to Republican. Shalleck, a Republican, was appointed to the elections board in February by Gov. Larry Hogan and confirmed by the Senate, Kate Alexander of the Gazette reports.

HIRING BIG DIG FIRM: Montgomery County is preparing to hire a law firm that worked on Boston’s “Big Dig” and other troubled public works projects to act as its special counsel for lawsuits expected to arise from the design and construction of the Silver Spring Transit Center, Bill Turque is reporting for the Post.

AA UTILITY RATE CUT PROPOSED: To cut utility rates or lower property taxes? Anne Arundel County officials haven’t decided yet, but a 5% water and sewer rate cut pitched Friday by County Auditor Teresa Sutherland could reduce utility bills for residents about $31 a year. Businesses could save even more, writes Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital. The auditor made the recommendations at the behest of County Council chairman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton, and Councilman Chris Trumbauer, D-Annapolis. The two asked her to look for financial relief that could be an alternative to County Executive Steve Schuh’s proposed 3% property tax rate cut.

WICOMICO SHERIFF IN NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT: Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis is turning into a media celebrity. At least 150 media representatives have contacted him, he said. His life’s gotten busier ever since he and fellow deputies responded to Baltimore City following the death of Freddie Gray. He’s a “tell it like it is” sort of fellow, says one fan.