June 9, 2015

State Roundup, June 9, 2015

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POLICE POLICY LAWMAKERS MEET: Lawmakers charged with making policy recommendations following the police custody death of Baltimore resident Freddie Gray peppered state officials responsible for police hiring and training standards with questions about racial diversity at their first work session Monday, Glynis Kazanjian of MarylandReporter.com reports. “Obviously we’re missing something in the racial and ethnic diversity training on top of the excessive force training,” remarked Sen. Joan Carter Conway, D, Baltimore City.

  • Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore), co-chairman of the public safety and policing work group, said one of the areas he plans to address is why African Americans are so underrepresented on police departments across the state, Ovetta Wiggins reports in the Post. “Diversity is a big problem,” Anderson said. “It will be the basis for some of the solutions that we will come up with.” African Americans make up 14% of the Maryland State Police, while the population of African Americans in the state hovers near 30%.
  • Lawmakers Monday raised questions about the need for ongoing psychological testing of police officers and increased diversity in police departments around the state, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. The issues were raised as part of a legislative work group charged with looking at a number of issues related to law enforcement and how police interact with communities and making recommendations for legislation for the 2016 session of the Maryland General Assembly.
  • The legislative session that ended in April saw several police accountability bills wither in committee. Lawmakers did pass some measures, including legislation that requires law enforcement agencies to track deaths of people in police custody and another that creates a legal pathway to put body cameras on police officers. But other, more substantive measures – such as efforts to reform the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which governs administrative disciplinary procedures and a bill that would put the state prosecutor in charge of investigations into police-involved deaths – did not advance, Christopher Connelly reports for WYPR-FM.

FRESHMAN EXPERIENCE: Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM interviews state Del. Cory McCray about his experience as a freshman delegate as well as Gov. Hogan’s recent veto of a bill McCray co-sponsored that would have given former felons the right to vote.

YES TO TRANSPARENCY: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post writes that the state Board of Elections Vice Chairman David McManus told Marylandreporter.com last week that the state needs more transparency when Board of Elections staff investigate alleged campaign finance violations. McManus is correct for a number of reasons. Allegations of wrongdoing crop up during just about every political campaign. Those vying for votes don’t want the other candidates to get an unfair advantage, and they are quick to point out when they think their opponent has crossed the line.

MOVING THE PREAKNESS? Could the Preakness move to South Baltimore?  In an email to the Business Journal, officials with Kevin Plank’s real estate firm, Sagamore Development, said “several people have shared with us” the idea of building a new horse racing track on land owned by the Under Armour Inc. CEO. But, reports the BBJ’s Ryan Sharrow, the track is “not currently contemplated in our master plan” for Port Covington, where Plank has acquired more than 130 acres of waterfront land. Sagamore Development did not specify who has been involved in the discussions.

TOWN MUST REPAY STATE GRANT: Eleven months into the fiscal year, Port Deposit town officials have been told to pay back more than half of a state grant it received for police protection, Jane Bellmyer reports for the Cecil Whig.

HOYER SEEKS ANSWER ON BRIDGE REPLACEMENT: U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer wants Maryland  transportation officials to explain how plans to replace the Harry W. Nice bridge will be affected by recently approved toll reductions. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports Hoyer, in a June 4 letter to Maryland Transportation Authority executive director Bruce Gardner, asked him to provide details including what has already been spent on the project as well as a timeline for completion of the project that is estimated to cost upwards of $1 billion. The bridge connects Charles County to King George County, Va.

TALK TO YOUR KIDS: The editorial board for the Sun opines that by law, public school students in Maryland do not need their parents’ permission to receive reproductive health services from school-based clinics. Nor are the schools under any obligation to inform parents. This has been true of Maryland school systems for years. Such public health efforts have helped cut teen birth rates in Baltimore in half in recent years. Yet as The Sun’s Erica Green and Talia Richman reported, some parents, ministers and elected officials are up in arms again over a health department program. The number of children who have received such services remains a minuscule fraction of total enrollment. It’s understandable parents would want to know if their kids are having sex. So here’s a time-tested method for parents to determine what’s going on that doesn’t require dismantling a long-standing and successful public health initiative: It’s called talking to your children.

CLINTON IN BETHESDA: Hillary Clinton attended a fundraiser in Maryland on Monday, an aide said, underscoring the state’s role in helping to fund presidential campaigns. The former secretary of state and frontrunner for the Democratic nomination met with about 120 people at the Bethesda home of Susan Ness and Larry Schneider. Tickets cost $2,700. Ness was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission by President Clinton in 1994. Schneider is an attorney. Both have been active fundraisers for the Clintons and other Democratic candidates, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

SCHUH NOW PUSHES INCOME TAX CUT: Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh is looking for one vote to accomplish his first tax cut in an administration planning to cut a tax or fee every year. Schuh shifted his tax cutting plans Monday, announcing a plan to submit a 4.2% income tax cut instead of his proposed 3% property tax cut. This would lower the rate from 2.56% to 2.45%, wires Chase Cook in the Annapolis Capital.