June 11, 2015

State Roundup, June 11, 2015

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RAHN FOR LESS-EXPENSIVE PURPLE LINE: Robert McCartney reports in the Post that Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn has recommended to Gov. Larry Hogan that he approve building the Purple Line after making changes­ to reduce its cost to the state, but it’s not clear whether Hogan will agree. Rahn urged his boss to go ahead with the light-rail project in the Washington suburbs providing that the price tag is trimmed by about $300 million from the estimated $2.45 billion cost.

PURPLE RIDERSHIP PREDICTIONS: An engineering report from the Federal Transit Administration forecasts that the Purple Line will see 56,100 daily riders by 2035. But, Kevin James Shay reports for the Gazette, a travel forecast report from the Maryland Transit Administration projects Purple Line ridership at 64,550 by 2030 and 69,300 by 2040. About 5,000 more riders are added in the MTA report if University of Maryland students and special boardings are counted.

MANNO MOCKS MAGLEV: Montgomery County Sen. Roger Manno may not be the biggest fan of Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to explore bringing high speed magnetic levitation trains to Maryland, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Manno struck a subtly mocking tone during a question and answer presentation with state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn in which the senator referred to the proposed maglev train as a “floating train” no fewer than seven times.

SUPREME DECISION COSTS: Costs to local and municipal governments related to a U.S. Supreme Court decision on some local tax payments could grow beyond an initial $140 million estimate if eligible taxpayers successfully challenge an interest rate set by the state on the outstanding refunds, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. The Supreme Court last month ruled that the local governments could not apply piggyback taxes on income earned out of state if taxes were paid in the other jurisdiction.

STATE ECONOMY SLUGGISH: Maryland’s economy didn’t exactly have a banner year in 2014, reports Jeff Clabaugh for the Washington Business Journal. The state’s real gross domestic product grew by 0.8%, to $321.3 billion, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Commerce. That’s less than the national gain of 2.2%. Maryland’s per capita real GDP last year was $53,759, higher than the national average of $49,469. It was $51,338 in neighboring Virginia and $159,386 in Washington, D.C. — the highest in the nation.

HEROIN DISCUSSION HEADS TO SHORE:  Vanessa Junkin of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford was in  Salisbury on Wednesday to hear from people representing six Eastern Shore counties about the effect of heroin and other opioids on their communities, and what they’d like to see done. The article is topped by a video interview with Rutherford in which he indicates that coordination with Delaware would also be helpful.

STOP HARVESTING OYSTERS: Environmental columnist Tom Horton, writing in MarylandReporter.com, says that Gov. Larry Hogan faces hard decisions balancing the lives of watermen and the health of the Bay, especially when it comes to the oyster, a keystone Bay species, a reef builder providing vital habitat for all manner of marine life, and a pollution filter removing excessive algae and nitrogen. To maximize Bay health, our best science says it’s time to stop catching oysters.

RIOTING REIMBURSEMENT: Danielle Sweeney and Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew report that hopes raised by Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Gov. Larry Hogan that a large share of the costs of the recent Baltimore riot would be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were put in perspective by a city budget official yesterday. “In order for us to be eligible [for federal aid], the city would have to receive an actual disaster declaration from FEMA,” Robert Cenname, deputy budget director, told the City Council.

GOP SEEKS CHANCE WITH BLACK VOTERS: Leaders of the Maryland Republican Party went to Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore on Wednesday with a message: Give us a chance. Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes that the party paid for a Republican civil rights activist from the South — a niece of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — to travel to Baltimore this week for events looking at issues highlighted by the death of Freddie Gray. The activities were sponsored by the NAACP, but the Republicans participated. The story is topped by video interviews of some of the people at the event.

DOMINION-ASIAN AGREEMENT TOUTED: In the midst of a busy 12-day trip to Asia meeting with leaders, businesses and riding the world’s fastest train, Gov. Larry Hogan included Lusby among the topics of discussion. Hogan joined executives Thursday from Dominion, Sumitomo Corp., Tokyo Gas Co. and the Kansai Electric Power Co. to commemorate a 20-year agreement under which Dominion will produce liquefied natural gas at its Cove Point facility in Lusby to export to Asian customers, Sarah Fleischman reports in the Calvert Recorder.

Cove Point storage tanks on the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby, Md. owned by Dominion.

Cove Point storage tanks on the Chesapeake Bay in Lusby, Md. owned by Dominion.

NO JURY FOR HOGAN: Josh Hicks of the Post writes that Gov. Larry Hogan reported for jury duty at 8 a.m. Wednesday, walking from the executive residence in Annapolis to the Anne Arundel County Courthouse roughly one block away. Courthouse officials barred reporters from entering the waiting room, where an orientation video could eventually be heard explaining the jury system and selection process. Facebook post, Hogan called jury service “my civic duty as a citizen” and said he was initially summoned to the courthouse on Jan. 21, a day when he had a major conflict that he couldn’t reschedule.

TEAMSTERS LOCAL BACKS EDWARDS: Washington-based union with members in suburban Maryland endorsed Rep. Donna F. Edwards’ campaign for Senate on Wednesday, becoming the first labor group to back the Prince George’s County lawmaker’s bid, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

O’MALLEY WELCOMED TO THE FIELD: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that regardless of how you feel about former  Gov. Martin O’Malley, his announcement last week that he’s running for president is good. His participation widens the discussion of issues and provides voters with additional opportunities to compare and contrast ideals embraced by other candidates in the field.

SRB LOSES CAMPAIGN FUNDRAISER: Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports that Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake prepares for what could be a challenging election campaign, she is losing her longtime fundraiser. Colleen Martin-Lauer, a top Democratic Party fundraiser in Maryland, has worked for Gov. Martin O’Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Rep. Chris Van Hollen on statewide races. She had been with Rawlings-Blake since 2007, and helped her win the 2011 campaign, in which the mayor spent more than $2 million. The departure has been portrayed as mutual.