June 12, 2015

State Roundup, June 12, 2015

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HOGAN SUED OVER CLEAN AIR RULE: Two environmental groups  filed a lawsuit Thursday against Gov. Larry Hogan and his administration, saying they illegally blocked clean-air regulations approved days before Hogan took office, reports Josh Hicks in the Post.

PEOPLE’S COUNSEL APPEALS MERGER OK: Rick Seltzer of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that the state agency charged with representing utility customers’ interests is going to court to object to Maryland regulators’ decision in May to approve Exelon Corp.’s $6.8 billion acquisition of Pepco Holdings Inc. The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel filed an appeal of the merger approval in the Circuit Court of Queen Anne’s County, it said Thursday. Pepco serves that county through its Delmarva Power subsidiary.

HOGAN PUSHED ON PURPLE LINE: Michael Dresser of the Sun writes that advocates for the construction of the Washington suburban Purple Line went to the State House Thursday to urge Gov. Larry Hogan to visit the route of the light rail project just as he did a futuristic magnetic levitation project in Japan.The advocates contend that they have been sending Hogan invitations to tour the Purple Line route since he took office in January without receiving a yes or no.

Purple Line Riverdale Park Bethesda Train

Artist conception of Riverdale Park station on Purple Line.

FREE RANGE KIDS: Maryland officials have taken steps to clarify their views about children playing or walking alone outdoors in a new policy directive that says Child Protective Services should not be involved in such cases unless children have been harmed or face a substantial risk of harm. Donna St. George of the Post writes that the directive, part of a public statement to be issued today, follows a nationally debated case involving “free range” parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, who let their young children walk home alone from parks in Montgomery County.

KEEPING RECOVERY MOMENTUM: Donald Fry of the GBC writes in Center Maryland that to date, more than $300,000 has been pledged to the Baltimore Business Recovery Fund in the wake of the city riots. “But we need to maintain momentum with contributions to the fund so as many small businesses as possible can take advantage of it – and we can show city residents, the state and indeed the nation that Baltimore’s businesses community stands strong and united, especially when the ne’er-do-wells wreak havoc on people’s jobs and livelihoods.”

NEW COMMANDER: Baltimore Police Capt. Sheree Briscoe is the new commander of the Western District, the epicenter of the convulsions that wracked Baltimore six weeks ago, writes Len Lazarick writes for MarylandReporter.com. A cop for 21 years, she is not what you expect. Short and wide, she grew up in the city, and is the mother of four and the grandmother of three. “We asked to go” to the Western district, Briscoe said, referring to herself and her deputy, R. Jackson. “This was an opportunity to do something different and to do something better,” she said.

GRAY DEATH UPDATE: In the most detailed explanation of the charges against six police officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray yet filed in court, prosecutors say the officers failed to belt the 25-year-old Baltimore man into the back of a police van, and lacked probable cause to arrest him in the first place. But, reports Kevin Rector in the Sun, they provide no new information on the most serious charges against the officers — including second-degree depraved-heart murder and manslaughter — in the bills of particulars filed this week in Circuit Court.

HELPING UMES: Members of the University System of Maryland’s Board of Regents moved to protect the accreditation of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s School of Pharmacy Thursday by making a new building the campus’ capital priority, writes Daniel Leaderman in the Daily Record. The change makes it more likely that the institution will receive funds for a new building in the fiscal 2017 capital budget, officials said.

THE MATTHEWS DIFFERENCE: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland writes about the difference between candidate Kathleen Matthews and the rest of the lesser firmament seeking Chris Van Hollen’s House seat.

3 FOR DELANEY’S SEAT: According to blogger Ryan Miner, the race for the Republican nomination for the 6th Congressional seat held by John Delaney now has three contenders: Del. David Vogt, Scott Chen of Montgomery County as well as Christopher James Mason of Frederick County

SMIGIEL ALL IN: Former Del. Michael Smigiel says he’s running for Maryland’s 1st District Congressional seat. The Cecil County Republican announced Wednesday that he will challenge incumbent Rep. Andy Harris because some have been concerned that Harris was disconnected from the district and “too open to compromise,” the AP reports in the Daily Record .

VAN HOLLEN TOUTS TOUGHENED GUN LAW: U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the Montgomery County Democrat who is running for the Senate, introduced legislation Thursday to encourage states to toughen handgun licensing requirements — an effort he said would reduce homicides. The bill, supported only by Democrats, would create a federal grant program to help states create permit-to-purchase requirements for all handguns, including those bought at gun shows and from private dealers. They are the kinds of requirements that Maryland approved in 2013, John Fritze reports for the Sun.

ENGLISH IN FREDERICK: Thousands of Frederick County residents who don’t speak fluent English have been out of luck for the past three years when trying to read official county documents, writes Jen Fifield in the Frederick News Post. The last Board of County Commissioners passed a law in 2012 making English the official language of the county, requiring all official county documents to be written in English, unless there is an emergency. The vote came after much debate, with residents speaking on both sides of the issue. Two councilwomen now hope to repeal that law.

BAKER-COUNCIL TIFF WORSENS: Aides to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said Thursday that county lawmakers acted illegally last month when they rejected Baker’s proposal for a major tax increase, an accusation that sends an already bitter budget process into unfamiliar legal territory, reports Arelis Hernandez for the Post.

COMMUNITY PROSECUTOR ELIMINATED: When Ed Lulie learned his position as a community prosecutor would be eliminated at the end of June, the longtime Frederick County resident wasn’t entirely surprised, Paige Jones reports in the Frederick News Post. The yearly state grant that funded Lulie’s role with the Frederick County State’s Attorney’s Office had been significantly reduced last year amid budget constraints. As community prosecutor, Lulie worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office to launch the Exile program in 2009 as a coordinated effort by local, state and federal agencies to fight violent crime, especially gun crimes involving repeat offenders. Since its launch, over 30 people have been prosecuted federally for gun crimes, according to Lulie.

MAYOR’S MOVE QUESTIONED: Baltimore City Hall watchers are wondering why the mayor would cut her ties to the most effective generator of campaign cash for Maryland Democrats less than 11 months before the mayoral primary election. But the question of why she picked two 30-somethings as her strategists is a little less mysterious. Basically, she had no choice, Mark Reutter writes for the Baltimore Brew.

PEROUTKA SPEAKS: God’s word determines right and wrong — but that doesn’t necessarily mean mixing church and state, Anne Arundel County Councilman Michael Peroutka told 35 people during his keynote speech at a meeting of the North County Republican Club. “If you read all the founding documents of America, you will find this is the philosophy of American government,” he said.  Ellie Silverman reports the story for the Annapolis Capital.