June 17, 2015

State Roundup, June 17, 2015

Print More

$6 MILLION QUESTION: A portion of Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed use of the state’s rainy day funds to cover costs incurred during the recent riot and 10-day state of emergency is raising questions. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that part of the four-page proposal to use $20 million to cover the costs related to the events in Baltimore contains a provision to transfer nearly $6 million into a catastrophic event fund to pay for future emergency needs. “I can buy almost all of it, but I can’t buy the $5.9 (million),” said Warren Deschenaux, director of the Office of Policy Analysis for the Department of Legislative Services.

PURPLE LINE LIMBO: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett’s spokesman said Monday that Gov. Larry Hogan is keeping any possible changes to the proposed Purple Line light-rail project “close to his vest.” Patrick Lacefield said the governor has not told the county how much more money it might have to contribute if he approves a revised version of the project, Andrew Metcalf reports for Bethesda Magazine. The governor has also not conducted any negotiations with the county over what features may have to be cut from the project for him to approve it, according to an email from Lacefield.

BUS FARES TO RISE: Ted Pugh of the Charles County Independent reports that commuter bus fares in Maryland will increase next week. The increase is part of a larger Maryland Transit Administration transit fare increase that is mandated by the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013. The law requires MTA to adjust fares for the state’s core services — local bus, light rail, metro subway and mobility/paratransit — every two years and for commuter bus and MARC train services every five years.

SMART-METER NAYSAYERS: Nate Rabner of CNS, writing in MarylandReporter.com, reports that for the most part, the rollout of smart meters across Maryland has gone smoothly. BGE alone has changed out more than a million old-style analog or digital meters, replacing spinning dials with digital displays and online charts. But on the other side of the power line is a population of holdouts and their self-appointed advocates: a band of concerned residents who dispute nearly every claim they’ve heard from utilities across the state about the new grid.

THE PENNSYLVANIA PROBLEM: The editorial board for the Sun takes a more pointed approach in addressing pollution and the Chesapeake Bay writing that if “there is any hope for a Chesapeake Bay restoration, the amount of pollution flowing into it on a daily basis must be reduced. It’s really that simple. Maryland and Virginia have made significant progress in that regard, but one state trails particularly badly — Pennsylvania.”

GEORGE GETS GOP SUPPORT: When former GOP gubernatorial candidate Ron George announced his candidacy for the state Senate Tuesday, the cream of the Anne Arundel County Republican establishment turned out in force to back him, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, Sen. Ed Reilly, Circuit Court Clerk Robert Duckworth and most of the Republicans in the county House delegation joined George at a news conference in front of the former delegate’s Main Street Annapolis jewelry store as he announced he would see the District 30 seat held by veteran Democratic Sen. John C. Astle.

Ron George Waterman Schuh

Ron George announces for state Senate in front of his jewelry store.(From Douglas Arnold’s Facebook page)

TRUMP IN MARYLAND: Real-estate mogul, reality TV star and now presidential candidate Donald Trump, on one of his first stops on the campaign trail, will be in Maryland as the keynote speaker for the state Republican Party’s annual fundraiser, the Sun is reporting. Trump agreed to be the headliner at the GOP’s annual Red, White and Blue dinner on June 23.

COUNCIL OVERRIDES BAKER VETOES: The Prince George’s County Council voted Tuesday to override budget vetoes handed down by County Executive Rushern Baker, rejecting for the second time in three weeks a proposed double-digit increase in the property tax rate, reports Arelis Hernandez of the Post. The decision illustrates a stark shift by the nine-member council, which has supported most of Baker’s major initiatives throughout his 4 1/2 years in office.

TAX SAVINGS IN ARUNDEL: Anne Arundel County’s property tax is dropping. The county income tax is taking a dip, too. But it also means the county will bring in less revenue, thinning the budget for services, writes Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital. Some are calling Anne Arundel County’s fiscal 2016 budget a big reduction in taxes since the revenue cap was instituted in 1994. But what does that mean for your wallet? You’ll save enough to pay a month of your cable bill.

DUNCAN UPBEAT ON CITY SCHOOL: Education Secretary Arne Duncan watched 11-year-old India Jones build circuits and listened as she told him of her plan to become a doctor. He saw the “maker-space” where Jones and other students at Baltimore’s Liberty Elementary School build electrical devices, make apps and do three-D printing.  After touring the Northwest Baltimore school along with other top federal education officials yesterday, Duncan gave an assessment that pleased the assembled crowd of staff, nonprofits and dignitaries, reports Fern Shen for Baltimore Brew.

TRASHED BOOKS: Despite pleas from teachers, community leaders and city councilmen, a closing Northeast Baltimore City high school disposed of hundreds of books, which ranged from math and science textbooks more than a decade old to timeless classics. Some, teachers said, still had crisp pages and the new-book smell., reports Erica Green for the Sun.

GOP NOT HAPPY WITH MO CO LAW: Despite a Republican winning last year’s gubernatorial election in Maryland using a public campaign finance system, the Montgomery County Republican Party is apparently not a fan of the county’s new public campaign finance law, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Magazine. On Monday night, a representative of the county’s Republican Central Committee said the public financing system established by the law will not create more fair elections.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: A group of Montgomery County students, hoping to one day be able to chose food truck food over cafeteria fare, is pushing a bill in the Montgomery County Council to bring food-truck operating hours closer to those in the District, Elizabeth Koh writes in the Post.

NEW ETHICS PANEL: When the Frederick County ethics commission meets in July, four of five members will be new. The County Council voted Tuesday to confirm County Executive Jan Gardner’s four appointments to the ethics commission. Six of seven council members affirmed the appointments; Councilman Billy Shreve abstained, Jen Fifield reports for the Frederick News Post.

ENGLISH IN FREDERICK: Two members of the Frederick County Council are working to repeal an ordinance passed in 2012 that required that all of the county’s official business be conducted in English. Kelsi Loos of the Frederick News Post writes that the two members, Jessica Fitzwater and M.C. Keegan-Ayer, say the 3-year-old ordinance is ineffective and sends a message of intolerance to county residents from diverse backgrounds and to businesses that may want to operate here.

FILL THE GAZETTE HOLE: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland — and one-time Gazette staffer — wonders what will happen next in journalism now that the Gazette is gone. It takes deep pockets and professionals — and there should be plenty of them out there in Montgomery County.

GAZETTE FOUNDER DIES: In 1959, the first issue of the Gaithersburg Gazette was pieced together by Earle D. Hightower out of the basement of his Rockville home. On June 8, Hightower died in Pinehurst, N.C., at 92 years old, four days before it was announced that The Gazette in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties — publications that evolved from his original creation — would print their final editions this week. Hightower’s daughter, Alexandra, said in a Friday phone interview that she was glad he would never hear the news, Samantha Schmieder reports for the Gazette.