July 6, 2015

State Roundup, July 6, 2015

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HOGAN BACK AT WORK, BUT NOT FUNDRAISING: Gov. Larry Hogan is back, writes Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.  A self-described workaholic, Hogan returned to his office at the State House on Thursday after finishing his first round of chemotherapy since being diagnosed last month with stage 3 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

OPIOID EPIDEMIC: Elizabeth Koh of the Post reports that Bob Kozloski has had two missions since his son died three years ago from an OxyContin overdose: honoring his son’s memory and helping others avoid the same fate. Thursday morning, he drove 40 miles from his home in Frederick to Silver Spring to testify before a Maryland task force assigned to combat the opioid epidemic in the state.

NARCAN INSTRUCTION: The first class of 15 officers, a mix of Charles County sheriff’s officers and La Plata Police Department officers, was trained to administer an anti-opioid overdose drug Thursday at the sheriff’s office district station in Waldorf, Christopher Ullery reports for the Charles County Independent. Eventually, Sheriff Troy Berry intends to have every officer trained to properly administer Naloxone, a drug which can neutralize the effects of an overdose in minutes.

FIXING GERRYMANDERED MARYLAND: Phil Andrews, former Montgomery County Council member, writes in an op-ed in the Sun that thanks to the recent Supreme Court ruling, Gov. Larry Hogan now has a historic opportunity to lead the way for long overdue fundamental change in congressional redistricting in Maryland. There is no Maryland law requiring that congressional districts be compact — unlike the state law pertaining to legislative districts. As a result, Maryland’s third congressional district looks like blood spatter from a crime scene. It includes the far-flung communities of Towson, Annapolis and Olney, but excludes most of the people in-between. Several of the state’s other congressional districts are almost as disjointed.

HIV CASES SOAR: As the rate of HIV cases among young people rises in Maryland, public health officials are scrambling for new ways to address the problem — or risk undermining years of success, reports Andrea McDaniels in the Sun.  Among those newly diagnosed with HIV statewide, the proportion of those ages 20 to 29 nearly doubled — from 16 percent in 2003 to 31 percent in 2012, the most recent data available. The proportion of infected teens increased at about the same pace.

LEGISLATORS’ HOTEL, MEALS SPENDING: Each year the members of the General Assembly spend 90 days raking over the state budget, debating $100,000 here, $1 million there. Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital writes that meanwhile, on the taxpayers’ dime, they are staying in hotels, claiming expenses for mileage and eating meals. This year Maryland’s lawmakers spent about $2 million in this way, most of it stemming from hotel stays. That amount is close to last year’s. Here’s a database of the expenses by legislator.

RED LINE BOONDOGGLE? Political columnist Fraser Smith, writing in the Daily Record, says that Maryland left $900 million on the federal funds table when Gov. Hogan canceled the Red Line. He also flushed $288 million in planning money spent over the last decade. The Red Line, he said, was a boondoggle – a garden variety fleecing of the taxpayer. But who’s really wasting money here and what lessons have we learned from all this?

RED LINE ALTERNATIVES: Gov. Larry Hogan never devised a backup plan before killing Baltimore’s pivotal, $2.9 billion Red Line rapid-transit route last month. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake seems equally bereft of new transit ideas. So let’s see if we can help with some less expensive, but sensible, proposals to improve mobility and job access in Maryland’s largest urban region, writes Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com.

BLAST FROM THE PAST: Responding to Barry Rascovar’s column last week highly critical of Gov. Hogan’s rejection of the Red Line, Gov. Hogan’s deputy communications director, Doug Mayer, sent along a link to a 22-year-old Rascovar column in the Sun defending the low ridership numbers of the then-new Central line in Baltimore.

CALVERT ROADS PROJECT: Calvert County’s first transportation priority is a wish granted with Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement of nearly $2 billion in transportation projects across the state, reports Sarah Fleischman for the Calvert Recorder.  Ground is expected to break March 2017 on the second phase of the Route 2/4 widening project in Prince Frederick, said Calvert County principal planner Pat Haddon. According to information provided from the governor’s office, the funding allocated to the project is $25 million.

RE-ENERGIZING DEMS: The goal of the new heads of the state Democratic Party will be to energize and refocus the party after stunning defeats that cost it the governorship and seven seats in the legislature last year, Josh Hicks reports for the Post.

SENATE CHAMBER RESTORED, CLOSED FOR NOW: The $8 million restoration of the Old Senate Chamber at the State House has been complete for more than a week, but the doors to the historic room where George Washington resigned his commission remain closed to visitors. State officials say they don’t plan to open the room described as the “crown jewel” of the State House until Gov. Larry Hogan and members of the General Assembly can hold a ceremony, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

NEW POLLING METHOD: John Fritze of the Sun writes about Voice of the People, a new group testing a new way of polling in three states: deeply red Oklahoma, swingy Virginia and blue-leaning Maryland. They focus on complicated issues, including the Iran talks, with the goal of putting respondents through the same thought process as the lawmakers who represent them.Unlike in a traditional poll, University of Maryland researcher Steven Kull relies on a pool of respondents the group returns to repeatedly over the course of several months. Kull’s approach isn’t designed to predict election outcomes, rather to help lawmakers understand the public’s values

EDWARDS’ CAMPAIGN COFFERS: John Fritze of the Sun reports that U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards was to report raising $590,000 in her bid for Senate during the second quarter of the year, her campaign said Friday. The Edwards campaign, which took the unusual step of releasing its fundraising numbers on a federal holiday, said the money was raised from more than 7,500 donors. Edwards, a Prince George’s County Democrat, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen are running for the seat that will be left vacant in 2017 by retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

CARDIN ON IRAN: Sen. Ben Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that the best outcome for international talks with Iran is a “strong agreement” over that country’s nuclear program that includes thorough inspections of military sites and covert activities, John Fritze writes in the Sun. “The best option is a strong agreement, but Congress will [have] independent oversight,” said the Maryland Democrat, who helped draft the terms of the legislation that will allow lawmakers to review a deal, if one emerges.

PREZ CANDIDATE WITH ANNAPOLIS TIES: Rick Hutzell of the Annapolis Capital writes that another presidential candidate has an Annapolis connection. Jimmy Carter, Class of ’46, is the only Naval Academy graduate ever elected president. Ross Perot, Class of ’53, tried twice but never really came close. Now James Webb, who graduated at the top of his class in 1968, is running as a Democrat. Webb, a former secretary of the Navy and a U.S. senator from Virginia, has written about his time in Annapolis and been the subject of other books.

Confederate Flag arbutus parade croppedSHEILA DIXON REVISITED: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew revisits former Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon’s legal troubles — gift cards, fur coats and fabulous trips — as Dixon kicks off her campaign to regain the seat she lost.

CONFEDERATE FLAG: A small color guard of men dressed as Civil War reenactors from both sides marched in the Arbutus parade (and perhaps others) carrying two flags, the Stars and Stripes and the Stars and Bars. Apparently few people noticed the official Confederate national flag, with its ring of stars on a blue field in the upper quadrant (like the original U.S. flag) and two large bars of red at the top and bottom. Because the Stars and Bars was often confused on the battlefield with the Stars and Stripes, the Army of Northern Virginia developed the more distinctive and now controversial Confederate battle flag. Here’s a cropped photo from the Sun.