July 20, 2015

State Roundup, July 20, 2015

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TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS: When Gov. Larry Hogan pulled the plug on Baltimore’s Red Line last month, he rolled out $2 billion in spending on road projects, giving the state’s toll-free highway system its largest infusion of cash in decades. Michael Dresser of the Sun writes that in shifting Maryland’s transportation priorities from transit projects to roads, the Republican made clear that as long as he is governor, asphalt will flow freely. But not necessarily evenly. In Baltimore City? Nothing. In Baltimore County? Less than 1% of spending for new projects.

BUCKS FOR PURPLE LINE? Katherine Shaver of the Post reports that the celebration after Gov. Larry Hogan’s approval last month of a light-rail Purple Line for the Washington suburbs has given way to hand-wringing over whether his financial conditions can be met.

LOBBY DOLLARS: Spending to lobby Maryland politicians went up about $1.2 million in the last reporting period, with the health care industry leading the pack by spending more than $4.5 million, writes Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital. The overall figures are from the Maryland State Ethics Commission, which tracks lobbying each year, although the industry-by-industry breakdown was done by Common Cause, a nonpartisan organization that focuses on government transparency issues.

PRISONER ISOLATION: A report commissioned in 2012 by a nonprofit organization suggests that Maryland isolates more prisoners than other states — 8.5% compared with 5% in Virginia. Advocates are pushing for more information and say they will try again next year to pass a reporting law, despite opposition from prison administrators and legislators. Advocates have pressed for years to reduce the practice of isolating prisoners, citing enormous psychological and fiscal costs. Their call increasingly is being heard by both Democratic and Republican politicians, reports Elizabeth Koh for the Post.

JUDICIAL VACANCIES: Those perusing the “Judicial Vacancies” page on the Maryland Judiciary’s website recently might have come across something unusual — actual vacancies. After former Gov. Martin O’Malley appointed 10 judges in December, there had not been a vacancy on any court at any level until late last month. Now, Gov. Larry Hogan has two seats on the bench to fill, including a major one, reports Danny Jacobs in the Daily Record.

HOGAN’S CLAIMS: WYPR’s Fraser Smith and WYPR’s Christopher Connelly discuss the Hogan administration’s — and others’ — claims about business, bond ratings and so forth.

CHEMO ROUND 2: Gov. Larry Hogan entered a Baltimore City hospital Sunday for his second round of chemotherapy treatment, as well-wishers prayed, sang and left him handwritten notes during a Harford County vigil that organizers pledged to repeat around the state, writes Jeff Barker for the Sun.

Hogan Yumi Monica Rutherford

Gov. Hogan’s first round of chemotherapy caused him to miss some fundraisers, but he did attend Saturday’s bash at the $27 million, 23,000-sq.-ft. home of Gary and Sonja Mangum on the appropriately named Bridgeview Lane in Stevensville on Kent Island. He had his photo taken with hundreds of guests posted on his Facebook page. Here he is with wife Yumi, Monica Rutherford and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford.

FIRST LADY FIRST IN COOKING: Maryland’s first lady, Yumi Hogan, gets rave reviews for her pork bulgogi, which she served on the grounds of the Maryland governor’s mansion in Annapolis Thursday night. One oysterman even asked her “Where’s your restaurant? Do you have a card?” Ovetta Wiggins of the Post writes that Hogan looked puzzled. Then it dawned on her: He thought she was an actual chef or restaurant owner. “I live right here,” Maryland’s first lady said smiling, pointing to the governor’s mansion just beyond the tents.

FUND-RAISING MORE THAN NUMBERS: More than a dozen congressional candidates told the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday how much money they raised in the second quarter — highly anticipated figures for political observers trying to gauge the strength of the different campaigns, reports John Fritze for the Sun. But the numbers that candidates file with the government, as required by federal law, sometimes tell a different story than what political aides publicize in advance.

WHO’S WHO WHO’S GIVING: Louis Peck, in a fun read in Bethesda Magazine, outlines the who’s who who are giving to both Kathleen Matthews and state Sen. Jamie Raskin in their quests to become the Democratic nominee for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Chris Van Hollen.

O’MALLEY’S COLLEGE DEBT: Political columnist Barry Rascovar of MarylandReporter.com asks: Would you trust a debtor presidential candidate to take on the far more arduous task of handling the federal government’s heavily out-of-balance budget? What kind of message does this send to voters if Candidate O’Malley had to load himself down with IOUs to put two of his four children through toney out-of-state colleges despite a hefty family income? To critics, it’s indicative of the kind of state government Martin O’Malley ran, in which he repeatedly sought more and more social spending even though he was driving Maryland deeper and deeper into a sea of red ink.

MD GIVES IN PREZ RACE: Maryland ranks sixth in the country for its overall contributions to presidential campaigns, outranking many much larger states, including nearby New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to an analysis by Maplight, a nonpartisan research organization that examines money in politics, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

HECKLING PREZ CANDIDATES: Ken Thomas of the AP reports in the Sun that Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley arrived at the annual Netroots Nation convention hoping to impress some of the party’s most influential liberal activists. Things didn’t exactly go as planned.

CONFEDERATE SYMBOLS: Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports that Baltimore City Council President Jack Young is taking the first legal step to strip a popular county-operated park of its Confederate ties. Young says he will file a bill today to change the name of Robert E. Lee Park, which is owned by the city, to Lake Roland Park. But some say a woman who died 100 years ago could be standing in his way. Young said he’s prepared to take on the challenge. He said “racially divisive” Confederate symbols have no place in the city.

TOP COP FIRING PROTEST: The crowd gathered outside City Hall last week, demanding that their community’s first black police chief — fired amid allegations leveled against white officers of departmental racism — be given his job back. In a place that bills itself as the “Friendliest Town on the Eastern Shore,” angry residents marched with posters that read “We Support Chief Kelvin Sewell” and jammed inside the quaint red-brick building to voice their outrage to the Pocomoke City Council, DeNeen Brown reports in the Post.