July 21, 2015

State Roundup, July 21, 2015

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HOGAN PLEADS FOR PURPLE LINE AID: Gov. Larry Hogan pleaded Monday for his state’s congressional delegation to help secure a total of $900 million in federal funding for the Purple Line light-rail project he approved last month, saying the plan cannot move forward without a major influx of cash from the U.S. government, Josh Hicks reports for the Post.

SCORING WITH BUSINESS & ENVIRONMENT: Environmentalists and business groups generally give very different ratings of Maryland legislators based on their votes. But in scorecards just released by the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and Maryland Business for Responsive Government almost all Annapolis lawmakers improved their scores with both groups, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com Democrats, as usual, scored much higher on the environment and Republicans scored significantly better on business issues.

SLOTS-FUNDED COLLEGE: Hundreds of college students can pursue their college studies thanks to Allegany County scholarships funded by casino revenue, Matthew Bieniek reports for the Cumberland Times News. Of the first $800,000 of slots revenue paid to the county by the Rocky Gap Casino Resort, 45% goes to the ACM Foundation and 25% to the Frostburg State University Foundation to fund the scholarships. The scholarships are available to Allegany County residents.

TOLL REDUCTIONS SPUR REHAB CONCERNS: Reductions in tolls announced by Gov. Larry Hogan that went into effect July 1 for bridges across the state have some Southern Maryland officials worried for future improvements to the Gov. Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, the region’s closest highway link to Virginia, reports Christopher Ullery for the Calvert Recorder.

WHAT THE FRACK? The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that, unlike some other states, Maryland refused to jump willy-nilly on the hydraulic fracturing bandwagon. Instead, Maryland has proceeded slowly and deliberately, preferring, if it errs, to be on the side of caution. Considering how the story of fracking has developed in recent years, the cautious approach has proved valuable. As they said in a past editorial on this subject, Maryland can live without fracking.

MORE JOB CUTS POSSIBLE: More state job eliminations could be coming as departments look to reduce spending as part of a mandate by Gov. Larry Hogan, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. Hogan and the Board of Public Works last week delayed action on the elimination of 63 human resources jobs in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The move has raised concerns among lawmakers and union officials that Hogan is forgoing a promise made earlier this year.

UMES SUED OVER BIAS CLAIM A white former provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore has filed a lawsuit against the historically black college, alleging he was harassed and eventually fired because of his race, reports Lauren Kirkwood in the Daily Record.

DOWN THE DRAIN: In an overlooked tidbit from last week, Rick Seltzer for the Baltimore Business Journal reports that the state of Maryland poured $54,000 into repairing a broken toilet — and the damage it caused — in the William Donald Schaefer Tower at 6 St. Paul St. in Baltimore City earlier this year. The toilet malfunctioned on the 18th floor of the state-owned building, damaging 24 restrooms and causing problems in tenant space on three floors. The tower is home to a number of state offices, and managers of it brought in a company to clean up the problems under a 14-day contract awarded Jan. 5. But the emergency contract didn’t come before the state Board of Public Works until last Thursday because of administrative delays. The board accepted the contract without debate.

Confederate statue Montgomery County

CONFEDERATE STATUE IN ROCKVILLE: This is the statue honoring Confederate soldiers on the side of the old courthouse in Rockville that Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett would like to see removed, as does Rep. Chris Van Hollen. The inscription says: “To our heroes of Montgomery Co. Maryland. That we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line. Erected A.D. 1913”

LOBBY DONATIONS TO BARVE, DAVIS: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland takes a closer look at the campaign finance reports of two candidates for Congress who are not named Matthews and Raskin: Dels. Kumar Barve and Dereck Davis,  focusing in on the amount of money they took in from special interests and Annapolis lobbyists. Here’s the irony: These lobbyists and entities with business before the General Assembly are filling the chairmen’s coffers not because they necessarily want them to win, but because they are hedging against the very real possibility that the chairmen lose – and retain their gavels in the House of Delegates.

DOUGLAS CONSIDERS SENATE RUN: Richard Douglas, a former Pentagon official who ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2012, said Monday he is exploring another bid for the job next year — becoming the second Republican to consider a campaign for the open seat that has been held by Barbara Mikulski. Douglas, a 58-year-old College Park resident, served as a deputy assistant Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush and spent five years on Capitol Hill as a senior attorney to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

O’MALLEY DEBT? NO WORRIES: The editorial board for the Sun opines that earlier this month, presidential hopeful and former Gov. Martin O’Malley outlined his plan to reduce student debt and make college more affordable for more families. But his proposal went largely unnoticed because he trotted out his personal example to underscore the problem. Frankly, he shouldn’t have offered himself as an example — although with $339,200 in loans burning a hole in his pocket, the temptation was likely great. Still, we strongly suspect the O’Malley family finances will be just fine in the end. If politics teaches anything, it’s that the secret of success in elected office is delayed gratification.

ARUNDEL TAX MESSAGE NIXED: Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital reports about a dust-up in the hall of the Anne Arundel County government. County Executive Steve Schuh withdrew Council Chairman Jerry Walker’s message from fliers that go along with tax bills in what his spokesman called a change in policy. Schuh made the decision after palettes including Walker’s message had already been printed. Walker, a Republican, said the palettes are still wrapped up in the basement of the Arundel Center.