July 22, 2015

State Roundup, July 22, 2015

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HEALTH SITE CONTRACTOR TO PAY STATE: The prime contractor hired to build Maryland’s flawed online health exchange will pay $45 million to the state and federal governments to avoid a lawsuit over its performance, Attorney General Brian Frosh announced Tuesday. Josh Hicks reports in the Post that Maryland’s health exchange drew national attention last year when the Web site crashed moments after launching. It was plagued by glitches for months afterward.

NADA FOR BALTIMORE TRANSIT: Michael Dresser reports in the Sun that Gov. Larry Hogan’s transportation chief told state lawmakers Tuesday that there’s nothing left from the money saved by canceling Baltimore’s Red Line for major initiatives to improve transit services in Baltimore. Under questioning at a hearing in Annapolis, Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn pledged to work with legislators and other Baltimore leaders to improve transit services he conceded were unacceptable, but he said those efforts would have to rely largely on existing resources.

KAMENETZ SEEKS TRANSIT PROPOSALS: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is asking the Baltimore Metropolitan Council to come up with new proposals to deal with transportation issues, in light of the state’s move away from funding the Red Line mass transit project, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Kamenetz, who chairs the Baltimore Metropolitan Council wants the study done by the council’s staff in the next 90 days.

STATE PENSION EARNINGS: Maryland’s $45.8 billion pension fund for state employees and teachers earned 2.68% for the past fiscal year, almost 5 percentage points below its target of 7.65%, but better than benchmark returns for its various asset classes, Len Lazarick reports in MarylandReporter.com.

KILL THE GERRYMANDER: The editorial board for the Post says it’s time to put away the gerrymandering jigsaw, writing that it’s not just Maryland who commits the mess most foul. The 3rd congressional districts in Maryland and Virginia are roughly 200 miles apart. Virginia’s 3rd stretches from Norfolk to Richmond. Maryland’s 3rd, with contours often likened to a blood spatter, incorporates parts of Baltimore City, as well as parts of Anne Arundel (including Annapolis), Baltimore, Howard and Montgomery counties. What they share is a genesis in bald-faced gerrymandering contrived by politicians intent on manipulating electoral maps to their advantage by hand-picking their own voters.

NO TAKERS FOR LUCRATIVE JUDGESHIP: Who wouldn’t want a job that pays $176,433 a year and gives you job security until age 70? The answer, apparently, is a whole lot of judges and lawyers living in Prince George’s County who passed on the opportunity — at least for now — to apply for a vacant seat on Maryland’s top court, reports Steve Lash in the Daily Record.

CHARGES AGAINST DEL. KELLY DROPPED: Bill Turque of the Post reports that Montgomery County prosecutors have dropped indecent exposure and trespassing charges Tuesday against Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), calling the dispute that triggered her arrest at her ex-husband’s house a domestic squabble, not a criminal matter. Police said Kelly, 38, dropped her two children off at the home of Barak Sanford on June 27, and became upset at learning that Sanford’s fianceé was in the residence.

HOGAN ON FLAG LOWERING: Gov. Larry Hogan expressed support this week for flying U.S. flags at half-staff to recognize five U.S. troops killed during a shooting rampage in Chattanooga, Tenn., after conservatives and veterans groups criticized President Obama for not quickly issuing such an order, reports Josh Hicks in the Post. President Obama waited until Tuesday to order all flags at federal buildings lowered to half-staff through July 25 — after several days in which critics called for him to take such an action.

RNC SMACKS O’MALLEY ON ISIL REMARK: The campaign of Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley sparred late Monday with the Republican National Committee over whether climate change contributed to the rise of the Islamic State in Syria, John Wagner reports in the Post.

O’MALLEY MEA CULPA TRUMPS TRUMP: Sun columnist Dan Rodricks writes that here’s a quick study in contrasts from the weekend: Donald Trump, surging in the Republican presidential polls, mocks John McCain’s service during the Vietnam War, then refuses to apologize for it, while Martin O’Malley, last in the latest poll on the Democratic side, apologizes for saying “all lives matter” to a group of “Black Lives Matter” protesters who heckled him. Both men touched a third rail within their respective parties — one that’s been in place forever, the other new within the past year — but only one owned up to his mistake.

Confederate statue Montgomery County

This is the statue honoring Confederate soldiers on the side of the old courthouse in Rockville. 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″

ROCKVILLE WEIGHS IN ON REBEL STATUE: Dozens of residents and historians aired their views about the Confederate soldier statue that sits near the historic Red Brick Courthouse before the mayor and council in a special session Monday night, Rebecca Guterman reports for the Montgomery Sentinel. The statue, erected in 1913, was moved to its current location in 1971 Its inscription reads “To Our Heroes of Montgomery Co., Maryland, that we through life may not forget to love the thin gray line.”

HISTORY OF CONFEDERATE STATUES: Mark Walston of Bethesda Magazine gives a brief history of some of the Confederate statues in Montgomery County.

MARYLAND LIVE HOTEL: The long-awaited hotel and conference center at the Maryland Live casino could be inching closer to fruition. A measure sent to the Anne Arundel County Council on Monday would allow the county to issue bonds for up to $22.5 million for a project that would include a hotel and conference center behind the Hanover casino, Rema Rahman reports in the Annapolis Capital.

FREDERICK DEBATES ENGLISH-ONLY: Concerns about the identity and character of Frederick County brought heated debate from a standing-room-only crowd at Winchester Hall as the discussion of the county’s English-only ordinance continues. Two County Council members, Jessica Fitzwater and M.C. Keegan-Ayer, have proposed a bill to do away with a 3-year-old ordinance establishing English as the official language of Frederick County, reports Kelsi Loos in the Frederick News Post.