July 27, 2015

State Roundup, July 27, 2015

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POULTRY BANNED AT FAIRS: Maryland is banning poultry exhibits at state and county fairs and will quarantine out-of-state hatching eggs and chickens in hopes of preventing a bird flu outbreak that could be catastrophic for a key driver of the state economy. Josh Hicks of the Post reports that Agriculture Secretary Joe ­Bartenfelder said the arrival of the virus in Maryland “could very well bring economic disaster to our largest agricultural sector,” which in 2013 produced nearly $1 billion in chicken meat and $52 million worth of eggs.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA CLINIC OPENS: The first specialty clinic for medical marijuana opened in Annapolis last month and has seen more than 100 prospective patients — even though the Maryland Medical Cannabis Program isn’t expected to be operational for another year, Brandi Bottalico reports for the Annapolis Capital.

BIZ CLIMATE’S HARD PART: Making recommendations to improve Maryland’s business climate through regulatory reforms and legislation might have been the easy part for Norman Augustine and the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission. Augustine now leads his commission into phase two of an effort begun last spring — what Augustine himself calls “the hard part,” writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

RAIN TAX DEBATE CONTINUES: The so-called rain tax is being debated again — this time in court. A Montgomery County circuit judge has declared the county’s stormwater management fee invalid, saying it violates a state law passed this year to reform the controversial environmental charge. Though the ruling only applies in Montgomery for now, it’s creating ripples of anxiety in Baltimore area communities that still levy such fees to pay for reducing the polluted runoff fouling local streams and the Chesapeake Bay, writes Timothy Wheeler for the Sun.

POLICE REFORM RALLY: Several dozen activists from civil rights groups, churches and unions rallied Thursday in Annapolis to demand reforms of police training and discipline to protect the rights of minority communities. Organizations that included the ACLU of Maryland, the NAACP, CASA of Maryland and the Empowerment Temple held an outdoor news conference hours before a legislative work group gathered to take public testimony on how the General Assembly should respond to allegations of police misconduct, write Michael Dresser and Luke Broadwater for the Sun.

LEGGETT 90% SURE ON PURPLE LINE: Aaron Kraut of Bethesda Beat writes that despite the Purple Line’s uncertain financial future, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett Friday said he’s “90%-plus” certain the 16-mile light-rail will be built “in a reasonable period of time.” Leggett made the prediction on Friday’s Kojo Nnamdi radio show after political analyst Tom Sherwood asked him to put a percentage on the likeliness of the project getting built.

20th CENTURY RESPONSE TO 21st CENTURY PROBLEM: Columnist Barry Rascovar writes in MarylandReporter.com that road projects are what Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn and Gov. Larry Hogan care about. Money talks and in this case, Maryland’s governor is stating in a loud and clear voice his overriding objective is to throw more and more dollars into asphalt and concrete highways and bridges. That’s a 20th century response that fails to address 21st century problems.

  • WYPR-FM’s columnist Fraser Smith says that Gov. Hogan says he loves Baltimore. He said he wants Baltimore to be the economic engine of Maryland. Really? At the same time, he says he won’t go forward with a program designed to give the city and surrounding counties the transportation system an economic engine needs. And then, the governor and his transportation secretary, Pete Rahn, announced $700 million or so for highways but none of it for the city.

RAHN AS PUNCHING BAG:  At two hearings last week, it was left to Gov. Hogan’s polite Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn to take the punches from legislators, most from Baltimore, mystified at Hogan’s dismissal of 10 years of transit planning. Rahn makes a good punching bag. He is large but quiet, firm but resilient, able to take a blow while continuing to hold his position. Watching the hours he spent on the witness stand, it’s hard to imagine Hogan himself being as calm and patient as Rahn, but that’s what cabinet secretaries are for, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.

DISHING WITH DIXON: Former Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon — and current candidate to regain that post — wants to find Red Line alternatives and build better transportation in the city. But those are only parts of her thoughts on transportation, taxes and jobs. Dixon dished on those topics during a recent interview with the Baltimore Business Journal, Rick Seltzer reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

NEW HOMELAND SECURITY TEAM: Gov. Larry Hogan has named a new head of homeland security and a new director of emergency management. Walter F. “Pete” Landon, a retired Maryland State Police lieutenant colonel, replaces Thomas E. “Tim” Hutchins in the homeland security post. Landon retired from the state police on June 1 after 30 years, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. Russell J. Strickland, former director of the Harford County Department of Emergency Service, will become the director of emergency management, replacing Clay Stamp.

DRUG COURT PRESCRIPTIVE: Through the words of one of its graduates, Annapolis Capital reporter Ellie Silverman writes about the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County Adult Drug Treatment Court, commonly referred to as Drug Court, created 10 years ago. The initiative helps substance abusers become sober and re-enter the community.  The county’s program is one of 40 operational drug courts in the state, said Gray Barton, the state’s executive director for problem-solving courts.

NCLB WAIVER: Maryland received a new three-year waiver last week from the Department of Education for the federal No Child Left Behind law, providing the state flexibility in meeting some of the act’s strict requirements, Liz Bowie and Talia Richman report for the Sun.

MULTISTATE BAY EFFORTS: Timothy Wheeler is reporting in the Sun that leaders of the multistate Chesapeake Bay restoration effort acknowledged Thursday that the pace of the pollution cleanup is lagging and vowed to catch up, though they offered no specifics. Meeting in Washington, federal agency heads and officials from Maryland and the other five states that drain into the bay approved a set of 25 “management strategies” for revitalizing the Chesapeake, which is plagued by algae blooms and a fish-stressing “dead zone.”

TALBOT BOYS DISCUSSION: The Chesapeake Spy begins of series of videotaped interviews with people on the Talbot Boys statue, what it means and whether it should be moved. It begins with Anglican Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson of the Anglican Diocese of the Chesapeake.

ON MIKE MILLEMANN, ACTIVIST ATTORNEY: Jonathan Pitts of the Sun profiles Mike Millemann, a long time attorney and civil rights activist who has been called “the LeBron James of lawyering for poor people” as well as wrong-headed and dangerous.

GUARD CAN BE HELD LIABLE: Prison guards and other public officials can be held personally liable for deaths and injuries caused by their gross negligence, Maryland’s top court has unanimously held in ruling that a correctional officer is not immune from liability for one inmate’s strangulation of another on a prison bus headed to Baltimore, Steve Lash reports in the Daily Record.

HOGAN FINISHES CHEMO ROUND 2: Gov. Larry Hogan was back in Annapolis Friday after completing his second round of chemotherapy for treatment of cancer, according to an AP story in the Sun. Hogan was at the governor’s mansion as of midday after being released from the University of Maryland Hospital late Thursday, said spokeswoman Erin Montgomery.

O’MALLEY TAKES ON WALL ST. Aaron Davis of the Post reports that as a young state’s attorney in Baltimore City, Martin O’Malley prosecuted a parade of drug dealers, the city’s seemingly insurmountable public enemy. As mayor and, later, governor of Maryland, he often seemed most at home when facing off against some other Goliath – a Republican governor trying to take over his city’s schools, for example, or the gun industry. In his long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, O’Malley has taken on a new enemy: Wall Street and mega-banks.

O’MALLEY ON THE WRONG SIDE OF POULTRY: When it comes to Maryland agriculture, poultry is king. But in Iowa — the nation’s first presidential nominating state — corn is the top crop. John Fritze reports in the Sun that former Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, is winning praise from corn farmers in Iowa for his support of a federal mandate to blend biofuels into gasoline. But the stance does not sit well with the poultry industry in his home state of Maryland.

O’MALLEY’S CONFLICT: Former Gov. Martin O’Malley is a small-timer when it comes to the fees he demands for speaking engagements, at least compared with Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. Nonetheless, opines the editorial board for the Post O’Malley has been stepping up his game, specifically by striking a deal with a tech company that benefited from a sizeable no-bid state contract when he was governor — and which then paid him nearly $148,000 for speeches and consulting in the months after he left office in January. The appearance of a quid pro quo is not the biggest problem facing O’Malley, who remains stuck near zero in the polls among Democratic primary voters. Still, the payment — his single largest chunk of current income — while not illegal, is troubling to the Post.

AA SHORE PATROLS: Anne Arundel County has more than 500 miles of shoreline, but inspectors investigating complaints of waterfront clear-cutting and other rules violations don’t have a boat to work from and have opted to use a police helicopter a few times each year. Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports that that decision irks some Severn River Association members, who are assembling a 13-foot Boston Whaler, which they plan to use to patrol and monitor the river for violations of land-use rules.

FIXING BALTIMORE CITY: Adam Bednar of the Daily Record interviews August “Augie” Chiasera, president of the Greater Baltimore/Chesapeake Regions at M&T Bank, on what he sees as solutions to Baltimore City’s problems that were highlighted by the rioting in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death.