August 6, 2015

State Roundup, August 6, 2015

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HOGAN TO ANNOUNCE REDISTRICTING REFORM: Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that Gov. Larry Hogan will hold a news conference today in Annapolis to roll out a plan to reform the way Maryland draws its political districts. The Governor’s Office on Wednesday did not provide further details of Hogan’s proposal. But in his State of the State Address, he said he would issue an executive order creating a bipartisan commission to examine Maryland’s redistricting process.

HOGAN SMOG PLAN JUMPS HURDLE: The Hogan administration’s plan for curbing smog-forming pollution from coal-burning power plants cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, winning approval from the state’s air-quality advisory council despite complaints from environmentalists and some lawmakers that public health safeguards were weakened at the behest of one energy company, reports Timothy Wheeler for the Sun.  The 14-member panel, which reviews all proposed air regulations, endorsed the plan after a top state regulator insisted it still would protect the public from harmful pollution even if it had been changed to give power plants more flexibility to comply.

FOR POLICE BODY CAMS: The editorial board of the Sun opines that the move to equip police officers with body cameras raises some difficult issues related to privacy, public access and data storage, but none of them are insurmountable. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s task force on how to employ them came up with reasonable solutions to those problems, and we expect that the task force created by the legislature and Gov. Larry Hogan will do the same.

PART 4 PENALTIES OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Maryland has some of the lightest penalties in the nation for human trafficking of adults, which police officers and advocates say draws traffickers into the state. A bill to strengthen trafficking penalties died in the Maryland General Assembly this session, the Capital News Service is reporting in No. 4 of its five-day series on Human Trafficking. Among the biggest opponents were advocacy groups working to end trafficking, who said the bill might have ensnared people trying to help a victim and imposed felony penalties on them.

PART 5 FEW PERPETRATORS ARRESTED: Baltimore City has become a hub for human trafficking because of its interstate highways and proximity to major airports, city and state officials say. But few human traffickers are arrested, and even fewer are convicted — while police continue to make hundreds of prostitution arrests every year. City police have made approximately 800 prostitution arrests a year on average, according to a Capital News Service analysis of FBI data from 2008 to 2012, the most recent statistics available. But Baltimore has charged only 10 suspects with sex trafficking since January 2013, a CNS review of court records showed. And prosecutors dropped all charges in eight of the cases. The only conviction was on a separate charge, and one case is pending.

HOGAN AT SOFTBALL TOURNEY: Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive protection team ditched its issued uniforms Wednesday afternoon and donned “Hogan Strong” T-shirts in support of the governor’s battle against cancer at the 40th annual Maryland State Police softball tournament. Melissa Horn of the Frederick News Post reports that Hogan stopped by Pinecliff Park in Frederick to cheer on his team and offer fist bumps to the off-duty troopers and their families.

RASCOVAR READERS WRITE: Political observer Barry Rascovar, who found himself in the middle of a dustup this week over a column on Gov. Hogan’s health and attitude, turns his column over to his readers to respond to the column and other topics.

ANDERSON JOINS 8th DISTRICT RACE: David M. Anderson, a senior vice president at the Washington Center and an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, said he will enter the race for the Democratic nomination in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, writes John Fritze for the Sun. Anderson will formally announce his candidacy in the next few weeks, he said, joining a crowded field of Democrats hoping to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for Senate. The district is based in Montgomery County but includes portions of Frederick and Carroll counties.

MATTHEWS TV ADS TO BEGIN: Former TV news anchor Kathleen Matthews, who raised $500,000 in the month following her June announcement that she is running for Congress, Thursday evening will become the first candidate in the 8th District race to dip into her campaign treasury to take her message to a television audience, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.

O’MALLEY BLASTS DEBATE NUMBERS: John Fritze reports in the Sun that presidential candidate Martin O’Malley took a swipe at the Democratic Party and frontrunner Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, arguing that party “insiders” were trying to “circle the wagons” around the former secretary of state by sanctioning only six debates.

BA CO MAY RESTRICT RX POT BY ZONING: Bryan Sears is reporting in the Daily Record that proponents of medical marijuana say a recently introduced zoning bill would be so restrictive that it would make it nearly impossible to open a growing facility or dispensary in Baltimore County. Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a Democrat and supporter of medical marijuana, said she and other members of the council hope to use the bill to establish where the businesses can locate before the state program becomes operational sometime next year.

CASINO TRANSIT HUB AXED: A proposal to create a transit hub near Maryland Live has been axed, according to recent development plans. Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital reports that a site plan now shows a parking lot with 650 spaces intended to accommodate a proposed 300-room, 18-story hotel and 25,000-square-foot conference center behind the Hanover casino.

SEN. FERGUSON ADDRESSES SCHOOL PROBLEMS: The state senator who sent an angry email to Baltimore City school officials and the school board last month about poor conditions at the New Era Academy school buildings in Cherry Hill said he is seeing improvement, but still has concerns, writes Danielle Sweeney for Baltimore Brew.  “I visited on Friday, definitely seeing progress but much much left to do,” Sen. William C. Ferguson IV, who represents the 46th District, said yesterday. “I’ll be back this Friday.”

DECLINE OF DAILY NEWS REPORTING: Ken Doctor of Neimanlab reports that jobs for  local daily news reporters are on the decline. “How soon will we have to add this once-stable occupation to the list of jobs that once were — occupations once numerous that slid into obsolescence? (Not to mention the even more colorful spittleman [hospital attendant], rotarius [wheelwright], and hamberghmaker [horse collar maker].)  … the American Society of News Editors found its first double-digit decline in newsroom count since the Great Recession of seven years ago. Newsroom jobs dropped 10.4 percent — down to 32,900 full-time journalists at nearly 1,400 U.S. dailies, 2014 over 2013. That’s the loss of 3,800 jobs in just one year.”