August 11, 2015

State Roundup, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015

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Elected officials meet with MDOT Monday (From Del. Clarence Lam's Facebook page)

Elected officials meet with MDOT Monday (From Del. Clarence Lam's Facebook page)

NEW LOOK FOR MarylandReporter.com: We switched web hosts and content management systems at 11 a.m. today, Tuesday, Aug. 11. You will notice some changes in how the website looks, and we may have some glitches to work out.

BUS PLAN DISAPPOINTS, FRUSTRATES: Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports that after killing the $2.9 billion Red Line project, Hogan administration officials gathered city elected officials Monday for a closed-door meeting and pledged to make Baltimore’s much-maligned bus system run better. City Democrats, who had hoped the Red Line would create hundreds of jobs in struggling neighborhoods, said they expected more.  “We came here today in hopes of hearing alternative ideas to the Red Line,” said state Del. Maggie McIntosh. “We leave here very frustrated and disappointed. There’s not a real plan or any alternative for the kind of things the Red Line would have produced. We got 100% emphasis on improving the bus service, which is their job.”

  • Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports that during closing statements at the end of the session state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn tried to spark a hopeful tone, acknowledged the federal legislators for their hard work and said he knows they will continue to be successful in securing federal funds for transportation projects improving the area’s transit system. He was interrupted by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski who quipped: “The pot is really small Mr. Rahn. … Hope is one thing, delusion is another.”
  • During the meeting, Rahn gave those in attendance a list of “suggested options and outcomes” and asked them to “please rank top five options.” Kenneth Burns of WYPR-FM reports that state Sen. Bill Ferguson said he “went into this meeting really hopeful that we would be able to have a regional conversation about how to move forward from the governor’s decision to cancel the Red Line project.  I think my hope was pretty ill-advised.”
  • The editorial board for the Sun opines that the scope of what Baltimore lost in Gov. Hogan’s decision to kill the project was underscored by a bit of news Sen. Mikulski brought to the meeting in the form of a letter from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx explaining that the $100 million she had taken some pains to secure in this year’s federal budget for Red Line engineering and environmental assessment cannot be shifted to another project in Maryland and, unless Hogan changes his mind and soon, it will go to some other project in some other state.

YES TO REDISTRICTING REFORM: Senate President Mike Miller has declared Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to reform the state’s redistricting process as DBA – dead before arrival. “It’s not going to happen,” Miller said matter-of-factly, referring to Hogan’s campaign promise to create a fair and impartial method of redrawing the state’s election districts after each decennial Census. The editorial board of the Frederick News Post is urging Miller to do the right thing by the citizens of Maryland and take up the issue of redistricting reform.

CDC URGES LATER START TO SCHOOL: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 5 out of 6 middle and high schools nationwide start school too early and may leave students sleep deprived, according to a new report released Thursday. Montgomery County Public Schools pushed back its start times by 20 minutes for high schools and middle schools earlier this year in its attempt to deal with this issue, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.

REDMER HEARS INSURANCE PROBLEMS: Insurance commissioner Al Redmer has been “getting an earful” from Marylanders during his eight town hall-style meetings to hear about the problems they have encountered with insurance – but might not have previously reported to the insurance administration, Sarah Gantz reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

POT TYCOON EYES RETURN TO MARYLAND: The first time Brian Rogers took a bong hit at a party with his Havre de Grace High School friends, he said marijuana had no effect on him. Now Rogers co-owns a multimillion-dollar marijuana company in Colorado at the center of the CNN docu-series, “High Profits,” and he’s no longer ambivalent. Talia Richman of the Sun reports that with Maryland’s nascent medical marijuana program taking shape, Rogers is one of many entrepreneurs eyeing the possibilities. And, he says, his trajectory holds lessons for the consequences of the nation’s drug policies.

UPBEAT ON CASINO REVENUE: The state’s new gaming chief predicted at least several more years of significant casino revenue growth on Monday, the same day the state announced that it took in more than $1 billion in revenue from the lottery and casino gambling, Jeff Barker writes in the Sun. “I think you’re going to see big growth numbers on the casino side for at least a couple or three years,” said Gordon Medenica, director of the state Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, which released a report summarizing the fiscal year results.

  • Much of the 19% growth over last year resulted from the addition of Horseshoe Casino in Baltimore, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Revenue from gaming is the fourth-largest contributor to the state after income, sales and corporate taxes. But traditional games, such as the daily lottery drawings, and so-called monitor games, including Keno, continue to show declines, a trend analysts say is not unexpected and has happened in other states.

MARYLAND LIVE TAX DISTRICT: The Anne Arundel County Council is asking the Maryland Stadium Authority for advice about creating a tax district to support development of a hotel and conference center at Maryland Live, Rema Rahman reports for the Annapolis Capital. It would be the first time the council has sought outside advice on such a proposal, which could cost about $25,000, county auditor Teresa Sutherland said.

YOUTH JOBS PROGRAM DIFFICULT TO SUSTAIN: Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun reports that the summer jobs program for Baltimore youths placed a record number of workers this year, but that level of employment could be difficult to sustain under the current model, the head of a Baltimore business advocacy group said Monday.