August 13, 2015

State Roundup, August 13, 2015

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HOGAN TO AID FEDS ON ILLEGALS: Immigration advocates in Maryland are criticizing a decision by Gov. Larry Hogan to notify federal immigration officials when an illegal immigrant targeted for deportation is released from the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center. Advocates consider Hogan’s stance to be a departure from the policy of his predecessor, Democrat Martin O’Malley, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

DEMS ‘GRANDSTANDING’ ON TRANSIT PLANS: Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration objected to the flak it took from Democrats Monday following a charged meeting between elected officials and Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn to discuss post-Red Line plans, Rick Seltzer reports for the Baltimore Business Journal. The Hogan administration wanted to hear ideas from Baltimore City leaders and legislators for ways to improve the area’s mass-transportation system, said Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the Republican governor. “We heard very few ideas and very much grandstanding,” Mayer said.

HOGAN PUTS POLITICS IN MATH: In trying to clear up the numbers mess concerning the cancellation of the Red Line and lack of funding for other Baltimore area transit projects, the editorial board of the Sun writes: There’s no crying in baseball, and there’s no politics in math. At least there wasn’t until the Hogan administration this week accused the non-partisan Department of Legislative Services of “concocting totally bogus numbers only intended to drive a known political agenda” at the behest of House Speaker Michael Busch.

MACO MINUTES: Gov. Larry Hogan and county officials said they plan to continue to work together to fully restore state aid to local roads projects despite the fact that a campaign promise made last year failed to come to fruition, writes Bryan Sears of the Daily Record, attending the Maryland Association of Counties conference.

  • Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew writes that Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will have time at the conference to strategize with trusted colleagues about how to respond to the changed political landscape since the advent of Gov. Larry Hogan. Education spending, the Baltimore jail, redistricting, the canceled Red Line have become hot-button issues among Democratic officeholders. Recent weeks have found Rawlings-Blake trading jabs with the governor through their respective spokesmen.

JUDGE CLEARS WAY FOR EXELON-PEPCO MERGER: Bloomberg News is reporting in the Daily Record that Exelon Corp. can push ahead with its $6.8 billion takeover of Pepco Holdings Inc. after a judge rejected arguments by Maryland officials that the deal gives the power company too much control over the state’s energy markets. Queen Anne’s County Circuit Judge Thomas G. Ross on Wednesday rebuffed bids by consumer advocates and Attorney General Brian Frosh to block the Maryland Public Service Commission’s 3-2 approval of the buyout.

A SKEPTIC ON NON-PARTISAN COMMISSIONS: Del. Kirill Reznik writes in a column for Center Maryland “I have long been a skeptic of so-called independent, non-partisan commissions, and not just because I happen to be an elected Democrat in a Democratic-majority State. In studying the issue, I have come to believe that such a commission is much easier said than done. Inevitably, commission members are appointed by elected (partisan) officials, or applicants are chosen from balanced partisan lists.”

HOMEOWNERSHIP PROGRAM: Baltimore and the state of Maryland are starting a new homeownership assistance program designed to boost the city’s real estate market months after April’s rioting, Rick Seltzer of the Baltimore Business Journal is reporting. The program, called the Maryland Grand Slam, makes available down payment assistance grants of $7,500 to people buying homes in Baltimore City.

LAWMAKERS COME TO FARMER’S AID: John Fritze of the Sun reports that a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday called on the Treasury Department to return $30,000 to a Western Maryland dairy farmer whose bank account was seized under a law intended to target money laundering. Randy and Karen Sowers, who own the South Mountain Creamery in Middletown, had their account taken by the government after repeatedly making deposits of just under $10,000, a practice used by criminal organizations to avoid reporting requirements triggered by larger sums.

  • Randy Sowers, who runs a popular farm near Frederick, Md. was targeted in 2012 for making regular bank deposits of under $10,000, writes Rachel Weiner in the Post. Such payments were deemed “structuring” to avoid reporting requirements of deposits over that amount. He signed a settlement giving up about half of $63,000 seized by the Internal Revenue Service. But Sowers has since testified against the seizure in Congress, saying he agreed to a settlement only to keep his business going.

INFLUENTIAL WOMEN SUPPORTING RASKIN: State Sen. Jamie Raskin’s campaign for Maryland’s 8th Congressional District said Wednesday it had secured support from dozens of prominent women in a crowded race that will feature several prominent female candidates, writes John Fritze for the Sun. Raskin, who is running for the seat currently held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, said that Karyn Strickler, former executive director of Maryland NARAL, and Rosalyn Levy Jonas, a longtime progressive activist, were among the Democrats forming a “Women for Jamie” campaign.

J STREET PICKS VAN HOLLEN TOO: The liberal Jewish group J Street has decided to support both Democratic candidates in Maryland’s Senate primary race, giving neither candidate an advantage writes Rachel Weiner in the Post. J Street is adding Rep. Chris Van Hollen to its roster of approved candidates, which means supporters can donate to his campaign directly through the organization’s Web site.

YOUNG O’MALLEY ON CALL FOR DAD: Samantha-Jo Roth of the Huffington Post writes that getting a call from a candidate’s son is enough to a lot of Iowans in their tracks. But that’s what happens on a regular basis when Martin O’Malley’s 17-year-old son William calls. “Hello Mrs. Bell, I’m calling because my dad, Martin O’Malley, is running to be the Democratic nominee for president,” he says into the phone. He pauses, then invites her to a number of events the presidential candidate will be hosting without even looking at his computer screen, an indication that he’s been at this for hours and has the schedule memorized.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT TANEY BUST? Frederick City residents shared words of support Wednesday for a proposal to relocate the statue of Roger Brooke Taney that is stationed outside Frederick City Hall, writes Nancy Lavin in the Frederick News Post. Last week, Alderwoman Donna Kuzemchak presented the resolution to remove the bronze bust from the courtyard outside the North Court Street building, where it has rested for nearly a century beginning when the building served as the Frederick County Courthouse.

  • The Board of Aldermen is considering the resolution to remove the bust, and possibly put it in a museum, WTOP is reporting. Alderwoman Kuzemchak introduced the proposal last week, and led a similar effort in 2009. That push ended with the City of Frederick adding a plaque explaining the Dred Scott decision.