HOLT APOLOGIZES FOR POISONING REMARK: Creating a major dustup at the Maryland Association of Counties meeting, Gov. Larry Hogan’s top housing official said Friday that he wants to look at loosening state lead paint poisoning laws, saying they could motivate a mother to deliberately poison her child to obtain free housing, Michael Dresser and Timothy Wheeler write in the Sun.
- The comments were part of Holt’s presentation in which he announced he would seek sweeping changes for his agency in the next legislative session. Following the presentation, Holt said he was not actually aware of any instances in which such a poisoning had occurred, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.
- Ovetta Wiggins reports for the Post that Ken Holt, secretary of Housing and Community Development, “deeply regrets his comments and apologizes to anyone he offended,” Audra Harrison, a spokeswoman for the housing department, said Saturday. “Both the administration and the department take the issue of lead poisoning very seriously and will always work to protect the health and safety of Marylanders.”
HOGAN WON’T ROLL BACK LEAD LIABILITY: Disavowing remarks made by the state’s chief housing official, Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said Saturday that the Hogan administration will not propose any easing of liability for landlords whose tenants’ children are harmed by lead paint in rental homes, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. Rutherford, who took the governor’s traditional place as closing speaker at the summer convention of the Maryland Association of Counties, said Secretary of Housing and Community Development Ken Holt’s call for such limits does not represent administration policy.
BIZ REGULATORY REFORM: Josh Hicks of the Post reports that Gov. Larry Hogan’s appointment last month of business leaders to guide a broad regulatory overhaul has sparked concerns that he’ll roll back important protections for workers, consumers and the environment. Secretary Holt’s comments on lead paint caused more alarm. Hogan began working to transform the state’s regulatory environment long before he became governor. His efforts date back at least as far as 2011, when he launched the nonprofit group Change Maryland to make the case that the state’s Democratic leaders were holding back economic growth with too much regulation, high taxes and a general anti-business attitude.
REDISTRICTING REFORM COOPERATION: State Sen. Mac Middleton says the important thing about newly appointed redistricting reform commission’s success is working with the legislature. “I think people don’t like the idea of the gerrymandering. They don’t like what was done last time but if you want to get it right you have to make sure it is a bipartisan committee.” Jason Babcock and Sarah Fleishman gather more reaction from Southern Maryland lawmakers for the Calvert Recorder.
- There are so many things wrong with how legislative and congressional districts are drawn in Maryland and across the United States that it is hard to know where to begin, writes Len Lazarick in a commentary for MarylandReporter.com. The place to start is fairness. The current process is egregiously unfair to average voters who would like to choose their representatives and not have their legislators choose them. It is unfair to minorities of every stripe: not just Republicans, but blacks, Latinos and residents of all persuasions in counties with no business being cut up into so three and four districts.
- Mark Plaster, an emergency room physician running for Congress in the 3rd congressional district, writes in an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, that the political boundaries of the 3rd district — which covers parts of Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery, and Baltimore counties and the city — are a national embarrassment. “That is why I am glad to see Gov. Larry Hogan and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford renew their commitment to end the corrupt practice of gerrymandering.”
NOT SO EASY REFORMS: Reformers want to take partisan politics out of the redistricting equation. So does the governor. That may be Mission Impossible. On the surface, their goal sounds easy to achieve. Columnist Barry Rascovar, writing in MarylandReporter, opines that conservative Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has joined liberal reformers in this crusade. He’s positioned himself so it looks like those mean Democrats are defiantly standing in the way. As usual, the situation is far more complicated than the cover story.
PREPPING FOR RX POT: Medical marijuana has re-emerged as a contentious issue in Maryland as officials debate how much control local jurisdictions should have over where growers and dispensers set up shop once the state begins issuing licenses next year, writes Josh Hicks for the Post. Members of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission fielded questions about the matter last week during the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference in Ocean City, saying operators will have to meet local zoning requirements to obtain licenses.
CITY EASIER TO SPURN: Robert McCartney of the Post writes that it’s too early to say for sure that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is waging a “war on Baltimore,” as critics charge, but analysts say the city has lost so much political and economic clout over the years that the governor is free to spurn the city if he chooses.
DEMS’ POLITICAL THEATER: In an op-ed for the Sun, Del. Nic Kipke defends Gov. Larry Hogan and his administration against the barbs of Democrats over the cancellation of the Red Line, writing that in July, hearings were held in an attempt to shed some light on the project’s cancellation. But these appear to have been more of a political show thinly disguised as informational hearings. The actual goal seems to have been to cast Hogan as a villainous Republican raising transit fares and pulling desperately needed transportation dollars from an underfunded city. As usual with these kinds of dramatic political stunts, this narrative falls far short of the truth, says Kipke.
CHIEF CORRUPTION WEEDER-OUTER: A former dean at Carroll Community College, Steve Geppi, has returned to his roots to weed out corruption. Geppi, 63, who owns a home in Westminster but spends most of his time in Timonium, was recently named as director of the Office of Investigation, Intelligence and Fugitive Apprehension with the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, writes Wiley Hayes for the Carroll County Times.
REMOVE JUDGE NANCE: The editorial advisory board for the Daily Record is calling for the removal of Judge Alfred Nance from the Circuit Court bench, citing numerous instances of unacceptable behavior from the bench.
JUDICIAL RETIREMENT AGE: Also in the Daily Record opinion pages, Stuart Hindman urges the state to get rid of the mandatory retirement age of 70 for judges, writing that “with the increasing life expectancy of adults in recent years, I think it’s finally time for Maryland to do away with mandatory retirement of judges.”
EDWARDS CHARMS TOUGH VOTERS: As Maryland politicians gathered in Ocean City on Thursday to lament a lack of racial diversity among the state’s politically powerful, the congresswoman hoping to be the state’s first black female senator was at a record shop in Easton arguing with a white Republican about same-sex marriage, Rachel Weiner and Josh Hicks write in the Post. He later said he’d put her campaign sign in front of his store. A trio of Republican women from Salisbury who were swinging through the Goodwill store where Edwards bought a suit, said, “She shops like we do. Maybe she could help with the spending in Washington.”
O’MALLEY AT STATE FAIR: Kalani Gordon of the Sun serves up a photo gallery of former Gov. Martin O’Malley at the Iowa State Fair.
SCHUH ATTACKS COUNCIL CHAIR, AUDITOR: Tensions are escalating between Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh and Council chairman Jerry Walker, with neither Republican appearing eager to mend fences. Walker, Schuh says, “cannot be trusted.” Schuh, Walker says, “doesn’t like anybody to disagree with what he wants.” But Schuh also blames another member of the legislative branch he believes is going beyond her assigned role: County Auditor Teresa Sutherland. Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital reports that Schuh believes Sutherland and Walker are teaming up to sabotage his administration’s ambitious plans. But the council chairman and the auditor say the legislative branch exists to maintain checks and balances on the administration.
LOOKING FOR A MAYORAL CANDIDATE: Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports that on Facebook, there’s a “Draft Jill Carter For Mayor” group. City residents are getting telephone calls asking whether they’d support Councilman Nick Mosby for mayor. And both state Sen. Catherine Pugh and Councilman Carl Stokes say they are seriously considering getting into that race. Some business and political leaders are hoping voters will be offered a choice other than Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and former Mayor Sheila Dixon, saying both are weighed down by political baggage.