State Roundup, August 27, 2015

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MOVE AHEAD WITH PURPLE LINE: Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday urged members of the state’s congressional delegation to help secure federal funding for the Purple Line and notified them that the state and local contributions are finally in place. Josh Hicks reports in the Post that Hogan sent a letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski, the group’s senior member, informing the lawmakers that Montgomery and Prince George’s counties met a critical demand from the state by agreeing to spend tens of millions of dollars more on the project.

CORRECTIONS LAYOFFS DEFERRED: A plan to lay off dozens of human resources position from Maryland’s troubled corrections department met with resistance Wednesday as distressed employees pleaded with the state’s Board of Public Works not to go through with the cuts, Josh Hicks reports for the Post.

  • With more than 253 employees at Maryland’s corrections department having been arrested since January 2013 — and more than 200 of them are still employed — Corrections Secretary Stephen Moyer told the BPW that eliminating the workers is needed to streamline a flawed hiring and disciplinary process. The AP is reporting in the Frederick News Post that Moyer said that now, the department lacks measures needed to prevent people with some “pretty outrageous” charges from working in the department, which has about 11,000 employees.
  • Bryan Sears of the Daily Record is reporting that Moyer said the eliminations were necessary in order to combat corruption and hiring practices that have allowed “bad actors” into the system. “I can’t comment on open investigations,” Moyer said. “I can only say there will be cases that are beyond Baltimore.”

FRANCHOT MOCKS TESTING: Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that having watched Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting online, how would you describe Comptroller Peter Franchot grilling of state education officials about a $1.9 million contract for standardized tests by the NCS Pearson firm? A) A hissy fit; B) A tantrum; C) A skeptical tirade; D) A scathing critique; E) All of the above

ARUNDEL SCHOOL CALENDAR: Brian Griffiths of Red Maryland writes that Comptroller Peter Franchot wants to send public school kids to class in July. The 2015-16 Anne Arundel County school calendar sets the last day of school for students as June 17. If school started after Labor Day, as Franchot wishes it to, the school year would need to add 11 days to the calendar at the end of the year assuming that other days off during the year were not changed, and assuming that there were no additional days added to the calendar for snow. That means that the school year in Anne Arundel County would not end until July 5.

PAID SICK LEAVE: Maryland Working Families will urge Gov. Larry Hogan not to adopt some policies of presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie just before a fundraiser planned in Annapolis. Christie has pledged to veto sick days legislation, according to a statement released by the organization. Legislation requiring businesses to give paid sick days legislation made a splash in the last General Assembly session and will likely play a big role in future sessions.

RACIAL PROFILING: Fraser Smith, in a commentary for WYPR-FM, says that eroding community trust is one of the problems of racial profiling by police. Too many African American citizens are stopped, pulled over or suspected simply because they are black. Others face no such presumption. The practice has a not-so-funny chorus: “Driving while black…” Or “standing around while black.” Or “showing up in the wrong neighborhood while black.”

OPEN MEETINGS COMPLAINT: Three Baltimore lawmakers have lodged a complaint with the state agency that enforces Maryland’s open meetings law, charging that the Pocomoke City Council acted illegally behind closed doors when it fired the Eastern Shore community’s African-American police chief, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun.

MIZEUR BACKS VAN HOLLEN: Heather Mizeur, a former state lawmaker who developed an energetic following among Maryland progressives during her run for governor last year, is endorsing Rep. Chris Van Hollen for Senate, John Fritze is reporting for the Sun. Mizeur’s support is important because her campaign for governor had significant backing from the party’s left, a space that Van Hollen’s opponent, Rep. Donna Edwards, is trying to occupy.

LATER SCHOOL START TIMES: The controversy over school start times has landed at the Anne Arundel County Ethics Commission. An ethics complaint filed against County Auditor Teresa Sutherland alleges a conflict of interest for not disclosing ties to the Start Schools Later movement when suggesting how to allocate money to the initiative, writes Rema Rahman for the Annapolis Capital. It is the latest move from people who question if Sutherland goes beyond her role as head of the county’s financial auditing arm — a claim she denies.

  • Before public school starts next week in Montgomery County, local officials are reminding drivers they must stop if they’re on the same road as a stopped school bus picking up or dropping off kids. The message could be especially important this year because Montgomery County Public Schools will start the high school and middle school day 20 minutes later and the elementary school day 10 minutes later starting with the first day of classes Monday, Aaron Kraut is reporting for Bethesda Beat.

DOCUMENTS WITHHELD ILLEGALLY: Sarah Fleischman reports in the Calvert Recorder that a Calvert County Circuit Court judge found that the county illegally withheld documents from a Lusby man’s Public Information Act request and must disclose them. Judge Mark Chandlee issued his decision Aug. 7 stating that the county improperly withheld 65 documents from John Turner’s Public Information Act request and properly withheld 64 documents. Turner requested information from the county in February 2013 regarding environmental and property line setback citations of a fence constructed on his neighbor’s property.