State Roundup, August 31, 2015

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MARVIN MANDEL DIES: Michael Dresser and Colin Campbell are reporting that former Gov. Marvin Mandel, who won acclaim during two tumultuous terms in the State House as one of Maryland’s most effective chief executives only to be forced from power on corruption charges in 1977, died Sunday afternoon, his family said.

JUSTICE SYSTEM REVIEW: Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that a panel reviewing ways to reduce recidivism and lower prison costs in Maryland is being urged to examine pretrial detention, bail and other parts of the justice system that inmates encounter before entering state prisons. The push to expand the scope of the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council is coming from some of its members who recently were presented with data that show black men serve longer prison sentences in Maryland than white men who commit similar crimes.

TACKLING LEGAL POT: Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital writes that as a delegate, Steve Schuh opposed making medical marijuana available in Maryland. As county executive, he now has to figure out how Anne Arundel County will deal with a law that will soon allow just that. To consider what to do, Schuh last week convened a roundtable of local officials. Applications for licenses to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana will become available from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission starting Sept. 14.

  • Jeremy Cox and Liz Holland of the Salisbury Daily Times report that of the scores of applicants expected to compete next year for just 15 statewide permits to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes, at least one has set its sights on Wicomico County. Biocannatix LLC, based in Upper Marlboro, wants to open a growing facility and processing plant on farmland near Hebron. The company also would like to operate one of the nearly 100 dispensaries the state will allow, but the firm hasn’t decided whether that would be in Wicomico or somewhere on the western shore.

OPEN MEETINGS BOARD FILLED: Maryland’s open-meetings compliance board is back at work, writes Colin Campbell for Sun. Gov. Larry Hogan has filled the three positions on the board — three months after it was unable to address a complaint against the Housing Authority of Prince George’s County. The problem: The former members’ positions went vacant because they weren’t confirmed by the Maryland Senate by the end of the legislative session.

POWER PLANT PROLIFERATION: Residents of southern Prince George’s County and environmental allies are concerned over the proliferation of power plants, reports Arelis Hernandez for the Post. The environmentalists have a powerful supporter in their state senator, Senate President Mike Miller who in a letter implored the Public Service Commission to consider building the plants elsewhere. “It is clear the issue of environmental justice has not been addressed,” Miller wrote.

MBRG SAYS CHARLES CO. ‘NEEDS WORK:’ Jamie Anfenson-Comeau of the Charles County Independent reports that a recent report by the nonprofit Maryland Business for Responsive Government has rated St. Mary’s and Calvert counties as “pro-business” based on their legislators’ votes in the last General Assembly session, but said that Charles County’s business relationship “needs work.” The MBRG has been issuing its annual Roll Call report for 30 years.

AD CAMPAIGN ON TESTING: Maryland educators launched a statewide back-to-school advertising campaign to push for a reduction in standardized testing. The $500,000 campaign by the Maryland State Education Association — called “Less Testing, More Learning”—features 10 teachers and education support professionals  who share their firsthand experiences of how over-testing makes it more difficult for their students to learn.

FIRING STATE WORKERS: A real-life drama — and personal tragedy — played out last week when the Maryland Board of Public Works took up the Hogan administration’s request to fire 59 state workers who don’t deserve to be coldly thrown out of their jobs, opines columnist Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. Most have earned sterling performance reviews. They have worked diligently for the state responsibly handling personnel matters.

FEDERAL CONTRACTS CONTRACT: Robert McCartney of the Post writes that federal sequestration has changed the game for countless numbers of businesses in Maryland and other D.C. areas that used to rely on government contract work.

ETHICS RULING SOUGHT ON O’MALLEY PURCHASES: An assistant attorney general asked Friday for a state ethics commission ruling on whether former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s purchase of furniture from the governor’s mansion violated rules regarding state-owned property. Doug Donovan of the Sun is reporting that when O’Malley and his family moved out of the mansion in January, they left with 54 items that he bought at steep discounts because every piece had been declared “junk” by his administration. O’Malley and his wife paid $9,638 for armoires, beds, chairs, desks, lamps, mirrors, ottomans, tables and other items that originally cost taxpayers $62,000, according to documents.

FRANCHOT URGES COLLEGE SAVINGS: Comptroller Peter Franchot told a handful of young moms holding their toddlers and children last week to start saving for college. Franchot said he applied to open two tax-deferred college saving accounts through the College Savings Plans of Maryland for his future grandchildren, reports Cindy Huang for the Annapolis Capital.

MOVING ROCKVILLE STATUE: Montgomery County is presenting five options for relocation of the Confederate soldier statue in Rockville and is offering the public an opportunity to comment before County Executive Ike Leggett asks for permission to move it next month, Aaron Kraut reports for Bethesda Beat.

ON JIM BRADY: Jen Fifield of the Frederick News Post profiles Jim Brady, writing that it was hard for Jim Brady to leave the private sector 20 years ago, when he was asked to leave a top spot at a large firm to take a high-profile job in state government. If he hadn’t made the switch, though, he wouldn’t have experienced what he says is the pinnacle moment in his career so far — serving as Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign chairman, and advising him to his gubernatorial win.

HANDICAPPING U.S. SENATE RACE: Fraser Smith of WYPR-FM and Lou Peck, a contributing editor at Bethesda Magazine, handicap the field of candidates to fill the congressional slot of Chris Van Hollen, who is running for U.S. Senate.

O’MALLEY CHIDES DNC: A feud within the Democratic Party spilled into the open Friday at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in Minneapolis, as presidential candidate and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley used his speech to the convention to publicly chide DNC leaders for limiting the number of presidential debates, SA Miller reports in the Washington Times.

NICK MOSBY CONSIDERS MAYORAL RUN: At a “back to school” rally in West Baltimore Sunday, Councilman Nick J. Mosby is working the crowd, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun. He’s giving out 500 fully stuffed backpacks and talking about citywide issues that need solutions — such as how to deal with dirt bikes and crime — as the New Baltimore Twilighters Marching Band thumps out the hits. There’s one question on people’s minds: Will Mosby, a first-term councilman representing some of Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods, enter the race for mayor?

LOBBYIST JEFF ZELLMER PASSES AWAY: Jeffrie Zellmer, longtime lobbyist for the Maryland Retailers Association, died Aug. 20. A memorial service and burial will be held at 2 p.m. on September 11 at Old Wye Church, Maryland, followed by a celebration of Jeff’s life with his close family and vast extended family of friends and loved ones.