State Roundup, September 24, 2015

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***Almost everyone agrees that Baltimore City’s property tax rate – roughly twice that of any other jurisdiction in Maryland— is an obstacle to the city’s renewal and its efforts to attract new residents and create greater economic opportunity. What few can agree on, however, is how much the city needs to cut its tax rate to be competitive, how to achieve such cuts, and where they should be targeted. See a debate on the issue tonight, Thursday, at 6:15 p.m. at the University of Baltimore. Click here for more details.***

AG SAYS COUNTY CAN’T BAN RX POT: Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital reports that Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh’s administration vowed to press forward with a proposal to prohibit medical marijuana facilities in Anne Arundel County despite a letter from the Maryland Attorney General’s Office stating that counties cannot ban operations allowed by state law.

MEDICAL POT PLANT FOR HURLOCK: Former Federalsburg Town Council President Ken Abner may not have won re-election to his seat this past Tuesday, Sept. 22, but he said, “that does not stop my voice.” Abner is the CEO of a company that grows and manufactures medical marijuana, one of which is eyeing property at the Hurlock Industrial Park, the former site of Marvesta Shrimp Farms, writes Katie Willis for the Easton Star Democrat.

AIRPORT CHIEF IN DISPUTE WITH FAA: Cleveland’s international airport has been fined $735,000 by the Federal Aviation Administration for repeatedly failing to keep its runways safe during the administration of its former chief, who was hired by Gov. Larry Hogan this summer to run BWI Marshall Airport. The FAA action this month comes after Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and its former director, Ricky D. Smith Sr., were accused in a complaint to the U.S. Labor Department of illegally retaliating against the whistle-blower who brought some of the problems to light, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun.

BAY CLEANUP CONTROVERSY: The Clean Chesapeake Coalition, a group of seven Maryland counties formed to challenge the priorities and science of the $14.4 billion cleanup mandate for the Bay, is again sparring with environmental groups it says continue to ignore the Susquehanna River as the single largest source of pollution that flows into the Bay. This year the argument has moved from nitrogen to phosphorus with environmental groups taking aim at the Eastern Shore’s chicken belt, floating an idea for an eight-year moratorium on new chicken houses until a Phosphorus Management Tool is fully implemented in 2024. The Conowingo Dam releases 30% of the total annual phosphorus into the Bay, writes Dan Menefee of the Kent Guardian for MarylandReporter.com.

HOGAN TO MEET POPE: Gov. Larry Hogan is expected to have a semi-private meeting with Pope Francis in Washington D.C. Thursday afternoon, Hogan’s office confirmed Wednesday. Erin Cox of the Sun reports that a Hogan spokesman said the governor will meet the pontiff in a small gathering alongside the Catholic Charities of Washington, D.C. Hogan, who is Catholic, returned home to the governor’s mansion Tuesday after five days of chemotherapy.

HUNGER IN MARYLAND: In an op-ed for the Sun, Deborah Flateman of the Maryland Food Bank writes that if  you haven’t experienced hunger yourself, you likely know someone who has. Nationally, one in seven Americans does not always know where their next meal will come from. Here in Maryland, more than 750,000 of our neighbors are food insecure. There is no one-size-fits-all description of what hunger in our communities looks like.

CASINO FINES POSSIBLE: Two Maryland casinos are facing potential fines for alleged violations of state gaming laws. Horseshoe Casino faces potential fines of up to $5,000 per instance for allowing underage persons on the gaming floor, including five people in an Aug. 18 citation and 11 others stemming from a May 28 citation that was amended in last month, according to Erica Palmisano, a spokeswoman for the agency. The Baltimore casino also faces sanctions for a regulatory violation that was discovered in an audit earlier this year. Details about the nature of the violation were not immediately available, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record.

BETTING ON MARYLAND LIVE: The Anne Arundel County Council has made a huge bet on the Maryland Live casino, opines the editorial board for the Sun, committing to a $22.5 million investment in bonds so that the Cordish Cos. might build a $150 million, 300-room, 17-story hotel and conference center adjacent to the  casino at Arundel Mills. The 4-3 victory was hard won, but even opponents described it as a close call. As profitable as Maryland Live, the state’s largest casino, has been, its place in the market is far from guaranteed. The $1.2 billion MGM National Harbor hotel and casino is little more than one year away from its opening day, and the self-styled destination resort  is likely to prove a formidable competitor.

MAGLEV FOR MARYLAND? Sheilah Kast of WYPR-FM speaks with Wayne Rodgers of the North East Maglev project and  Brian O’Malley of the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance about the proposed Maglev project.

TRANS & IN PRISON: A transgender inmate who says she was called “it” and “some kind of animal” by guards who watched her shower has won a legal victory that forces the Maryland prison system to better train for how to treat transgender people, advocates say. Neon Brown, who goes by Sandy, said in a grievance that she was sent to the state prison at Patuxent in February 2014 for a psychological screening, according to an AP report at WBFF-TV.

O’MALLEY SLAMS CLINTON ON SYRIA: John Fritze of the Sun writes that Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley criticized front-runner Hillary Clinton on Wednesday for waiting weeks to call on the White House to accept more refugees fleeing violence in Syria. The former Maryland governor also said Clinton’s path to the Democratic nomination seemed “no longer quite so inevitable,” and that voters want clarity from their politicians rather than the “triangulation” politics of the first Clinton administration.

NOT THAT BEN CARSON? Laslo Boyd of Center Maryland writes:t Once upon a time, there was a famous pediatric neurosurgeon who lived in Maryland.  He performed pioneering surgeries, was widely seen as an inspirational leader in his field, and had a fascinating life story.  It was hard to imagine anyone having a more glowing reputation than he had.  … Today, there’s a guy running for the Republican Presidential nomination with the same name who looks an awful lot like that neurosurgeon.  Any resemblance to the brilliant doctor ends there.

PARK PICKED FOR REBEL STATUE: Montgomery County officials have chosen Beall-Dawson Historical Park in Rockville, the site of a home built by slave-owning Unionists, as the preferred new location for a 102-year-old statue of a Confederate soldier, Bill Turque reports for the Post.

KITTLEMAN SEEKS TO STOP CUT: Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman asked members of Maryland’s congressional delegation this week to help stop a federal proposal that would cut the rental assistance offered to low-income families in Columbia, calling it “harsh and troubling.” Natalie Sherman of the Sun reports the story.