State Roundup, September 29, 2015

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WYNNE-WIN FOR HOGAN, FRANCHOT: Maryland went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend its income tax law against a constitutional challenge, losing in the spring when justices ruled that some residents with out-of-state earnings had been illegally double-taxed, Bill Turque reports in the Post. But that defeat became the cause for a victory lap Monday as Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) encouraged residents to check whether they are among the estimated 55,000 taxpayers eligible for $200 million in refunds mandated by the Wynne case.

SUPREMES TO HEAR REDISTRICTING CHALLENGE: The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case this fall that involves a challenge to Maryland’s congressional redistricting as a violation of the free-speech and association rights of Republicans, as seven of the eight districts are dominated by Democratic voters. But, writes Steve Lash in the Daily Record, the high court might not reach the underlying First Amendment issue because the specific question presented to the justices is procedural, not constitutional.

BLEAK TRANSIT PICTURE FOR MARYLAND: Maryland’s congested roads will keep companies and people from relocating here. No transit solutions are on their way for Greater Baltimore now that the Red Line is no more. And nationally, money for highways and transit remain tied up in Congress’ budget battles, Joanna Sullivan reports for the Baltimore Business Journal. Such was the bleak picture painted Monday of the future of transportation in Greater Baltimore and beyond during the Greater Baltimore Committee Transportation Summit

  • The major challenge facing the Baltimore region’s transportation infrastructure is the same confronting other major metro areas — federal funding, writes Adam Bednar for the Daily Record. As states and cities grapple with crumbling transportation infrastructure and demand for new public transit projects increases, federal transportation funds are dwindling. The nation’s Highway Trust Fund, which is funded through a federal gas tax, is heading toward insolvency, according to experts.

ARUNDEL BILLS PRESSURE RX POT APPLICATIONS: Rema Rahman of the Annapolis Capital writes that even as Maryland on Monday made available applications — due Nov. 6 — for people seeking to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana, those interested in doing business in Anne Arundel County might be pressed for time. Two dueling bills before the County Council — one that would implement and another that would ban medical marijuana operations here — won’t have public hearings until Oct. 19.

AG CHIEF TOURS FARMS: Steve Ernst welcomed a group of state and local officials to a barn on his Clear Spring farm Monday morning over the squeal of a herd of pigs, Carlee Lammers writes for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder and a group of about a dozen officials kicked off a daylong agricultural tour with a visit to Ernst Grain and Livestock. Bartenfelder, who is a farmer on the Eastern Shore, is embarking on a statewide effort to speak with farmers and other elected officials.

MATTHEWS, RASKIN ENDORSEMENTS: District 8 congressional candidates on Monday announced new endorsements just a few days before the first candidate forum in what’s expected to be a highly competitive Democratic primary, Aaron Kraut reports in Bethesda Beat.

PROGRESSIVE ENDORSEMENTS FOR RASKIN, PENA-MELNYK: State Sen. Jamie Raskin and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk picked up the endorsement Monday of a pair of national progressive groups in their bids for Congress. The Sun’s John Fritze writes that Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which represent the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, made the endorsements in separate emails to supporters on Monday, frequently comparing the two to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

DOCS BACK BARVE FOR CONGRESS: A leading Maryland physicians group backed Del. Kumar Barve’s campaign for Congress on Monday, noting the efforts he made as the former majority leader to shepherd insurance reform through Annapolis, John Fritze of the Sun is reporting.

EDWARDS VIDEO BLAST CONGRESS: Rep. Donna Edwards’ campaign for Senate is launching a web video Monday that chastises Congress for its latest budget brinksmanship, and also criticizes her opponent for “gaming out a partisan advantage” on the issue, John Fritze writes in the Sun. The video tops the article.

SZELIGA RUN SPURS GOP BUZZ: A Republican state delegate is working toward a bid for Maryland’s open U.S. Senate seat, the first candidate with establishment support, writes Rachel Weiner of the Post, following up on a Sun story. Del. Kathy Szeliga, who represents Baltimore County and serves as minority whip in the House of Delegates, is taking steps toward a campaign.

SCHUH ON TRADE MISSION TO CUBA: On Wednesday afternoon, a group of Marylanders — among them Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, a Hollywood producer and Baltimore’s best-known veterinarian — will take the first regular charter flight from Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to Jose Marti International Airport in Cuba, Dan Rodricks reports in the Sun.

LEE PARK RENAMED: Robert E. Lee Park has a new name — Lake Roland — and next year will have a new nature center, too, reports Larry Perl for the Towson Times. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz announced the new name of the park during a groundbreaking ceremony Monday for the $1.2 million Lake Roland Nature and Environmental Education Center, which is expected to open in April 2016.

MO CO BODY CAMS GET INITIAL THUMBS UP: Montgomery County police leaders told a County Council committee Monday the pilot body camera program that began over the summer has had numerous benefits ranging from gathering evidence to de-escalating situations, Andrew Metcalf reports for Bethesda Beat. So far 76 officers have been outfitted with body cameras: 23 have gone to executive staff and 53 to volunteers, including patrol, traffic and school resource officers.