State Roundup, October 8, 2015

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PROCUREMENT CRITICIZED: Comptroller Peter Franchot and Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, standing in for Gov. Larry Hogan, once again criticized state agencies’ procurement processes at the Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday, challenging a Maryland Transit Administration health insurance single-bid contract. Darcy Costello of CNS, in an article in MarylandReporter.com, writes that the board ultimately approved the contract to incumbent provider CareFirst in a 2-to-1 vote, following extended debate on the agency’s bidding process.

STREAM RESTORATION: The  Board of Public Works also approved grant money for stream improvements on Broad Creek in Anne Arundel County, reports Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital.  The $414,500 is to restore about 900 linear feet of eroded stream channels along the creek’s tributaries.

RUTHERFORD YANKS BUILDING SALE: A proposed sale of the North Point Government Center in Baltimore County has been put on ice for the time being after state officials raised concerns about the project. Baltimore County was expecting approval Wednesday from the three-member Board of Public Works to complete the sale to a private developer. But Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, citing strong community opposition, announced Tuesday that the item would be removed from consideration and sent back to county officials.

LAST CHEMO ROUND: Gov. Larry Hogan is scheduled to have his sixth and final round of chemotherapy this weekend, according to an AP report in the Sun. Hogan announced on his Facebook page Tuesday afternoon that his final chemotherapy session is Friday, and he thanked everyone who has supported him.

OPIOID FIGHTING GRANTS: The Daily Record is reporting that Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford announced that the state has taken additional steps in its fight against the heroin and opioid epidemic by providing $608,832 in grant funding to projects designed to identify and apprehend drug dealers, especially those involved in gangs; help Maryland families battling substance abuse; and provide medically assisted treatment programs and other re-entry programs to inmates at local detention centers.

HOGAN JOINS ECONOMIC ALLIANCE BOARD: Gov. Larry Hogan heads the list of new members appointed to the board of directors of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, the Daily Record reports. “Our board is a committed group of community leaders who are central to our mission to promote the region as a world-class market in which to live, work, learn and invest,” said Tom Sadowski, CEO of the Economic Alliance.

FILLING DELEGATES’ SEATS: The progressive blog Maryland Juice returns to the scene with blogger Matt Verghese replacing David Moon, who is now a state delegate. In Verghese first run at Juice, he writes about who will fill the two House of Delegates seats left vacant by the death of Jim Proctor and the resignation of Will Campos.

SENATORS SEEK HELP FOR REFUGEES: Maryland’s senators are seeking ways the U.S. government can do more to aid Syrian refugees, joining other officials in the search for a balance between the humanitarian urge to help those who are suffering and the security concerns of admitting masses of people to the United States from a region that has been cracked apart by terrorism, Ian Duncan reports in the Sun.

HUD PULLS VOUCHER CUTS FOR COLUMBIA: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has agreed to scrap a proposal that would have significantly reduced housing subsidies for low-income families in Columbia, Sen. Barbara Mikulski said Wednesday after a meeting with the HUD Secretary Julian Castro and half the congressional delegation in her office. The agency will keep Columbia’s current rent limits in place for one year as HUD considers options for how it will set rent limits in the future, Natalie Sherman reports in the Sun.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro meets with Sen. Barbara Mikulski in her Capitol office. Photo from Mikulski's office.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro meets with Sen. Barbara Mikulski in her Capitol office. Sen. Ben Cardin and Reps. Elijah Cummings, Dutch Ruppersberger and John Sarbanes were also at the meeting. Photo from Mikulski’s office.

CARET’S LISTENING TOUR: University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert Caret will take a four-day bus tour of the state next week to meet with business leaders and government officials and discuss what the system’s institutions have to offer, Daniel Leaderman reports for the Daily Record.. “We want to let people know that we’re listening to them,” Caret said, adding that he hoped to identify areas where the system could be doing more. “It’s an entire week of telling and selling and listening.”

SCHOOLS STEP UP: Tom Hall of WYPR-FM talks about what two of Maryland’s leading institutions — Morgan State University and Johns Hopkins — are doing to address the longstanding problems in the struggling neighborhoods that bore the brunt of the violence during the riots last April.

POOLE CHALLENGES DEMS: For years, Republicans have dominated Washington County politics. D. Bruce Poole, the chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party, has one question: How’s that working out? Now Poole is urging fellow Democrats to “challenge the status quo,” reports Tamela Baker for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.’

SUPER PAC’S O’MALLEY ADS: A super PAC supporting former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign began airing a television advertisement in Iowa on Wednesday — days ahead of the first debate among Democratic candidates. The advertisement, largely introductory, is running on broadcast and cable television statewide through Oct. 12, according to Generation Forward, the political action committee that paid for it, John Fritze of the Sun is writing.

RUBIN RUNNING: John Fritze follows up early stories on the entrance into the race for Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s seat by a former official at the State and Energy departments. Joel Rubin is the seventh candidate to enter the race for the seat being vacated Van Hollen (D-Md.), who is running for the U.S. Senate.

CHAT WITH EDWARDS: In this 25-minute audio interview, Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM talks with U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards of Maryland’s 4th Congressional District about her bid to run for Barbara Mikulski’s seat in the Senate.

CECIL EXEC WON’T SEEK RE-ELECTION: Cecil County Executive Tari Moore announced Wednesday morning that she will not seek a second term as county executive, clearing the path for new leadership in 2016. “After a great deal of thought and prayer, I know clearly God has a different direction intended for me after 2016,” Moore said. “Although I’m not sure what that path will be at this time, I’m excited for what is in store.” Cheryl Mattix reports in the Cecil Whig that Moore’s timing opens the door for other candidates to jump into the race.

PERMITTING SLOWDOWN: It’s taking longer to get building permits in Frederick County this year compared with last, but county staff is generally not at fault, according to an independent audit released Tuesday. Council President Bud Otis released the results of the audit, which studied whether the county’s permitting process has slowed under County Executive Jan Gardner. Otis said he had the audit done after he and Councilman Kirby Delauter heard rumblings from builders that it was taking longer to get permits under Gardner, who took office last December. Jen Fifield reports the story for the Frederick News Post.

BUDGET TRANSFER NIXED: The Washington County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday denied a $4.4 million budget transfer requested by the county school system, citing concerns over possible reuses of the money that is being dropped into an unrestricted fund balance. Although the request was denied by a 3-0 vote, the money in the Washington County Board of Education‘s fourth-quarter budget adjustment still will be deposited into the school board’s undesignated fund balance, which serves as the receptacle for excess funds after a fiscal year ends, CJ Lovelace reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.