State Roundup, October 27, 2015

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LEAD POISON TESTING EXPANDS: Maryland will expand its testing for lead poisoning to all 1- and 2-year-old children in the state, regardless of where they live, the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Monday, Josh Hicks of the Post reports.

ECONOMY RECOVERS SOMEWHAT: The regional economy is still in a state of recovery as jobs, income and the housing market grow at a slower rate than expected, but the overall outlook is positive, according to the new chairman of the Maryland Economic Development Commission, Anirban Basu. Paige Jones of the Frederick News Post writes that Basu, an economist and head of the Baltimore-based economic and policy consulting firm Sage Policy Group Inc., said Monday that Maryland’s economy is “back to average” after the Great Recession. “We’re recovering,” Basu told a real estate breakfast. “What does that mean? We’re still not fully recovered.”

sauerbrey-dinner-ad_300x600MSBE TO RELEASE EXAM DATA: For the first time ever, the Maryland State Board of Education will release data on a controversial set of exams that drew widespread parental concern, Kate Ryan of WTOP-AM reports. The state school board will discuss results of the English 10, Algebra I and Algebra 2 PARCC exams, part of the state’s Common Core curriculum.  Results for earlier grades will be released in December.

REFORM PANEL CONTINUES TO WORK: The editorial board of the Frederick News-Post writes that it seems clear that Gov. Hogan’s redistricting reform commission will not be ready to present its findings on Nov. 3. Its members should scrap that deadline and continue working on this important assignment until they can submit solid recommendations as a unified body.

TUITION RATE DECISION NETS $1.6M: One hundred twenty-five Maryland university alumni unlawfully denied in-state tuition rates will share in a $1.6 million recovery against the state under a Baltimore City Circuit Court judge’s order issued last week. Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports the story.

MUSIC STAR DEDICATES SONG TO HOGAN: The lyrics to Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” sit on Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk at the State House. He pulled up the song on his iPad one day in June, shortly after learning that he had cancer. Ever since, the country music hit has been his go-to song. McGraw, who was the musical guest for the benefit concert for the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital on Saturday, surprised Hogan by dedicating the song to him at the end of the concert, Ovetta Wiggins reports for the Post.

66 AND SEEKING JUDGESHIP: James B. Kraft has thought about being a judge for some time, but after three terms on the Baltimore City Council, he decided now is the right time in his career to set his sights on the bench – even though he would not be able to occupy his seat for very long. Now 66, Kraft would be less than three years into a 15-year term before reaching Maryland’s mandatory retirement age if elected next year to the Baltimore City Circuit Court, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.

REVIVING THE DEMOCRATS: Maryland Democrats turned to a homegrown legend and an up-and-comer from New Jersey on Monday night as the state’s majority party works to dig out from the rubble of last year’s crushing defeat in the race for governor. Michael Dresser of the Sun writes that about 500 people attended the Maryland Democratic Party’s second big fundraising event of the year, billed as a salute to retiring U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, at the American Visionary Arts Museum in Baltimore. The headliner was Sen. Cory Booker, the former Newark mayor who is seen as one of the party’s rising national stars.

RASKIN GETS ANTI-SUPER PAC PAC SUPPORT: State Sen. Jamie Raskin’s campaign for Congress picked up the support Monday of an influential state lawmaker as well as a nationally recognized super PAC working toward campaign finance reform — part of series of high-profile endorsements he has received in recent weeks, writes John Fritze in the Sun.

VAN HOLLEN ENDORSED: Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s campaign for Senate received endorsements from several firefighter unions Monday, including a statewide organization and a Baltimore County local — the latest indication the Montgomery County lawmaker is working to expand his reach in Baltimore. John Fritze writes the story for the Sun.

FRANCHOT BACKS CLINTON: Another high profile Maryland Democrat endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton for president over the state’s former governor, Martin O’Malley, Erin Cox of the Sun is reporting. Comptroller Peter Franchot announced his backing of Clinton Monday morning in an email to supporters. Franchot praised her experience, as well as her campaign promises to lower the cost of college and invest in biotechnology.

SYNTHETIC DRUG MAKERS: Baltimore City legislation backed by the administration of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake would empower city health inspectors to fine — and eventually shut down — retailers that sell synthetic drugs long criticized for appealing to youths with cartoon character marketing and claims of being natural and safe, Andrea McDaniels reports in the Sun. State and federal law prohibits the drugs, known by such names as K2 and Spice, but enforcement has proved difficult, mainly because manufacturers change the packaging and chemical makeup of the drugs to avoid prosecution.

COP BODY CAMS IN B’MORE: More than 150 Baltimore City police officers will be outfitted with body cameras as part of a pilot program that will eventually expand to the entire force. The program launched on Monday. Selected officers will be equipped with one of three types of cameras being tested. In February, the department will select one type of camera and begin giving cameras to all officers who regularly interact with the public. The rollout is expected to last two years.