State Roundup, October 28, 2015

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POOR TEST SCORES: Melody Simmons reports for MarylandReporter.com that a majority of Maryland high school students who took the state’s first Common Core standardized assessment exams last spring did not meet standards for 10th grade English and about 70% didn’t meet the bar for Algebra I, state education leaders learned Tuesday.

  • After being ranked first in the nation for education for more than a decade, Maryland is seeing its scores in a key national test drop for fourth- and eighth-grade reading and math, Erica Green and Liz Bowie report in the Sun. The state’s performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress assessment put Maryland student achievement in the middle of the pack of states nationwide. Maryland was the only state to have falling scores in both subjects in both grades tested.

OVERTESTING STUDY COMMITTEE FORMED: Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Larry Bowers, who pushed to scrap final exams in the state’s largest school system, is one of a dozen appointees named by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to participate in a commission to review whether students in Maryland are overtested, Ovetta Wiggins reports for the Post.

REFORM PANEL TOUTS INDEPENDENT GROUP: The Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission met Tuesday to craft recommendations for ways to fix gerrymandering in Maryland, focusing on establishing an independent group to redistrict both congressional and legislative districts, CNS’s Naomi Eide writes in MarylandReporter.com.  The commission hashed out intricate rules to limit partisan influence and ensure the independence of the new panel.

COOPERATION NEEDED ON TRANSIT: State and local leaders will have to work together to fix the Baltimore region’s disjointed transit system, says a new regional transportation assessment released five days after Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled a plan focused on revamping the area’s buses. The report, out Tuesday from the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, comes in the wake of partisan battles over Republican Hogan’s cancellation of the $2.9 billion Red Line light rail planned to run east-west through Baltimore City, Rick Seltzer of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

HOGAN COMMITTED TO RESTORING HIGHWAY FUND: Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford said at the Maryland Municipal League fall conference on Tuesday in Cambridge that the Hogan administration is still committed to restoring Highway User Revenues, despite legislation that proposed to do that failed in last year’s General Assembly, Josh Bollinger writes the Easton Star Democrat.

CLOSING DETENTION CENTER OPENS DOORS: The closure of the Baltimore City Detention Center could accelerate a plan to begin replacing buildings within the existing correctional complex, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Stephen T. Moyer said Tuesday that the closure of the facility, which was recommended in a 2013 legislative report calling for replacement of buildings at the East Baltimore complex, could open up options for an accelerated plan.

ODD REACTION FROM HOGAN: Gov. Larry Hogan criticized state lawmakers Tuesday for holding a hearing on his decision in July to close the Baltimore City Detention Center, saying they only wanted to complain about “our successful and decisive action.” But those who spoke at the hearing did not complain about the governor’s move. One leading Democrat praised Hogan’s closing of the antiquated state-run jail, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.

LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES IN FREDERICK: There will have to be some compromises if Frederick County’s elected officials want to present a united front in Annapolis during the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly. Jen Fifield of the Frederick News Post reports that the Frederick County Council decided Tuesday to support the majority of legislative priorities that County Executive Jan Gardner has proposed for the next state legislative session, which starts in January. Yet they also voted unanimously against two key priorities, leaving Gardner wondering how to proceed.

EX-CANDIDATE SENTENCED FOR THEFT: A one-time candidate for the House of Delegates will serve six months of house arrest after pleading guilty to stealing more than $17,500 from an Anne Arundel high school booster club, Lauren Kirkwood reports for the Daily Record.

EX-CIA OFFICER SEEKS HOYER’S SEAT: A former CIA officer is launching a congressional campaign against Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). Charles “Sam” Faddis, who retired in 2008 as chief of a unit tracking nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, said in a statement Tuesday that he will make an official announcement of his campaign on Nov. 9. Rachel Weiner of the Post reports that the Republican is running on a platform of cutting spending, lowering taxes, tightening border control and a revamping foreign policy in the Middle East.

MATTHEWS CAMP HITS BACK AT RASKIN PAC: Kathleen Matthews’ campaign for Congress fired back Tuesday at a super PAC supporting state Sen. Jamie Raskin, arguing the group focused on campaign finance reform was making “outrageous false claims.” As the group worked to lift Raskin up, it also took several hard swings at Matthews, John Fritze of the Sun writes.

  • The pro-campaign finance reform super PAC called Matthews “a corporate lobbyist” because of her work for Marriott International, Bill Turque reports in the Post. In an e-mail blast to supporters Tuesday, the Matthews campaign said she has never worked as a lobbyist and accused Raskin supporters of using the Mayday super PAC to launch the first negative ad in the campaign for the 8th Congressional District seat being vacated by Rep. Chris Van Hollen.

AFL-CIO WON’T ENDORSE IN SENATE RACE: The Maryland AFL-CIO, among the most politically active unions in the state, has decided against endorsing a candidate in the election to replace Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, the group’s president said Tuesday. John Fritze of the Sun reports that Democratic Reps. Donna Edwards of Prince George’s County and Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County both sought the group’s backing.

WILL HE STAY OR WILL HE GO? WYPR-FM’s Fraser Smith and John Fritze of the Baltimore Sun wonder how much longer former Gov. Martin O’Malley will stay in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Fritze speculates he’ll stay in as long as he has the money.

POT GROWER WANTS TO BE NO. 1: An official with GTI-Maryland LLC said Tuesday that the company will be ready to break ground “almost the next day” if awarded one of the state’s 15 medical-marijuana cultivation licenses later this year, CJ Lovelace reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Pete Kadens, a partner with GTI-Maryland, said, “We think first-mover status is critical and a real advantage for GTI.”

WA CO COMMISH DEFENDS CLAIM: Washington County Commissioner Vincent G. “Woody” Spong is standing firm on his claim that an alleged comment he made to a female elected official was inaccurate and taken out of context, CJ Lovelace reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. In a response dated Oct. 22, Spong wrote that an “accusatory” letter written by Washington County Board of Education President Donna Brightman inaccurately identified the actual words used by Spong during a private conversation the two had following a joint meeting in September. Spong is hoping to be appointed by the state Senate to fill out his term as commissioner.

CONTRACT TRANSPARENCY LACKING: Trying to analyze how Baltimore City doles out contracts for its water, sewer and transportation projects turned into a futile attempt by the Abell Foundation to extract public information from City Hall, Joanne Sullivan reports for the Baltimore Business Journal. The Abell Foundation’s latest report “The Opacity Problem: An Examination of Baltimore City Infrastructure Contracts” wanted to examine all city infrastructure contracts from fiscal 2012.  Instead, the report chronicles unsuccessful attempts to access information.