State Roundup, November 18, 2015

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HOGAN ADDS CAVEAT TO REFUGEE STANCE: Gov. Larry Hogan asked the Obama administration Tuesday to halt any resettling in Maryland of refugees from the Syrian civil war until it is certain that they pose no threat to public safety, Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. Hogan issued his statement one day after he declined to join more than 20 Republican governors and at least one Democrat in taking steps to keep such refugees out of their states.

AMBIVALENT OVER ASSESSING TESTING: Maryland education officials and lawmakers, members of the state’s first commission to review standardized testing, appeared ambivalent on Tuesday about how they will determine the value of statewide assessments, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. Some commission members wanted to look at the technology infrastructure for testing, while others want to further study the ancillary effects on students — such as school computers being used for exams instead of instruction.

COMPETITION FOR STATE HISTORIC TAX CREDITS: Competition for state historic tax credits remains extremely high, writes Adam Bednar for the Daily Record. The Maryland Historical Trust, an agency within the Maryland Department of Planning, announced it has awarded $9 million in Sustainable Communities Tax Credits to six projects. Those tax credits are expected to help developers leverage construction projects with a total cost of more than $50 million. The tax credits program is a refundable credit program that goes to a project’s owners.

BPW TO REVIEW KENT ISLAND PLAN: The Maryland Board of Public Works will review K. Hovnanian’s request for a wetlands license for its proposed Four Seasons at Kent Island development on Wednesday, Nov. 18, the latest step in a case that has dragged on for more than a decade, Angela Price writes in the Easton Star Democrat. In June, Maryland’s highest court set aside a ruling by the Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court pertaining to the development and directed it to send the matter back to BPW, which has one new member since the board last heard the case.

MORGAN OPENS $72M BIZ CENTER: Ed Gunts of Baltimore Brew writes that 60 years ago, African American students at Morgan State College couldn’t go to the movie theater at Northwood Plaza, just down the road from their school campus.They were not served in the Rooftop Restaurant at the Hecht Co. department store at the shopping center or at Arundel’s Ice Cream Parlor. Today, Morgan State University, a historically black institution, not only owns much of the land where these battles were fought, but just opened a $72 million academic building there called the Morgan Business Center.

PG BANS VAPING ALMOST EVERYWHERE: Prince George’s County lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would ban the use of electronic cigarettes in all places­ where smoking is prohibited, with one notable exemption: the forthcoming MGM casino resort. In neighboring Montgomery County, lawmakers voted in March to ban the nicotine vaporizing devices­ in all places where tobacco smoking is prohibited, Arelis Hernandez reports in the Post.

BA CO RESIDENTS PROTEST END TO RAIN TAX: As the Baltimore County Council voted 7-0 without comment Monday to phase out the county’s stormwater remediation fee, opponents in the audience held up signs that said, “Show us the $.” They were referring to the lack of a plan by the county to pay for federally mandated stormwater remediation if not with the current fee, writes Larry Perl for the Towson Times.

MO CO RADON TESTING PASSES: Montgomery residents who sell their homes will have to test for radon and give buyers the results under a bill passed unanimously by the County Council on Tuesday. Bill Turque of the Post reports. Montgomery is the first locality in the country to establish a radon testing requirement, according to the bill’s sponsor.

USPS OVERHAUL BACKED: Congress has failed for years to overhaul the U.S. Postal Service, but a new poll Tuesday suggests there is bipartisan support nationally and in Maryland for a handful of well-worn solutions, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

DO-OVER ON FREDERICK ETHICS LAW: The Frederick County Council will start again when it comes to changing the county’s ethics laws. A bill, proposed earlier this year by County Executive Jan Gardner to amend the county’s charter to include recommendations by an ethics task force, was running up against a 90-day deadline, Danielle Gaines reports in the Frederick News Post.

NEW APPLICANTS SOUGHT FOR SCHOOL BOARD: The School Board Nominating Commission voted Tuesday to reopen applications for two Arundel Board of Education seats and reduce the minimum votes required to recommend a candidate to the governor from eight of 11 to a majority with a quorum — increasing the voting power of the governor’s five appointed members, Cindy Huang of the Annapolis Capital reports.

BRUTALITY SETTLEMENTS RISE: Continuing a parade of out-of-court settlements that have cost taxpayers more than $7.3 million so far in 2015, the Board of Estimates is set to approve another $110,000 to two men who accused Baltimore police officers of false arrest, false imprisonment, battery and assault, Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports. While media attention has focused on the outsized number of homicides in Baltimore this year, the cost of lawsuits settled by the city involving alleged police misconduct has also risen steeply.

CARSON WRESTLES WITH FOREIGN POLICY: Some advisers to Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson say he is struggling to grasp the complexities of foreign policy, his closest confidant said Tuesday, acknowledging their frustration while adding the political newcomer is making progress, according to a report in the Sun. “I’d say he’s 75% of the way there,” said Armstrong Williams, Carson’s longtime business manager. “The world is a complex place, and he wants to get it right.”