State Roundup, December 1, 2015

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OBAMA TO OFFER MORE REFUGEE DATA: The Obama administration will provide more thorough information to states on refugees settled within their borders in response to a recent outcry from governors about the Syrian crisis, according to a letter the administration sent Monday. John Fritze of the Sun reports that, working through the National Governors Association, the White House is proposing to create monthly reports that would let state officials review the number of refugees arriving in their jurisdiction, broken down by nationality, age and gender.

HOGAN SAYS MD PREPARED FOR PROBLEMS: In an AP story at WJZ-TV, Gov. Larry Hogan says the state of Maryland has been preparing for any disturbances in Baltimore related to the trials of six officers in the death of Freddie Gray ever since he called in the National Guard to help restore order after the unrest in April, saying that a security team in his administration has been working with the city’s police commissioner and the state police superintendent.

Hogan hairHAIR OR NO HAIR: From Larry Hogan’s Facebook page: “Since hearing the doctors tell me I am 100% cancer-free, one of the things I’ve really looked forward to is my hair growing back. But lately, I’ve heard from a lot of people that they really like the bald look, and they think I should keep it! So, I’ve decided to get your input. What do you think – bald head or flowing locks? Vote below!” The results as of 8:52 a.m., 2,740 LIKES for hair; 662 SHARES for bald. Hair by a landslide, 80%.

AUDIT FINDS NO BIDDING COMPETITION: Michael Dresser of the Sun writes that state auditors say the agency that oversees Maryland’s prisons structured a multimillion-dollar 2012 contract for commissary services in a way that stifled competition and limited the bidding to a single company. The actions described in a recent report by the Office of Legislative Audits occurred under the O’Malley administration.

POT SHOP HOT SPOTS: Sarah Gantz of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that Maryland Senate District 46, which wraps around the Inner Harbor, is a hot spot for wannabe medical marijuana dispensaries, with 29 applications for dispensaries. Senate District 17 around Rockville also received 29 applications; Senate District 11 in Baltimore County received 26 dispensary applications. The BBJ runs a clickable map to take you around the state to see how many applications have been received for each district.

TOWARD TAX REFORM: Members of an independent commission met behind closed doors for seven hours and ironed out a framework of proposals for changes to the state’s tax structure, according to the panel’s chairman. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record report that the Maryland Economic Development and Business Climate Commission is tasked with making those recommendations by the end of the month, in time for the January start of the legislative session. Those proposed changes also come against the backdrop of first-term Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s oft-expressed desire to provide tax relief to state residents. But potential areas of agreement among the 25-member panel of legislators, government officials and business leaders remained uncertain going into the Monday meeting.

Editor’s Note: The “commission” was created by a press release from the presiding officers, and is not a “public body” covered by the Open Meetings Act, unlike panels created by law, regulation or executive order. 

MD JOINS VW SUIT: Tim Wheeler of the Sun reports that state environmental officials announced Monday that Maryland is joining other states in seeking potentially stiff penalties and repairs from Volkswagen for rigging its vehicles’ software to hide how much smog-forming pollution they were spewing into the air.

NO MIERDA: In other auto news, a state court has ruled that Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration did not violate a vehicle owner’s constitutional right to free speech in recalling his vanity license plate “MIERDA,” the Spanish word for “s–t,” Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record.

SAVING OYSTER INDUSTRY: As state officials work to help the state’s oyster industry recover by creating sanctuaries where spats can grow, oystermen question whether the efforts actually pay off, reports CNS’s Jacob Bell in the Daily Record.

PEACE ON THE WATER: Tom Horton of the Bay Journal offers a peaceful meditation in MarylandReporter.com on taking a long and slow canoe trip around Delmarva.

GLENDENING SPEAKS: In his Roughly Speaking podcast, Sun columnist Dan Rodricks speaks with former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening about income inequality, the nation’s infrastructure needs and the 2016 presidential candidates.

VIDEOGRAPHER TARGETS FROSH: A controversial conservative videographer who targeted the group ACORN and pleaded guilty to entering the offices of a U.S. senator under false premises has targeted the Office of the  Maryland Attorney General, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record.

SUPER PAC PUSHES DELANEY FOE: Maryland USA, a so-called “Super PAC,” made its first expenditures of the 2015-2016 campaign just prior to Thanksgiving — allotting more than $200,000 for advertising to boost the candidacy of Republican Amie Hoeber of Potomac, a national security consultant seeking her party’s nomination against Democratic Rep. John Delaney in District 6 next year, Louis Peck of Bethesda Beat reports.

OUT OF THE 8TH: After exploring running for nearly three months, Bethesda resident Bill Day said this weekend he has decided not to seek the Republican congressional nomination in District 8 in next April’s primary election, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.

EMILY’S LIST FUNDS EDWARDS AD: Emily’s List, a powerful national group with deep ties to Maryland politics, said Monday it will spend $1 million on advertising for Rep. Donna Edwards’ campaign for Senate — hoping to rebalance a race that increasingly appears to favor her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a week after a poll for The Baltimore Sun and the University of Baltimore showed Van Hollen with a double-digit lead in the primary race, John Fritze reports in the Sun.

VAN HOLLEN ATTEMPTS GRAND SLAM: Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland tips his hat to U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen for his attempt at the “grand slam” in politics. If he wins the U.S. Senate election next year, he will be the first Maryland senator since Millard Tydings to have served in the House of Delegates, the state Senate, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

HEADING RUBIO’S MARYLAND EFFORT: Two well-known Maryland Republican officials will oversee Marco Rubio’s presidential bid in the state, the Florida senator’s campaign said Monday. John Fritze of the Sun reports that Del. Christian J. Miele of Baltimore County and former Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman will serve as co-chairs of Rubio’s effort in the state. Rubio is the first GOP candidate to announce a leadership team in Maryland.

MO CO SCHOOLS CHIEF SEEKS CORRECTION: The interim superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools wants a correction from Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, who at an event earlier this month criticized what he characterized as higher-than-necessary school construction costs in the county. Aaron Kraut of Bethesda Beat writes that Larry Bowers sent Franchot a letter last week in which he said Franchot “erroneously commented that MCPS spends ‘$500 per square foot’ on our capital projects.”