State Roundup, December 3, 2015

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MASSIVE GOV’T OVERHAUL: Gov. Larry Hogan’s Regulatory Reform Commission is recommending a massive overhaul of Maryland’s “convoluted” governmental structure along with a host of small and medium-size changes to streamline regulations and focus state employees on helping businesses and citizens, Len Lazarick reports for Marylandreporter.com.

PRISON REFORM OUTLINED: Maryland could save nearly $250 million over the next 10 years by reducing its prison population by 3,600 beds under a proposal that makes sweeping changes to the state’s parole and probation system and slight adjustments to sentencing guidelines, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post. The Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council on Wednesday discussed its preliminary suggestions on reducing incarceration and recidivism to help draw down correction costs.

  • Consultants from the Pew Charitable Trusts told the council the savings could then be shifted to programs with a proven track record of reducing repeat offenses and to provide drug treatment and more effective supervision of released prisoners. The Pew report came as members of the council, representing a broad array of interests, including defense lawyers and prosecutors, worked to reach agreement on proposals to reduce mass incarceration while improving public safety, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

POT PANEL CHIEF STEPS DOWN: The first executive director of the state commission tasked with establishing a medical marijuana industry in Maryland will step down at the end of January, writes Sarah Gantz in the Baltimore Business Journal. Hannah Byron will resign from her position as head of the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission effective Jan. 27. The commission has not yet named her successor.

HOGAN QUESTIONS VOTING SYSTEM: Gov. Larry Hogan is questioning the reliability of Maryland’s new voting system, but the state’s elections administrator is expressing confidence in it. The voting system came up unexpectedly at a Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday. Treasurer Nancy Kopp, one of three board members, asked how the state will manage voter outreach after a nearly $1 million contract was rejected, according to an AP story in the Easton Star Democrat.

MSP AUDIT EYES RECORD-KEEPING: An audit released Tuesday reveals that bookkeeping errors by the Maryland Department of State Police contributed to what looked to be questionable spending and inaccurate handgun records, CNS Jacob Bell reports for MarylandReporter.com.

ON HOGAN & POLITICS: Laslo Boyd of Center Maryland addresses the bit of puffery written by NYTimes’ columnist Frank Bruni about Gov. Larry Hogan, the two front-runners for the GOP nomination for president and the future of political discourse in the age of inflamed rhetoric.

Will write for foodICYMI WILL WRITE FOR FOOD: In case you missed Wednesday’s fundraising newsletter “Will write for food,” now that Giving Tuesday is over and you’ve donated to your favorite school, food bank, charity and social service organization consider a contribution to MarylandReporter.com to keep independent news coverage of state government and politics alive. Happy to report that dozens of readers already donated.

CHAMBER PREZ STEPS DOWN: Citing personal reasons, Brien Poffenberger resigned Monday as president and chief executive officer of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, reports Tamela Baker in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Poffenberger said Tuesday that he had a health scare a few months ago, “and it was serious enough that it made me evaluate what I was doing. It was a choice between things I have to do and things I want to do.” Poffenberger, 50, said there is no immediate danger to his health.

CROSS NO VIOLATION: A federal judge has ruled that a 40-foot-tall cross located on land owned by the state of Maryland doesn’t violate the Constitution. An atheist group sued over the 90-year-old cast concrete cross in 2014. It said the display, erected as a war memorial, amounted to government sponsorship of religion in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment, according to a report in the Daily Record.

CITY’S CONFEDERATE MONUMENT: Tom Hall of WYPR-FM addresses the commission established by Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake  to look at the city’s four Confederate monuments in parks and on thoroughfares with Aaron Bryant, a social and political historian who studies political history and visual culture, who is chair of the commission, and Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead.

CAUCUS MEMBERS BACK EDWARDS: Three more members of the Congressional Black Caucus have endorsed Rep. Donna Edwards for the Senate, her campaign said Wednesday. Fellow Democratic Reps. Lacy Clay of Missouri, Robin Kelly of Illinois and Hank Johnson of Georgia have joined Gwen Moore of Wisconsin in supporting the Prince George’s County lawmaker, Matthew Hay Brown of the Sun reports.

SECIU SWITCHES TO VAN HOLLEN: The labor organization that helped launch the political career of Rep. Donna Edwards is endorsing her primary rival in the race for the U.S. Senate, writes Arelis R. Hernandez in the Post. The Service Employees International Union announced Thursday it would back Rep. Chris Van Hollen, withdrawing its support for Edwards. The congresswoman has credited the labor organization with having “put her over the top” in 2008, when she defeated an incumbent Democrat to ascend to the House.