State Roundup, January 5, 2016

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STRENGTHENING OPEN MEETINGS LAW: A Republican lawmaker’s bill could help strengthen Maryland’s open meetings law by requiring public boards, councils and committees to keep their meeting records for at least five years, reports Elisha Sauers for the Annapolis Capital.

ANTI-SMOKING FUNDS: The state has a special fund designed to help Anne Arundel County and the 23 other local health departments in their fight against smoking, including putting money toward programs like those at the institute. Darcy Costello and Erin Serpico of CNS report in MarylandReporter.com that about 15 years and $2.3 billion later — and despite the creation of the state’s Cigarette Restitution Fund to deter and repair damage from tobacco — only a small slice goes to smoking prevention.

FOR HEALTHIER SCHOOL MEALS: Aaron Maybin, an advocate for Sugar Free Kids Maryland, writes in an op-ed for the Sun that “our kids are being poisoned every day in their schools. It’s not from lead paint or pipes, but by the food and drinks being served to them — the cheapest to make and deadliest to eat and, in some instances, the same food fed to the inmate populations in our state prisons.”

2015’s POLITICAL SCREWUPS: In a breezy column to kick off the New Year, Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland gives a blow-by-blow of the worst political mistakes and miscalculations of 2015. Ah, those were the days.

KAMENETZ CRITICIZED: Some Baltimore County Council members are criticizing County Executive Kevin Kamenetz for declining more than $250,000 from Baltimore City — a reimbursement to the county for sending police and firefighters to help during April’s rioting, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.

EDWARDS BLASTS OREGON COVERAGE: Maryland Senate candidate Donna Edwards took aim at the media on Monday for what she described as a willingness to label the rioters in Baltimore as “thugs” but the anti-government ranchers who have taken over a federal building in Oregon as “occupiers,” writes John Fritze for the Sun. “I am deeply troubled by the media portrayal of the events in Oregon and the armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge,” the Prince George’s County congresswoman said in a rare, 300-word statement issued by her campaign that was redistributed by national progressive groups.

BA CO DEMS BACK VAN HOLLEN: Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Monday picked up endorsements from four Baltimore County officials in his bid to be elected to the U.S. Senate. County Council members Vicki Almond, Cathy Bevins, Julian Jones and Tom Quirk — all Democrats — offered their support to Van Hollen during an event in Towson.

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE CHARGED: The Rev. Westley West, who launched his campaign for Baltimore City Council on Sunday, was charged last week in Baltimore County with misdemeanor theft, Alison Knezevich reports in the Sun. The 27-year-old Baltimore pastor was charged Dec. 29 with one count of theft under $1,000, according to online court records.

STATE SONG: The Washington Post editorial page has joined the chorus for replacing Maryland’ state song. “State songs are the kind of artifacts that tend to get attention only when they cause embarrassment. Just ask Virginia, which endured a trial almost 20 years long trying to find a replacement after “Carry Me Back to Old Virginny” was retired because of its racist lyrics. Now up is Maryland, where there is a renewed push to find an alternative to the off-key lyrics of the state song, which includes a call to arms for the Confederacy.”