State Roundup, January 7, 2016

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MIXED REACTION TO TEARDOWNS: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew reports on the reaction to Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to demolish vacant homes in Baltimore City, writing: Reaction to the nearly $700 million West Baltimore redevelopment plan …  including the demolition of about 4,000 properties over four years – was decidedly mixed. Would it lift up struggling communities by eliminating blight? Or simply push out poor, longtime African-American residents, leaving vacant lots and lucrative opportunities for demolition contractors, developers and speculators?

HOME REHAB FUNDS: Gov. Larry Hogan’s office last week announced $250,000 in funding for the rehabilitation of 10 historic homes on Shipley and Roberts avenues in the Winters Lane neighborhood of Catonsville, Rachael Pacella reports in the Catonsville Times.

SHA INVENTORY: The State Highway Administration is reviewing its inventory process in response to the disappearance of 23 snowplow blades from a Glen Burnie yard last year.  “We are embarking on new processes to ensure precision,” said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar. Gischlar did not elaborate on the specifics but said a statewide inventory will be conducted in the next year. The 10-foot-wide plows cost about $3,000 each, Christina Jedra reports in the Annapolis Capital.

PROTECTING LEAD PAINT SETTLEMENTS: Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that purchasers of structured financial settlements would be barred from buying more than 25% of the remaining funds owed to the seller under legislation designed to protect victims of childhood lead poisoning from being exploited if they choose to sell their settlement share for pennies on the dollar due to an imminent need for money. The legislation, filed in advance of Wednesday’s start of the General Assembly session, follows reported instances of exploitation by some purchasers.

SIMPLIFY VOTER REGISTRATION: Maryland Dels. Shelly Hettleman, Sandy Rosenberg and Mary Washington, in an op-ed for the Sun, write that over the past decade, dozens of states have enacted onerous voter ID laws that prevent minorities, the elderly and young people from voting. They have cut early voting and limited access to the ballot in myriad other ways. Under Freedom to Vote, Marylanders who go to the Motor Vehicle Administration to get a driver’s license will be told that they will be registered to vote unless they choose to opt out.

ONE LAWYER, $1 MILLION: One Maryland agency had $1 million to spend on legal representation and could only find one lawyer interested, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Members of the state Board of Public Works raised questions about the lack of bidders for the contract with the Department of Human Resources representing child and adult welfare cases in Cecil County. They wanted to know if the state could get a better deal hiring an in-house attorney.

ON FRANCHOT: We’ve had trouble accessing Center Maryland over the past two days, but if you can, read Josh Kurtz’s pre-Christmas column on Peter Franchot’s transformation from a liberal legislator to a comptroller who is now the biggest cheerleader for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings

CUMMINGS MAY STILL RUN FOR SENATE: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) insisted Wednesday that he could still run for the U.S. Senate, with the filing deadline less than a month away, Rachel Weiner of the Post writes. “I have it circled — believe me,” Cummings said in an interview with Baltimore’s WYPR, referring to the Feb. 3 deadline to file nomination papers in the Democratic primary. Laughing, he added, “My wife reminds me every day.”

O’MALLEY’S REALITY CHECK: If you’re running for any elective office, you’d better have thick enough skin to accept occasional humiliation, writes Barry Rascovar in his politicalmaryland.com blog. That’s especially true for those in the presidential primaries — and it seems even more so for former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has taken hit after hit in trying to gain traction.

SCHUH’S SWIFT CHANGES: Steve Schuh was gung ho when he took office as Anne Arundel County executive 13 months ago, and he thinks he’s made a good start implementing his campaign promises and transforming county government. In an interview last month with Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com, he said he’s not planning to slow the pace of change.