State Roundup, February 18, 2016

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COLLEGE PROJECTS VS NEW CITY JAIL: Maryland lawmakers are criticizing Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to delay five college projects, including a new business school and a student services building at historically black universities in Baltimore City, to build a $480 million jail in the city, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

LIVE STREAMING: Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post reports that Sen. Michael Hough — along with three other Republican senators and Frederick County Sen. Ron Young, a Democrat — has introduced a bill that would require live and archived video streaming of State House floor sessions. Another bill under consideration this year in the House —  introduced by Del. David Moon, a Democrat from Montgomery County, and Republican Del. Kathy Szeliga — would also require video recording of floor sessions, in addition to streaming of committees’ voting sessions, which are not recorded.

VOTER REGISTRATION & VOTING: While Maryland Democrats have worked hard to make registering to vote easier, does higher voter registration mean more people are going to the polls? Adam Pagnucco answers that question in the Seventh State blog, but the answers are anything but simple.

HIKING TOBACCO TAX: In an effort to discourage Marylanders from smoking, health advocates urged lawmakers Wednesday to back a bill that would raise the state’s $2-per-pack cigarette tax to $3. Taxes on other tobacco products would increase by 30% as well. The bill, HB71, sponsored by Del. Eric Luedtke and Del. Barbara Frush would also require Gov. Larry Hogan to put in at least $21 million in annual funding for the Tobacco Use Prevention and Cessation Program beginning in fiscal year 2018, Alessia Grunberger writes for MarylandReporter.com.

SIMPLIFYING DIVORCE: To get a divorce in Maryland, people often must swear in court that they have not spent the night with their spouse in the past year — and a witness needs to corroborate that. A bill being considered by the General Assembly would end what some lawmakers call an arcane and ridiculous requirement, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

TANGLING OVER MARIJUANA POLICY: A preliminary vote in the House of Delegates on Wednesday may have set the stage for another battle over marijuana policy in the state. The House gave preliminary approval to House Bill 183, which makes smoking marijuana in a vehicle illegal but removed language that would have also made it a misdemeanor to smoke in public — a provision that would make smoking in public akin to drinking alcohol in public, reports Bryan Sears of the Daily Record.

FARM POLLUTION: Should Maryland farms and wastewater facilities be able to trade credits to offset nitrogen or phosphorus pollution? Supporters say it’s innovative, but skeptics say it’s nothing more than paying to pollute. In this 48-minute podcast, Sheilah Kast of Midday on WYPR-FM discusses nutrient trading, lead in the environment, the incinerator in Curtis Bay, and sensible redevelopment along Baltimore City’s waterfront with Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles.

REAL ESTATE GROUP KEPT BUSY: It’s been a busy start to the Maryland General Assembly session for NAIOP Commercial Real Estate Development Association Maryland, Adam Bednar of the Daily Record reports. The organization’s legislative committee has already taken stances on 113 bills by the 30-day point of the session, which started last month. At the same point in last year’s session the committee had taken stances on 37 bills, according to an electronic newsletter sent to members.

AA SCHOOL BOARD MAKEUP: As lawmakers continue to mull proposals affecting who helps select Anne Arundel County school board members, legislation will not come to a vote at a delegation meeting Friday. The delegation’s education subcommittee met Wednesday to discuss changes to a bill County Executive Steve Schuh requested, which seeks to alter one seat on the School Board Nominating Commission, writes Elisha Sauers for the Annapolis Capital.

***GOP SENATE DEBATE: Goucher College will host the first GOP U.S. Senate debate of the 2016 primary season tonight, Thursday, Feb. 18, 7 p.m.  The debate will feature five of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination: Richard Douglas, Greg Holmes, Joseph Hooe, Chrys Kefalas and Dave Wallace. The debate will be moderated by WBAL on-air personalities Derek Hunter and Clarence Mitchell IV.  The event will also include questions from the audience. The debate will take place in Merrick Hall on the Goucher campus, 1021 Dulaney Valley Road, Towson.***

IVEY AD FOCUSES ON  SUPREME COURT: John Fritze of the Sun writes that Democratic congressional candidate Glenn Ivey is focusing on the emerging battle to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court in the first radio ad of his campaign for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, his campaign said Wednesday.

4th CONGRESSIONAL SPLIT PG ENDORSEMENTS: With less than 10 weeks until the April primary, Democratic candidates in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District are splitting endorsements from Prince George’s County leaders as the field thins and campaign momentum ramps up, Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports.

  • Anthony Brown’s campaign for the open House seat in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District announced the endorsement of seven Prince George’s County officials on Wednesday. Sens. Joanne C. Benson and Ulysses Currie, Dels. Carolyn Howard and Michael Vaughn, Prince George’s County Council members Derrick Leon Davis and Karen Toles and Bladensburg Mayor Walter Lee James Jr. are backing the former lieutenant governor’s campaign, John Fritze reports for the Sun.

HARRIS BACKS CARSON: Maryland’s sole Republican in Congress on Wednesday announced he is endorsing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson, a fellow physician who is trailing badly in polls. U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, a conservative Republican who represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, appeared with Carson at a campaign event in South Carolina on Wednesday, days ahead of that state’s Republican primary, and noted the decades-long relationship the two enjoyed at Johns Hopkins Hospital, John Fritze reports for the Sun.

KITTLEMAN POLLING: Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s approval rating is 69%, according to a poll by the Committee to Elect Allan Kittleman this month. Kittleman declined to comment on the approval rating, citing it was not “a government matter,” according to county spokesman Andy Barth. Fatimah Waseem reports that the committee did not disclose additional information about the poll, including its parameters and the standard error.

MOSBY ATTACKS PUGH: City Councilman Nick J. Mosby’s mayoral campaign took a swing Wednesday at Democratic challenger state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, accusing her of political pandering, reports the Sun’s Yvonne Wenger. Mosby’s campaign spokeswoman Tiffany D. Cross faulted Pugh for “standing with Governor [Larry] Hogan in October after he killed Baltimore’s Red line” while the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders detailed plans this week to restrict the Republican governor’s power to decide what transportation projects to fund.

SCHUH HOSTS LIVE CHAT ON HEROIN PROBLEM: Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital writes that Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh will host a live chat in conjunction with the premiere of PBS Frontline’s “Chasing Heroin” special next week. The two-hour episode, which airs Feb. 23 at 9 p.m., investigates the making of the nation’s heroin epidemic and looks at potential solutions to the crisis. In Anne Arundel County, an average of one resident a week dies of an opiate overdose, per statistics from county health officials.

SPECIAL OLYMPIAN, FRIEND TO HOGAN, DIES: Gov. Larry Hogan was hoping to jump into the Chesapeake Bay with Jimmy Myrick Jr. during next year’s Polar Bear Plunge fundraiser. The governor met the Special Olympian when the two were being treated for medical conditions and they quickly bonded. Hogan even honored Myrick with the first-ever Maryland Courage Award at this year’s plunge to honor the athlete’s 20-year commitment to the event. Myrick, a pillar in the Special Olympics Maryland community, died Friday after a four-year battle with leukemia.  He was 33, reports Christina Jedra for the Annapolis Capital.