State Roundup, February 25, 2016

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MERGING UMCP & UMB: A renewed push by state lawmakers to combine the flagship University of Maryland, College Park with the health- and law-focused University of Maryland, Baltimore could give the state a dual-campus powerhouse that would leverage the strengths of both institutions to launch new programs, discoveries and businesses, supporters say. Carrie Wells reports the story for the Sun.

CUTTING GREENHOUSE GAS: A bill to accelerate Maryland’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sailed through the state Senate on Tuesday and was hailed by environmentalists as one of the nation’s strongest state requirements for tackling carbon pollution, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

PATIENTS’ CHOICES: Lynn Toobin, a licensed professional counselor, writes in an op-ed for the Sun, that aid-in-dying is not about a physician’s ever-changing concept of what is or is not medically ethical. It is about a patient’s choice to direct his or her own care at the end-of-life. It must be a patient’s right, a patient’s choice and solely a patient’s decision.

HOSTING UNDERAGE PARTIES: Urged on by two grieving fathers, a Maryland Senate committee voted Wednesday to approve a bill that would impose stiffer penalties — including jail time — on adults who provide alcohol to underage drinkers, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

  • The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday recommended that the full Senate approve legislation that would allow judges to imprison adults who host underage drinking parties. In an unusual move, the committee voted its recommendation while the hearing on the measure, Senate Bill 564, was still going on. People waiting to testify in favor of the measure broke into applause.

DRUNK DRIVING MEASURES: The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday heard 17 bills aimed at tightening Maryland’s drunken-driving laws, one of which was sponsored by Washington County Del. Brett R. Wilson, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports. But the bill garnering the most attention would expand the state’s Ignition Interlock System Program, under which drivers convicted of certain drunken-driving charges must use a device that measures their blood-alcohol content before their vehicles will start.

HOGAN BACKS LIVE STREAMING: Gov. Larry Hogan is apparently anxious for Marylanders to see what legislators actually do on the first floor of the State House, so he is warmly endorsing legislation that provides for live streaming and archived video of floor and voting sessions in the House of Delegates and Senate, Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com.

DERANGED BY HOGAN: The Washington Post editorial page writes about the legislature’s “Hogan Derangement Syndrome,” saying the governor’s high approval ratings have apparently unhinged Democrats.

‘MARYLAND, MY MARYLAND:’ Pamela Wood of the Sun writes that Maryland’s state song has been called racist, divisive and embarrassing, and some lawmakers say it needs to go. The General Assembly is again considering whether to trash or change the state song, a call to support the Confederacy set to a tune most people know as “O Christmas Tree.”

MOVING TANEY STATUE: A Maryland bill that originally would have required the state to destroy a statue of U.S. Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney located outside the State House in Annapolis would now merely mandate moving the sculpture to the state archives, Josh Hicks of the Post reports.

  • It’s the latest effort to rid Maryland’s public spaces of memorials dedicated to those who played a role in defending slavery or enforcing discrimination against blacks. It also comes amid a national debate over public displays of Confederate symbols, which are viewed by some as historic markers of heritage but by others as offensive relics of racism, Anjali Shastry writes in the Washington Times.

FREDERICK HOTEL TAX: The animus related to public funding proposals for a downtown Frederick hotel and conference center filled two General Assembly committee rooms on Wednesday. Lawmakers in the House Ways and Means and Senate Budget and Taxation committees heard from opponents and proponents of a bill that aims to cap Frederick County’s hotel tax at its current 3% rate, writes Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News Post.

HOSPITAL CLOSURE BILLS: Last summer’s decision to convert Laurel Regional Hospital from a full-service hospital to an outpatient facility prompted anger from lawmakers and community members who say they weren’t consulted about the change. Now, reports Daniel Leaderman for the Daily Record, lawmakers in Annapolis are considering a pair of bills related to hospital closure, each of which is being touted as a way to prevent such conflicts in the future.

OBAMA TAPS HAYDEN FOR LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated the longtime director of Baltimore’s public library system to lead the Library of Congress, a venerable institution that has faced criticism in recent years for a perceived reluctance to embrace technology. Carla Hayden, the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library since 1993, would become the first woman and the first African-American to oversee the 214-year-old library, home to the Gettysburg Address, a Gutenberg Bible and the world’s largest collection of comic books, John Fritze and Yvonne Wenger report in the Sun.

MATTHEWS’ ENDORSEMENT: It’s been a core message for Kathleen Matthews in her Maryland congressional campaign: the importance of sending more women to Congress. But on Monday, Matthews passed over Rep. Donna Edwards, the woman running for Maryland’s open Senate seat, to endorse her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the seven-term District 8 incumbent, explaining in an email; “I live in the 8th, I’m loyal to the 8th. As a former Democratic House Speaker said, all politics is local.” Bill Turque of the Post reports the story.

EDWARDS ON THE RACE: Tom Hall of WYPR-FM interviews Donna Edwards about her race for Mikulski’s Senate seat. Next week, he’ll interview her rival, Chris Van Hollen and we’ll link to that as well.

***8TH DISTRICT DEBATE SUNDAY: Nine Montgomery County Democratic clubs and the Democratic Central Committee are sponsoring a debate for to all nine of the Democratic candidates for the 8th Congressional District this Sunday, Feb. 28 from 3 to 5 p.m. at Walt Whitman High School, 7100 Whittier Blvd., Bethesda. 20817. The debate will be moderated by former Montgomery County Councilmember Gail Ewing.***

MAYOR HOPEFULS IN FORUM: Racial and economic inequality were front and center at Wednesday’s mayoral forum at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in North Baltimore – as 17 Democratic and Republican candidates clashed over everything from mayoral control of the city’s schools to whether the police lied about a gang threat, sparking April’s riot, Luke Broadwater reports for the Sun.