State Roundup, March 17, 2016

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TREATMENT OF JUVIES BLASTED: State lawmakers on Wednesday called the routine shackling and strip-searching of youths in the state’s juvenile justice facilities “simply unacceptable” and demanded an “immediate” end to the practices, Erica Green, Erin Cox and Michael Dresser report for the Sun. Nearly three dozen members of the House of Delegates, all Democrats, made the demand in a letter to Department of Juvenile Services Secretary Sam Abed.

HOGAN BUDGET GETS INITIAL OK: Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget for next year received preliminary approval in the Senate Wednesday with little fuss and minimal debate. Michael Dresser reports in the Sun that the Senate’s action clears the way for what is expected to be final approval Friday. It would then go to the House of Delegates.

  • The $42.3 billion budget, generally a source of contention between the two parties over spending goals, has experienced relatively smooth sailing after Hogan presented a supplemental budget that provides more funds for Democratic priorities, such as Baltimore City public schools. Once passed, the budget will head to the House of Delegates for approval, writes Anjali Shastry for the Washington Times.

TAX RELIEF: Personal income-tax reform is on the agenda in the Maryland Senate, but the question this week is what form it will take, writes Tamela Baker for the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Senate President Mike Miller said an “across-the-board” income-tax bill is being prepared, but it could be controversial because it provides tax relief for even the wealthiest Marylanders.

AID FOR BALTIMORE CITY: Democratic leaders in the General Assembly have agreed on a package of more than $290 million in aid designed to spark a rebirth in Baltimore City, Erin Cox of the Sun reports. But Gov. Larry Hogan — while supportive of making the city’s future “better and brighter,” according to a spokesman — opposes the sort of mandates that Democratic leaders proposed to pay for it.

SENATORS CRITICIZE GOVERNOR NO-SHOW: Multiple state senators criticized Gov. Larry Hogan and his administration Wednesday for being a frequent no-show in the legislative process. Sen. Paul Pinsky said that state agencies have submitted “letters of information” that don’t take a firm position in support or in opposition to a bill and agency heads also do not often appear at bill hearings to answer questions, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun.

Pinsky Jennings

Sen. Paul Pinsky, left, and Senate Minority Leader J.D. Jenning, right standing, discuss Hogan administration’s testimony on legislation.

STATE CENTER REVIVED: The massive State Center project in Midtown Baltimore City is poised to get a second wind this year under the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan, reports Melody Simmons in the Baltimore Business Journal. State Commerce Secretary Mike Gill said that the stalled $1.5 billion private redevelopment plans of the existing state office complex off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard would be moving again in some way by the end of the year.

FILLING OFFICES: Defying Gov. Larry Hogan, the Senate approved a constitutional amendment Wednesday that would curb the governor’s discretion in filling the offices of comptroller and attorney general if the offices become vacant.The 30-14 vote to approve the measure fell largely along party lines, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

UNDERAGE DRINKING ENABLERS: The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow judges to imprison adults who knowingly and willfully host underage drinking parties, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record. The measure, however, would retain as just a fineable offense the mere furnishing of alcohol to a person under age 21.

STUDENT DEBT: Lawmakers in Annapolis want to explore new ways to reduce the student loan burden of Maryland residents – including creating a state body to refinance student loans, Daniel Leaderman reports for the Daily Record. A bill calling for a study of the issue – including whether any state agency has or could be given the bonding authority to refinance loans – is expected to move forward in the House of Delegates this week.

MORGAN STATE BILL: A bill that would provide $3 million over three years so that Morgan State University, a historically black research institution, can beef up its technology-transfer office was scheduled for a Senate committee hearing Wednesday afternoon, Daniel Leaderman reports for the Daily Record.

CALLING ON BUSINESS LEADERS, AGAIN: Gov. Larry Hogan, on a visit to Frederick County, which he won with 63% of the vote, continued to call on business leaders to contact their legislators in Annapolis to help move his agenda forward, writes Bryan Renbaum for MarylandReporter.com.

BRIDGES FOR FREDERICK: Bridges on I-270 and Md. 180 in Frederick County will be built as part of more than $160 million in specific road and bridge improvements funded by the state, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday in Frederick, Paige Jones reports for the Frederick News Post.

DRUG LEGALIZATION: As the General Assembly session moves toward its conclusion, the direction of the legislature on a number of issues is becoming clearer. One such issue is the legalization or decriminalization of drugs and drug-related crimes, writes Greg Kline in an opinion column for MarylandReporter.com. There exists a radical movement in the legislature actively seeking to remove all criminal penalties for the use of any drug and even for crimes committed in furtherance of drug addiction.

HOGAN ON TRUMP: In a column for MarylandReporter.com, Laslo Boyd writes that when asked recently whom he would be supporting among the Republican presidential candidates, Gov. Larry Hogan ducked the question. Given his earlier enthusiastic backing for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, it’s hard for Hogan to claim that he doesn’t want to get involved in national politics.

ELECTING JUDGES: Tom Hall of WYPR-FM speaks with law Professor Mortimer Sellers of why Marylanders elect court judges and whether it is a good idea.

MD DEMS BACK GARLAND: Maryland’s mostly Democratic congressional delegation offered strong words of support on Wednesday for President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, and its members called on Republican leaders in the Senate to schedule a confirmation hearing. But, writes John Fritze in the Sun, Republicans, including Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County, held fast to an earlier argument that the Senate should not schedule a hearing for Circuit Court Judge Merrick B. Garland of Bethesda until after the November election at the earliest.

MILLER BACKS BROWN: Senate President Mike Miller endorsed Anthony Brown for the 4th Congressional District on Wednesday, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Brown, the former lieutenant governor, is “the most qualified candidate in this race and his experience will be an asset in Congress,” Miller, a Calvert County Democrat, said in a statement released by the Brown campaign.

INTERNATIONAL TRADE & THE 8TH: Amid the sniping between contenders for the District 8 Democratic congressional nomination — focused primarily on contrasting resumés and divergent campaign strategies — it has been difficult to discern much division among the candidates on public policy issues. But, writes Louis Peck for Bethesda Beat, one significant difference was highlighted this week, involving an issue that has split the Democratic Party nationally and has emerged as a major factor in several recent presidential primaries: international trade.

SERIAL SEX OFFENDERS: Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is pushing for measures that would allow evidence of prior sexual offenses to be admissible in court under certain circumstances in further trials of sex offenders.