State Roundup, March 23, 2016

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HOGAN BUDGETS MOVE ON: Lawmakers continued to advance Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget proposals Tuesday, with the House of Delegates giving preliminary approval to his $42 billion operating budget, a version of which was already was approved by the state Senate. Pamela Wood writes in the Sun that meanwhile, the Senate gave preliminary approval to the state’s capital budget, which pays for construction projects. Once the Senate approves the capital budget, it will move to the House for consideration.

JUSTICE REFORM BILL: Legislation that aims to reduce Maryland’s prison populations, corrections spending and recidivism rates is expected to return to the state Senate today, after concerns were raised Monday over committee amendments to the bill, according to the Capital News Service in MarylandReporter.com. The Justice Reinvestment Act would alter criminal penalties and provisions on sentencing, corrections, parole and supervision in an effort to focus correctional resources on “serious and violent offenders,” according to a legislative analysis.

PUBLIC VOTE ON FANTASY SPORTS? Marylanders would get to vote in November on whether to legalize daily fantasy sports betting under a plan that’s moving through the state Senate, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. The industry — which is led by companies including FanDuel and DraftKings — has been in legal limbo since the state Attorney General’s Office issued an advisory opinion saying the websites might not be legal under Maryland’s gambling laws. The Senate is considering a pair of bills to clarify the situation.

  • Under a bill that advanced in the Senate on Tuesday, voters would weigh in on whether the unregulated game should be legalized. The legislation includes regulations for the daily fantasy sports industry, which has been banned in New York, Texas and elsewhere. But those regulations would take effect only if the ballot referendum to legalize daily fantasy sports was approved, Ovetta Wiggins and Josh Hicks of the Post report.

KEEP COOL ON TRANSIT PRIORITIES: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post, expressing concerning about putting Frederick transit projects in peril, opines that this knee-jerk change to how the state determines project funding is being rushed through without adequate vetting. Cooler heads must prevail, which is why they’re hoping the state Senate, where the legislation heads next, will apply the brakes.

DRINKING ENABLERS BILL HEADS TO CONFERENCE: A Senate-House conflict over whether and to what extent adults could be jailed for hosting underage drinking parties is likely headed to conference over the chambers’ respective legislative responses to the drunken-driving related-deaths of two recent high-school graduates last June, Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes.

NEW HOSPITAL FOR PRINCE GEORGE’S: A legislative proposal to lock in several years of funding for a major new hospital in Prince George’s County has now passed both chambers of the General Assembly, reports Daniel Leaderman in the Daily Record. The bill requires that the governor allocate funds to the project from fiscal 2018 through fiscal 2021, including a $55 million operating subsidy and $115 million in capital funds.

DIVORCE WITNESS BILLS: Two similar bills in the General Assembly that would eliminate the requirement that divorcing couples bring corroborating witnesses to court to prove their grounds may be combined after discussions between their sponsors at a hearing Tuesday, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.

Beekeepers gathered on the Maryland seal on the ground floor of the Miller Senate Office Building last year. Photo by Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com

Beekeepers gathered on the Maryland seal on the ground floor of the Miller Senate Office Building last year. Photo by Rebecca Lessner for MarylandReporter.com

STRONG DEEDS, GENTLE WORDS: First, Maryland’s senators rewrote the state song that was considered racist. Now, they’re considering revising the translation of the motto on the state’s seal that some say is sexist. Sen. Bryan Simonaire wants to officially adopt a translation of the words on the state seal — “fatti maschii parole femine” — as “strong deeds, gentle words” rather than “manly deeds, womanly words,” Pamela Wood is reporting in the Sun.

USM SEEKS PACT CHANGES: While changes made by the Maryland Senate have improved a proposal to more closely link two University of Maryland institutions, university system officials say they would like to see further revisions, writes the Daily Record’s Daniel Leaderman.

BROTHER OF DELEGATE MISSING: County police are asking for help from the public to find Steve Luedtke, a 38-year-old Gaithersburg man who is the brother of District 14 Del. Eric Luedtke. Luedtke was last seen at about 11 a.m. Monday when he was dropped off at the Shady Grove Metro station in Rockville. Police said they were notified when he didn’t return home as expected later that day, writes Aaron Kraut in Bethesda Beat.

ON MATTHEW FOGG: Matthew Fogg took on the federal government nearly 20 years ago and won. Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports that, as a deputy U.S. marshal, Fogg alleged that he and other black officers had endured harassment, been passed over for promotions and received less desirable assignments. Now, the retired law enforcement officer turned community activist is determined to take his experience to Capitol Hill. He is one of six Democrats vying for the party nomination to replace outgoing Rep. Donna Edwards in Maryland’s 4th Congressional District.

GOP SENATE HOPEFULS DEBATE: On a day of deadly bombings in Brussels, three of the leading Republican contenders for the U.S. Senate from Maryland grappled Tuesday evening with national security and the fight against terrorism in a debate at the University of Baltimore, Ian Duncan reports for the Sun.

OPEN MEETINGS COMPLAINTS, EDUCATION: Reporters perched on the fringes of a key Baltimore Development Corp. committee meeting Monday knew they were going to be thrown out – after all, it happened last week and the week before that. But some scraps of news were offered up before the hammer came down – the scribes were allowed to witness a few minutes of public discussion about the $535 million Port Covington Tax Increment Financing package the agency appears poised to approve. Fern Shen writes the story for Baltimore Brew.

  • Editors of the Baltimore Business Journal, the Sun and Baltimore Brew last Friday filed a complaint with the state’s Open Meetings Compliance Board seeking to have meetings at the BDC over the proposed $535 million tax subsidy for Sagamore Development LLC opened to the public. The Open Meetings Compliance Board is a part of the Maryland Attorney General’s office set up to monitor the state’s Open Meetings Act, Melody Simmons reports for the BBJ.
  • Would your local government rather you stay in the dark, like mushrooms do?  Craig O’Donnell, in a column for the Kent County Times writes that if testimony in the General Assembly by the Maryland Association of Counties and the Maryland Municipal League every year is the measure, the answer is “yes.” Each time the idea of making local government and its board and commission members aware of the law concerning open meetings and how to conduct public business comes up in the General Assembly, they haul out the same set of excuses — which your elected representatives in Annapolis parrot.

CITY LIQUOR BOARD BILL PROGRESSES: A bill to change how Baltimore’s liquor board members are appointed continued its rapid progress through the General Assembly Tuesday. Without debate, the House of Delegates gave preliminary approval to the bill, which requires Gov. Larry Hogan to appoint new members to the liquor board. If he doesn’t do so by the end of the General Assembly session on April 11, the appointment power would shift to Baltimore’s mayor and City Council. Pamela Wood writes the story for the Sun.

PUGH-DIXON RACE: Initially, the race to succeed Stephanie Rawlings-Blake as mayor of Baltimore City looked like a contest between Sheila Dixon and the field writes columnist Lazlo Boyd in MarylandReporter.com. Now, a recent Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll suggests that next month’s Democratic Primary is in a new phase.  That survey showed Dixon and state Sen. Catherine Pugh in a virtual tie with results well within the statistical margin of error of the poll.

MAYORAL DEBATE: The top Democratic candidates running for mayor of Baltimore City sparred Tuesday over whether past leadership has failed the city, putting the front-runners — former Mayor Sheila Dixon and state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh — on the defensive, Yvonne Wenger and Luke Broadwater report for the Sun. The story is topped with video of the candidates’ introductions.

DEBATE FACT-CHECK: On Tuesday, six leading Democrats running for mayor of Baltimore City made various claims — mostly true, but some false or exaggerated — during the first televised forum of the campaign. Luke Broadwater and Yvonne Wenger do some fact checking of various statements for the Sun.

ACLU PRESSES LEOPOLD: Lawyers from the ACLU on Tuesday pressed former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold about his interest in Carl Snowden, one of the plaintiffs in a civil case against him. Leopold has been accused of ordering county police officers to compile dossiers on Snowden, a prominent local civil rights activist, and other political rivals. Ten people filed suit against Leopold in 2012; one of them has since died, reports Amanda Yeager for the Annapolis Capital.