State Roundup, June 6, 2016

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MD GOP HOPES TO GAIN STATEHOUSE SEATS: The head of Maryland’s Republican Party says the GOP is hoping to turn over enough seats in 2018 to eliminate Democrats’ veto-proof majority in the General Assembly — and gaining a Senate seat in Annapolis-based District 30 is part of the plan, reports Amanda Yeager in the Annapolis Capital. Joe Cluster, the state party’s executive director, said the district, now represented by Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, is on a list of seats Republicans consider vulnerable in the next election.

GROUPS BLAST PSC APPOINTEE: A coalition of environmental, faith and civic organizations is criticizing Gov. Larry Hogan’s most recent appointment to the Public Service Commission, calling it the latest effort to undermine renewable energy in the state, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record. Hogan quietly appointed Republican Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell to serve on the board that oversees utilities, phone and taxi services. O’Donnell was elected to his sixth term in 2016.

AGENCY TO DISCUSS RURAL WEALTH TRANSFER: The AP is reporting at WTOP-AM that a state agency dedicated to rural development plans to study the transfer of wealth from aging residents in rural areas to their descendants in cities and suburbs. The project is part of a draft report to the General Assembly that leaders of the Rural Maryland Council are discussing today in Stevensville.

GRADING THE GOVERNOR: In a column for MarylandReporter.com, longtime political pundit Barry Rascovar grades Gov. Larry Hogan’s performance while in office, writing that five vetoes and two major appointments in the past week tell us a great deal about Hogan – some good, some not so good. He’s proving to be a more conservative governor than voters probably imagined when they voted him into office. He’s also proving surprisingly doctrinaire in the extreme language in his statements and messages.

MARYLAND’S LATEST HEALTH CARE DEBATE: In an editorial in the Sun, the editorial board explains why Maryland is in the midst of another health care cost debate. Two years ago, the state updated the partnership between the federal government and the state’s Health Services Cost Review Commission. Suddenly, the incentive went from putting patients in beds and performing procedures to keeping them healthy and at home.  No longer does the regulatory body decide what hospitals can charge. It decides, in effect, what their budgets will be. It’s both much harder for state regulators to manage and more consequential for the hospitals. If the numbers aren’t adding up, a hospital can’t any longer try to better market its more lucrative services; it’s stuck.

ELECTION RESULTS SNAFU: Ahead of the November general election, local and state election officials are rethinking their election results strategy after a state-run website shut down as Howard County’s election results were being posted during the primary, Fatimah Waseem of the Howard County Times reports.

DEM POLL FINDS DELANEY AHEAD: The Hagerstown Herald Mail’s Political Notebook column reports that a group interested in starting a chapter of the United Democratic Women of Maryland will meet Wednesday. The new group will be called the Democratic Women of Washington County. And Democratic pollster Garin-Hart-Yang last week released a poll that puts U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., ahead of his Republican opponent, Amie Hoeber, by 59% to 31% among voters in the district, which includes all of Washington County.

McDONOUGH CHALLENGES RUPPERSBERGER: Del. Pat McDonough joined a growing group of GOP legislators condemning the Obama administration’s guidance requiring school districts to allow transgender students to use bathrooms that fit their gender identity, reports Phil Davis in the Annapolis Capital. The Baltimore delegate is the latest Maryland legislator to stand against the rule, as Rep. Andy Harris sent a letter to school systems saying the administration overstepped its authority. In a statement, McDonough also called on Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, who he is challenging for his seat in the House of Representatives in Maryland’s 2nd District, to state his position.

DEL. ANDERSON ON MEETING ALI: Del. Curt Anderson, a former 11 News reporter, reflects on his chance to face Muhammad Ali in an exhibition in 1977, WBAL TV reports.

BRAVO FROSH: The editorial board for the Sun gives a loud shoutout to Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh for standing up to the science-averse Texas Republican who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  Rep. Lamar Smith had sent out letters clearly meant to scare off the 17 state attorneys general investigating potential climate fraud perpetrated by the fossil fuel industry. Frosh replied: “You state, without any foundation, that the actions of this office ‘may even amount to an abuse of prosecutorial discretion. If you have any basis whatsoever for that assertion, please let us know what it is. Absent such explanation, your letter looks like an attempt to intimidate this office or to thwart it from performing its constitutional functions.”

SZELIGA BLASTS VAN HOLLEN ON TRUMP: Kathy Szeliga, the Republican candidate for U.S Senate, is criticizing her Democratic rival Rep. Chris Van Hollen for accepting contributions from an unusual source: Her party’s presidential nominee. Szeliga says contributions made almost a decade ago by businessman Donald Trump to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, then chaired by Van Hollen, show that her opponent is a hypocrite as he condemns Trump’s policies today. In 2007, Trump gave $2,050 to the organization, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

O’MALLEY HAS A NEW GIG: Former Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley has landed another post-campaign position — this time in an unlikely pairing with former Republican Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Rivada Networks, a New York-based company that is rolling out a nationwide broadband network for public safety agencies under the name FirstNet, announced that both former presidential hopefuls will join its board, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun

CUMMINGS’ IMPORTANT ROLE: Rep. Elijah E. Cummings will be playing the conciliator, helping to stitch an unexpectedly divided Democrat Party back together this summer as he chairs the party’s platform drafting committee, an ordinarily sleepy task that will take on new significance this year as Democrats try to appease Bernie Sanders’ supporters and ensure that they maintain their energy for the party’s front-runner, Hillary Clinton, in the November election, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

JUDGE DISMISSES SUIT AGAINST MOSBY: A U.S. District Court judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, saying prosecutors can be fired for political reasons, writes Justin Fenton for the Sun. The lawsuit was brought in December by former Assistant State’s Attorney Keri Borzilleri, who alleged she was wrongly fired by Mosby because she had supported her opponent, former State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein.

DRUG PREVENTION IN FREDERICK: Frederick County health officials are hopeful that early or preventative treatment will help them in the race to get ahead of the growing problem of opioid abuse, Jeremy Arias reports for the Frederick News Post. The majority of the $468,000 the Frederick County Health Department expects to receive this summer from a federal Substance Abuse Treatment Outcomes Partnership grant will help fund two programs.