State Roundup, August 1, 2016

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DISASTER IN ELLICOTT CITY: “It’s worse than any of us expected it to be,” Gov.
Larry Hogan said Sunday morning as he toured Main Street in Ellicott City, where a river of water as high as restaurant awnings had tossed cars, destroyed storefronts, gutted small shops and left massive sinkholes for blocks on end, Kevin Rector of the Sun reports. Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said that he requested and Hogan signed a State of Emergency in Howard County, which “sets the wheels in motion for federal assistance.”

Screenshot of rescue video in Ellicott City.

Screenshot of rescue video in Ellicott City.

LEAD-FREE CERTIFICATION QUESTIONED: Thousands of homes in Maryland that were certified as lead-free could actually be contaminated with the toxic substance, according to state officials. Ovetta Wiggins of the Post is reporting that the state Department of the Environment is in the process of contacting about 2,000 homeowners to retest their properties and to inform residents of the danger lead-paint exposure can pose to young children.

BEREANO SCORES: It’s been a very good year, so far, for Bruce Bereano. The power lobbying fixture in Annapolis has long been among the top annual earners — though his position has slipped in recent years. But this year is proving to be different as Bereano has already reported nearly $500,000 more in earnings in the first six months of the current reporting cycle than he did in all of the previous 12 months. Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record that some say that his resurgence might be related to his close relationship and support of Gov. Larry Hogan that has helped him report earnings of nearly $1.4 million and vault to the second-highest earning lobbyist in Maryland, according to filings with the Maryland Ethics Commission.

DRIVERS LICENSES IMPERILED: The Maryland Department of Motor Vehicles issued more than 250 notices this month to holders of commercial driver’s licenses across the state warning them that their licenses would be canceled unless they proved their citizenship or permanent residency within 30 days, Arelis Hernandez reports in the Post. The bulk of those letters went to Maryland residents who have work permits through a federal Temporary Protected Status program, which shields immigrants from certain countries from deportation and gives them permission to work in the country.

OYSTER GAINS, SETBACKS: Oyster populations have seen steady gains inside of state-designated sanctuaries over the past decade, while similar progress in areas open to harvesting has recently reversed, according to a long-awaited report released Sunday night. With the caveat that it’s too early to tell whether oyster restoration efforts are working, state Department of Natural Resources officials nevertheless told a state panel scheduled to meet tonight it could consider adjusting sanctuary boundaries and reopening some areas to harvest, writes Scott Dance for the Sun.

  • The Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM looks at the recent article in the Baltimore Sun headlined “Oyster wars: Watermen aim to take back oyster bars as state panel reviews shellfish sanctuaries,” with Kelton Clark, member of the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission and director of Morgan State University’s Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory; and Peyton Robertson, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office.

***Seeking motivated individuals to proctor assessment sessions with 4th- and 8th-grade students in schools for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Must be available to work January 30 –March 10, 2017. Paid training, paid time and mileage reimbursement for local driving, and weekly paychecks. This is a part-time, temporary position. To apply, visit our website at www.westat.com/CAREERS and select “Search Field Positions.” Search for your state, find the NAEP Assessment Administrator position, and select the “apply to job” button. For more information email NAEPrecruit@westat.com or call 1-888-237-8036.***

GAMBLING PROBLEMS: In the early hours of April 1, a slots player at Hollywood Casino Perryville hit it big — a $1,200 jackpot. But the gambler wasn’t handed a stack of cash; rather, he received a citation for criminal trespass. Instead of joining the ranks of lucky winners, he was now a member of a different sort of club: a list of 219 gamblers — and growing — who signed up for the state’s Voluntary Exclusion Program in the past five years and then were cited for showing up at a casino, reports Jeff Barker for the Sun.

INVASIVE SPECIES: The fig buttercup looks harmless, its tiny yellow flowers and wide green leaves seemingly perfect for a garden bed or patio pot. Even its name sounds pleasant. But Maryland officials say it is one of the most destructive plants in the state, an invader that wipes out native species, strangles forests and smothers fields. That is why, starting next year, sales of fig buttercup will be illegal in Maryland, along with sales of shining cranesbill and yellow flag iris, Elise Schmelzer of the Post reports.

WRONGFUL DEATH & SURVIVORS: Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports that patients cannot sign away their family members’ right to sue a health care facility for wrongful death should such a claim arise, Maryland’s second highest court ruled Thursday in a case addressing arbitration clauses in hospital admissions documents. Wrongful-death claims – by their very nature – belong not to the patient but to his or her surviving family members, the Court of Special Appeals said. Thus, patients cannot bind their kin to arbitrate, rather than litigate, the wrongful-death claims, the court added in its reported, unanimous decision.

KAMENETZ ON RUN FOR GOV: Just back from the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz says he is considering running for governor in two years. He speaks with Robert Lang of WBAL-AM in the 8-minute interview, in which he says that he used the convention week to make contacts with supporters and potential donors.

A TALE OF TWO PARTIES: With the major party conventions over, Maryland Democrats and Republicans are turning their attention back home, to the next three months of a general election campaign unlike any before it. Democratic leaders plan to set aside their traditional post-convention practice of exporting volunteers and resources to the neighboring battleground states of Virginia and Pennsylvania and focus instead on promoting turnout in already-blue Maryland — in part to build voter lists for the 2018 gubernatorial election. Republicans, divided by presidential nominee Donald Trump, say they will campaign in Maryland for local candidates, but send money and volunteers to states where Trump has a better chance of beating Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, write Erin Cox, John Fritze and Michael Dresser in the Sun.

  • The past two weeks have given us remarkable contrasts of political polar opposites and stunning role reversals. This country’s Democratic and Republican presidential nominees haven’t been this far apart in our lifetime. The contentious and fearful GOP party convention might have set back Republican hopes for victory in November, but Democrats’ more unified and positive gathering sent spirits rising. In the process, you may have noticed Maryland delegates played a largely silent role in Cleveland but a highly visible and important role in Philadelphia, opines Barry Rascovar in a column for MarylandReporter.com.

POLLING SAMPLE: With the two major political parties’ conventions wrapped up and Nov. 8 getting closer, animosity between the parties is palpable in Anne Arundel County. Against that backdrop, the Annapolis Capital took to the streets to find out why those in a nonscientific sampling of voters have decided on their candidate of choice. Though every presidential election is talked about as the “most negative” ever, the race between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump is proving increasingly divisive. The Phil Davis article is topped by a video of people’s comments.

FEW SIGNS OF PREZ RACE HERE: Sherry Greenfield of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports that if you ride through the hills and valleys of Washington County, there is little to indicate the country is in the midst of a contentious presidential election. You would be hard-pressed to find a single campaign sign for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. Signs for her Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, are scattered throughout the county, but are few and far between.

GIFTED AND HELD BACK: Post columnist Jay Matthews writes about a high achieving Montgomery County girl who learns far above her peers and the trouble she and her parents faced trying to get her placed in accelerated classes in the public school system.

MINIMUM WAGE HIKE IN B’MORE CITY: Business owners warned the City Council that a new minimum wage would lead to economic disaster. Advocates said it would lift poor residents out of poverty. The year was 1964. When the dust settled, officials agreed to require employers to pay their workers at least $1 an hour, the city’s first minimum wage. The current debate over a proposed $15 minimum wage strongly mirrors the one that played out more than half a century ago, reports Andrew Dunn in the Sun.