State Roundup, September 23, 2016

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Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald. From Sheriff's Facebook page.

Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald. From Sheriff’s Facebook page.

HoCo SHERIFF RESIGNATION SOUGHT: Howard County’s current county executive and three former executives are calling on Sheriff James F. Fitzgerald to resign following the release of a scathing report alleging discrimination and harassment of his employees, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun. The Howard County Council, the register of wills, most of the county’s delegates and state senators, the Howard County Democratic Central Committee and Howard County Republican Central Committee also called on Fitzgerald to resign.

INITIAL ETHICS PROBE ON MORHAIM: Ethics staff for the General Assembly are conducting a preliminary investigation into Del. Dan K. Morhaim’s ties to the medical marijuana industry, according to three people with direct knowledge of the inquiry, Erin Cox reports in the Sun. The preliminary work precedes an Oct. 19 meeting of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, where some of Morhaim’s colleagues in the legislature will vote on whether to launch a full investigation into his conduct.

ON STRIP-SEARCHING KIDS: Erica Green of the Sun reports that a panel of national experts told a state task force Thursday that the Department of Juvenile Services should strip-search youths charged with crimes only when agency officials have a “reasonable” suspicion that they have contraband. Mark Soler, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, said state policy is too broad because it requires strip searches whenever young people are first detained and after contacts with the public.

TRANSIT SCORING REGS: Regulations establishing a new state system for scoring and prioritizing local transportation requests will give priority to the most populous regions of the state, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. The regulations, written by the Maryland Department of Transportation and proposed this week, establish the exact system Gov. Larry Hogan and transportation officials said they opposed. The new regulations have led both sides to point fingers at the other for politicizing the issue.

CODE ERROR CAUSED TAX GLITCH: Improper coding was the reason that Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office sent $8.7 million in local income tax revenue to the wrong Montgomery County municipalities between 2010 and 2014, state auditors reported Thursday, writes Bill Turque in the Post. The Office of Legislative Audits, the auditing arm of the General Assembly, said the mistake affected 14,000 tax returns.

OPIOID OD’s SURGE: The number of Maryland deaths related to opioid overdoses surged to new highs in the first half of 2016, continuing a trend that has persisted despite state efforts to address the problem, Josh Hicks reports in the Post. Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said Thursday that heroin-overdose fatalities jumped 68% compared with the same six-month period last year, rising to 566 from January through June.

  • Although the number of overdose deaths has soared in Maryland so far this year, Washington County is one of four counties to see a decrease, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Washington County had 26 deaths from drug and alcohol-related intoxication from January through June, figures released Thursday show. There were 37 deaths during the same period in 2016, Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports.
  • Gina Fanelli reports in the Salisbury Daily Times that between 2006 and 2015, $880 million of campaign donations were supplied through the Pain Care Forum, a collection of pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and Merck which donates to 8,500 candidates on local and federal levels. In comparison, even during a heated presidential race, contributions from the NRA for lobbying only numbered a total of $5,250,564 in 2015 and 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Among the beneficiaries of lobbying dollars from the Pain Care Forum are Sen. Jim Mathias, D-38, and Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37.

BALTIMORE BUS SYSTEM OVERHAUL CRITICIZED: Maryland’s proposed overhaul of the Baltimore area’s bus system fails to make sufficient changes to an antiquated network and to provide better access to jobs, according to transportation activists, reports Adam Bednar for the Daily Record. Central Maryland Transportation Alliance released a study Thursday of the Maryland Transit Administration’s proposed update of metro area bus routes, dubbed BaltimoreLink. The analysis claims the $135 million proposal does not deliver on promises to better connect residents with regional employers and job centers.

HOGAN’S ISRAEL VISIT CONTINUES: Gov. Larry Hogan met in Israel Thursday with leaders of a defense company that bases its U.S. operations in Maryland, then traveled to the Negev desert to speak with Israeli cybersecurity companies, his latest stops on a week-long trip aimed at promoting economic development, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post writes.

DELANEY COMPLAINS ABOUT HOEBER HUBBY SUPER PAC: A so-called super PAC funded almost exclusively by the husband of Republican candidate Amie Hoeber on Wednesday began running more than $100,000 worth of ads on a Washington-area broadcast TV station, criticizing Hoeber’s opponent, Democratic Rep. John Delaney, in the District 6 congressional contest. The ad campaign was launched the same day as Delaney filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, charging that the group has “illegally coordinated” its activities with Hoeber’s personal campaign committee, reports Louis Peck for Bethesda Beat

CLINTON LEADS TRUMP IN MD: While Donald Trump has made up ground recently in several battleground states, a new independent poll released Thursday finds the Republican presidential nominee has seen no improvement in deep blue Maryland, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Democrat Hillary Clinton is leading Trump 58% to 25% in the new Goucher Poll — a slightly larger margin than she had in a poll conducted in the state late month.

TERM LIMITS ON MO CO BALLOT: Tom Moore, the former Rockville city councilman who challenged the signatures gathered to put a term-limits referendum on the November ballot, lost his case Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, writes Doug Tallman for Bethesda Beat. Judge Robert A. Greenberg ruled the charter amendment petition shall be on the Nov. 8 ballot.

MARYLAND AT AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM: Although the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture opens Saturday in the heart of Washington, the state of Maryland from which D.C. was carved has a strong presence. CNS’s Mina Haq reports that from a freed slave house in Montgomery County to photographs of Baltimore’s unrest after Freddie Gray’s death, Maryland’s black experience throughout history is broadly represented.

POOR STUDENT, NO AIRCONDITIONING: An interactive graphic by Capital News Service that runs in MarylandReporter.com shows that schools without air conditioning in Baltimore County also have a higher proportion of poor students.

TANEY BUST VERDICT NEARS: A controversial proposal to remove a bust of Roger Brooke Taney from outside Frederick City Hall remains one vote away from a final decision, Nancy Lavin reports in the Frederick News Post.  The city Historic Preservation Commission will on Oct. 13 issue a final verdict. The commission will decide if the Taney bust, an accompanying plaque and a bust of Gov. Thomas Johnson can be removed from City Hall property.