State Roundup, September 26, 2016

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MORHAIM GETS ETHICS PROBE: Del. Dan Morhaim helped shape the rules on medical marijuana and had direct access to its regulators even while he was involved with a company seeking licenses to grow, process and sell the drug, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post. Fenit Nirappil reports that his dual roles — lawmaker-advocate and medical consultant to a prospective business — are the subject of a legislative ethics probe, according to two people with direct knowledge of the matter.

POLL ON EXEC ORDER, SCHOOL START: A new poll by Goucher College found most state residents think a governor should rarely deploy an executive order to change policy, but a majority support Gov. Larry Hogan’s use of one to start school after Labor Day, reports Erin Cox for the Sun. The poll released Monday is the first public survey on the topic since Hogan, a Republican, defied education leaders and announced that next year school will begin after the holiday and conclude by June 15.

TAKE EXEC ORDER TO COURT: Does Gov. Larry Hogan have the power to issue an executive order mandating when the school year begins and ends? It’s not the most pressing question facing Maryland, writes columnist Barry Rascovar in MarylandReporter.com in advocating allowing the courts to decide. But he writes, the answer could have a dramatic impact on the state’s future governance. Indeed, there’s an urgent need for someone on either side of this issue to take the matter to court. A constitutional question of enormous consequence is at stake.

HOGAN CONTINUES TO RIDE HIGH: Gov. Larry Hogan continues to ride high in terms of public opinion, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. Seven of 10 people in latest poll released today by the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College say they approve of the job the first-term Republican is doing. “Part one of the poll was like a sweet lullaby for the Democrats in 2016,” said Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. “Part two is a nightmare that’s going to keep them up until 2018.”

FRACKING OPINIONS SHIFT: Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that the Goucher College poll also found that Marylanders are increasingly divided over whether the state should ban hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

DEFINING TRANSPORTATION MOMENT: President Bill Clinton once famously sparred with lawyers in a deposition over the meaning of the word “is.” Now, in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan, state transportation officials, Democratic legislators and transportation advocates are sparring over the definition of “population” — specifically how a new state law requires it to be defined to determine how to prioritize funding for local transportation requests. “All I can tell you is that the word population is in the law,” said Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman. “It seems pretty clear to me.

BAKER GETS TATTOO HONORING WIFE: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker hates needles. He grimaced at two of his grown children Friday as a tattoo artist inscribed the initials of Baker’s wife on his right forearm, after the curving, bulb-like symbol of the Alzheimer’s Association, reports Arelis Hernandez in the Post.

AC NOT A CIVIL RIGHT: The editorial board for the Sun opines that the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has for nearly 60 years fought against discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, religion, familial status and national origin. It has not, at least to date, sought to end discrimination based on room temperature. While standing up for those who lack the creature comforts many of us take for granted can be a noble cause, it simply isn’t an issue of civil rights.

Gov. Larry Hogan prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

Gov. Larry Hogan prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

HOGAN TOURS OLD JERUSALEM: Gov. Larry Hogan toured the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday, including a stop in the Garden of Gethsemane and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Hogan also visited the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem during the Sabbath. He was joined by Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun, according to an AP report in the Sun.

HOPING ON TONIGHT’S DEBATE: Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital writes that a handful of the local viewers watching tonight’s presidential debate will want to see if something happens to affect their own chances on Election Day. Republican Mark Plaster hopes Donald Trump’s performance will spur his own campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes in the 3rd District. Sarbanes, a Democrat seeking a fifth term, will be looking for signs that Hillary Clinton’s experience and demeanor will carry over into down-ballot races across the country.

SZELIGA, VAN HOLLEN ADDRESS SYNAGOGUE: Del. Kathy Szeliga and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, appearing Sunday at a Rockville synagogue, both pledged to support Israel if elected to Maryland’s open Senate seat. But the candidates differed sharply on whether the Iran nuclear deal was the best path toward supporting the United States’ chief ally in the Middle East, Yvonne Wenger writes in the Sun.

EDWARDS TWEETED, THEN DELETED: Rep. Donna F. Edwards, who ran for Maryland’s open Senate seat this year, is an established voice for liberal causes in Congress and has been an outspoken critic of what she sees as her party’s failure to truly embrace African-Americans, John Fritze reports in the Sun. But when it comes to Twitter, the Prince George’s County Democrat is apparently all thumbs.

LICHTMAN PREDICTS TRUMP WINS: Nobody knows for certain who will win on Nov. 8 — but one man is pretty sure: Professor Allan Lichtman, who has correctly predicted the winner of the popular vote in every presidential election since 1984. When we sat down in May, he explained how he comes to a decision. Lichtman’s prediction isn’t based on horse-race polls, shifting demographics or his own political opinions. Rather, he uses a system of true/false statements he calls the “Keys to the White House” to determine his predicted winner, writes Peter Stevenson in the Post.

DELANEY, HOEBER ATTACK: Two attack ads are running on television in the contest between Democratic Rep. John Delaney and Republican challenger Amie Hoeber, the first negative ads of the general election season to hit the state’s airwaves, writes John Fritze in the Sun. A super PAC supporting Hoeber that is funded almost entirely by her husband began airing an ad last week criticizing Delaney’s business record.

STINKING POLITICAL SIGN THIEVES: Republican 8th District congressional candidate Dan Cox is taking an unusual step to protect large signs along I-270 that promote his message to widen the highway after they have been stolen twice. Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat writes that Cox, an Emmitsburg lawyer, said Friday he added an “interesting-smelling liquid” to the third set of signs he has posted along the road near where the new Clarksburg Premium Outlets are being constructed.

SALISBURY CONSIDERS REPLICA GUN BAN: Salisbury officials are considering a ban on toys and BB guns that look like real firearms in an attempt to prevent the type of shootings that have taken place across the country, Liz Holland of the Salisbury Daily Times reports. “We’re seeing kids around the country getting killed because police think they have real guns,” said City Councilman Muir Boda. “They don’t have time to figure out if they’re a real gun or not.”