State Roundup, September 28, 2016

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STREAMLINING WAIVERS: The state school board signaled Tuesday that it will streamline decisions on granting waivers to local boards of education that don’t want to go along with Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order pushing the start of school until after Labor Day next year, Liz Bowie and Michael Dresser report for the Sun.  After a spirited discussion at its regular monthly meeting about who controls education policy, the board adopted a resolution saying it intends to approve such exceptions “expeditiously” as long as the local boards can provide “reasonable explanations of the educational benefits to students.”

STATE FRACKING REGS: Maryland’s long-awaited fracking regulations would ban drilling in three watersheds in Western Maryland and require extensive safeguards around drilling sites, protections that Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles called “the most stringent” in the country, Josh Hicks of the Post reports.

COUNTY PARCC SCORES: Liz Bowie and Erica Green of the Sun write that Howard County and Carroll County students scored better last spring in nearly every grade and subject on Maryland’s annual standardized tests — widening the gap with other Baltimore area school systems, which reported mixed results.

MED COSTS BURDEN FAMILIES: With EpiPens and other prescription drugs rising in cost, families who desperately need them but do not have health insurance coverage are bearing a huge financial burden, according to community advocates. Kimberly Escobar of CNS, in a story in MarylandReporter.com, writes that the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, a coalition of more than 1,200 religious, labor, business and policy groups seeking affordable health care, wants the state legislature to address that financial burden by overhauling some of the laws governing drug pricing.

DRINKING, DRIVING LAWS TAKE EFFECT: A number of new road laws will be going into effect on Saturday, Oct. 1. Among them, is the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016, also known as Noah’s Law, WJZ-TV is reporting.

LOTTERY CONTRACT DISPUTE: A dispute over a new lucrative contract for lottery services in Maryland could land in front of a legislative committee even as the losing bidders have filed formal appeals with a state administrative board, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Sen. Nancy King, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Gaming Oversight, said she has questions regarding the awarding of an eight-year contract valued at up to $263 million to Las Vegas-based Scientific Games International, which is the current vendor for the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Agency.

TRUMP’S FAILURE: Political observer Todd Eberly of St. Mary’s College writes in MarylandReporter.com that “From the very first question, it was clear that Donald Trump had done little to no preparation for this debate. And yet, it was the first 20 minutes or so where Trump did best. But even in the midst of his strongest performance he was weak.”

MAYORAL CANDIDATES SPEAK OUT: The three candidates vying to become Baltimore’s next mayor met Tuesday night in Canton for the first mayoral forum of the general election – debating police reform, improving transportation and how to best stimulate the economy, Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports.

ARUNDEL COUNCILMEN CHALLENGE FED DEAL: Two Anne Arundel County councilmen say a possible deal allowing the federal government to detain undocumented immigrants in county jail would not be in the best interest of residents, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital reports.  Chris Trumbauer and Pete Smith are sponsoring a resolution that asks the county not to enter into any agreement that would let the federal government house people waiting on civil immigration proceedings in Anne Arundel County correctional facilities.

PG TARGETS VENDING MACHINE TREATS: It could get a bit harder for people in Prince George’s County to buy chips, cookies or soda in county facilities, if a bill to limit those choices and stock vending machines with healthier options is embraced by the County Council, writes Arelis Hernandez for the Post. Vice Chair Dannielle M. Glaros introduced the bill Tuesday, saying she wanted to address the negative health impacts of sugary and fatty foods in a county with high rates of diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases.