State Roundup, October 3, 2016

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STATE REVIEWS WELLS FARGO RELATIONSHIP: Maryland’s treasury office is reviewing whether the state should stop doing business with Wells Fargo in light of the bank’s scandal over its use of fraudulent sales practices. The review comes after the state of California suspended doing business with the San Francisco-based bank for the next 12 months, Holden Wilen of the BBJ reports. The city of Philadelphia is also reviewing its relationship with the bank.

STATE MOVES AHEAD WITH ONLINE BALLOTS: Cybersecurity experts are warning that Maryland’s online absentee-ballot system is dangerously vulnerable to tampering and privacy invasions, both growing concerns in a year when hackers have breached the Democratic National Committee and attempted to access boards of elections in at least two states, Josh Hicks of the Post is reporting.

OVERLOOKING MIDDLE-AGED ADDICTS: Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports that for all the attention on young people caught in the grip of the nation’s opioid addiction epidemic, the spotlight has missed the growing population of older Americans quietly living, and increasingly dying, as addicts. Middle-aged Marylanders — those from 45 to 54 — have been dying of overdoses at the highest rates, according to the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

END OF MANDATORY DRUG SENTENCES: Over the years, repeat drug offenders in Maryland have been faced with the prospect of being convicted and sentenced to mandatory minimum sentences of 10, 25 and, in some cases, 40 years without parole. But that will change next year with the elimination of such sentences in the state as part of the Justice Reinvestment Act passed by the Maryland General Assembly earlier this year, Don Aines of the Frederick News Post reports.

NEW LAWS: Beginning this past Saturday, adults who provide alcohol to underage individuals in Maryland face up to one year of imprisonment and a maximum fine of $5,000, if the drinkers are going to drive and if that driving results in serious injury or death. The law is one of several — including the anti-drunken-driving ignition-lock bill known as Noah’s Law — that took effect Saturday, the Washington Post reports.

MANAGING HEALTH CARE COSTS: Maryland faces a year-end deadline to submit a plan to expand a massive experiment in how it manages health care costs by including doctors, nursing homes and other health care providers. Sarah Gantz of the Sun reports that the state is halfway through the five-year pilot program authorized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that attempts to control rising hospital costs. The program flipped hospitals’ incentive from boosting volume to ensuring patient health, and significantly changed the way they do business.

STATE REVIEWS WELLS FARGO RELATIONSHIP: Maryland’s treasury office is reviewing whether the state should stop doing business with Wells Fargo in light of the bank’s scandal over its use of fraudulent sales practices. The review comes after the state of California suspended doing business with the San Francisco-based bank for the next 12 months, Holden Wilen of the BBJ reports. The city of Philadelphia is also reviewing its relationship with the bank.

POINTS, COUNTERPOINTS: Political columnist Barry Rascovar writes about the budget myths being perpetrated by Gov. Hogan and his administration, including that the Democratic legislature’s spending is out of control. Fact is, the buck stops at the Republican governor’s desk. Below that column, MarylandReporter.com editor Len Lazarick takes issue with several of Rascovar’s points including that Hogan’s initial budget left $449 million surplus and an extra $200 million in the rainy day fund, enough to cover the projected shortfall. By the end of the session, the surplus (fund balance) was $364 million, almost exactly matching the loss of revenue.

GOP’s CONGRESSIONAL HOPEFULS: John Fritze of the Sun writes about the GOP congressional hopefuls who are hopeful of victory against incumbents — or at least a good shot at it — following Gov. Hogan’s win two years ago. They include Dr. Mark Plaster who is running against John Sarbanes; Amie Hoeber who is running to unseat John Delaney and Del. Pat McDonough who is seeking Dutch Ruppersberger’s seat.

TRONE TO PAY $150,000: David Trone, a major Democratic fundraiser who ran for Congress in Maryland this year, has agreed to pay $150,000 after prosecutors cited his company for exceeding campaign contribution limits to local political candidates, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

PRESIDENTIAL ENDORSEMENTS: While the Baltimore Sun is endorsing Hillary Clinton — no surprise, they admit — its sister publication, the Chicago Tribune, endorses Libertarian Gary Johnson, and the Washington Post rails on how voting for Johnson is a bad idea. The Post has already made clear its opposition to Donald Trump.

SCHUH AT ODDS WITH AA TEACHERS: The already-frosty relationship between County Executive Steve Schuh’s administration and the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County may be worsened by a union document that included a proposed slogan on kicking Schuh out of office, reports Cindy Huang in the Annapolis Capital. A document with the phrase “PAC campaign — Give a buck to give Schuh the boot” was posted on the union website until around Thursday night, when it was taken down after an inquiry by The Capital. The union raises money for political campaigns but does not use member dues for those causes.

AA CIRCUIT COURT RACE: The battle for seats on Anne Arundel’s Circuit Court has become more contentious and partisan as Election Day approaches. While judicial nominating commissions, which were asked to recommend judicial candidates to the governor prior to elections to remove partisanship from the process, the nominating process has come under fire amid charges that partisan politics are affecting it, Phil Davis reports in the Annapolis Capital.

CYBERSECURITY JOBS IN FREDERICK: The demand for cybersecurity jobs in Frederick County is expected to increase by almost 50% in the next few years, following the statewide trend in an industry that has more demand for workers than are currently available in the workforce, writes Brandi Bottalico for the Frederick News Post.

MOSBY’s BAD BET: In the midst of a national crisis of police violence, Baltimore’s state’s attorney gambled that prosecuting six officers for the death of Freddie Gray would help heal her city. She lost much more than just the case, Wil Hylton writes in the New York Times Magazine.

GOP UP & COMER IN CITY RACE: For the first time in years, political observers are closely watching a Baltimore City Council race that’s not between two Democrats. Luke Broadwater of the Sun writes that Republican Matthew McDaniel, a 28-year-old lawyer, is waging a spirited campaign against Democrat Zeke Cohen, 30, an educator. They are vying to represent the 1st District, which includes Canton, Little Italy and other Southeast Baltimore neighborhoods.

SEAT PLEASANT MAYOR BATTLES BACK: Arelis Hernández and Lynh Bui of the Post report about the embattled Seat Pleasant mayor who was thrown out of this town hall office by a council. He set up a tent outside of town hall and eventually lined up a slate of candidates that won against most of the council incumbents.

BENTLEY’s BEQUESTS: Michael Dresser and John-John Williams of the Sun report of the beneficiaries of Helen Delich Bentley, the former congresswoman who died last month at 92. She left an estate worth $2.4 million plus two homes filled like warehouses with antiques that will be auctioned.