State Roundup, October 14, 2016

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SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER CRITICIZES HOGAN: Maryland school board member Chester Finn has sharply criticized Gov. Larry Hogan, less than 24 hours after the governor’s latest executive order on starting school after Labor Day. Finn, a Hogan appointee, called Hogan’s order limiting school systems’ ability to obtain waivers to start school before Labor Day “very bad education policy” in a blog post for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank he once led, Liz Bowie of the Sun reports.

OVERHAUL FOR SCHOOL BUILDING SPENDING? The state’s current system for approving school construction spending needs an overhaul, according to members of a commission tasked with developing recommendations to improve school construction. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Martin Knott, chair of the 21st Century Schools Commission said, “If you plateau, you’re dead. And I think that’s what certainly I am seeing and what members of the commission are seeing is that there’s a real opportunity for us to improve the organization.”


Gov. Larry Hogan and his cabinet meet in Hagerstown. Governor’s Office photo.

CABINET MEETS IN HAGERSTOWN: It’s difficult to recall the last time so many state officials gathered in Western Maryland. It might have been that time in 1861 when the General Assembly met in Frederick to consider whether to secede from the Union, writes Tamela Baker for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.  Gov. Larry Hogan and his entire Cabinet convened in Hagerstown on Thursday, then fanned out across Washington County to meet with various agencies and local officials in an unprecedented concentration of state focus on local issues.

NO MONEY YET, BUT PRAISE FOR HAGERSTOWN PROJECTS: Gov. Larry Hogan was enthusiastic about a downtown Hagerstown project to expand the Maryland Theatre, the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts and the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown during his visit to the city Thursday, writes Tamela Baker for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.  And although he said the state wants to be involved, Hogan did not commit to helping with funding — yet.

MASS TRANSIT WEDGE ISSUE: WYPR-FM’s Fraser Smith and Rachel Baye talk about how a group of Democrats want to use a wide-ranging mass transit proposal to create a wedge issue for the 2018 governor’s race.

SLOW ON MEDICAL POT: Maryland has taken longer than most states to give access to medical marijuana, according to a report by CNS in

REGISTER TO VOTE: Maryland residents who wish to vote on Election Day in November must register to do so by Oct. 18. Alexander Pyles of the Sun reports that voters can register online at the Maryland State Board of Elections website. They can also print an application from the website and mail it to their local board of elections or the state board.

PROTECTING ACCESS TO VOTE: In an op-ed for the Afro, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings writes that, “For more than four decades, the CBC (Congressional Black Caucus) has fought to protect and expand the right to vote for all Americans — and, this year, our advocacy is more essential than it has ever been. With only days remaining until our nation elects its next President, it is critical that Americans of good conscience be aware of blatant attempts to deny our community — as well as the elderly and the young — access to the ballot box.”

SWIFT JUSTICE: In a bit of satire, the editorial board for the Baltimore Sun writes Gov. Hogan’s next executive order for him, which the board calls “a modest proposal.”

LEGGETT’S WORK BEFORE LEAVING: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett announced this week he’s planning to call it quits when his term ends and won’t run for re-election or any other elective office. But there’s still plenty on his to-do list in the 2 1/2 years he has left as the head of Maryland’s most populous county, he told Jack Moore of WTOP-AM.

TANEY TO COME DOWN: Whether hate speech or history, the controversial Roger Brooke Taney bust will no longer stand guard outside Frederick City Hall. reports Nancy Lavin in the Frederick News Post. The city Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday handed down the final approval needed to remove the Taney bust from city government property. The 4-1 vote also allowed the removal of a second bust of Gov. Thomas Johnson, as well as a plaque interpreting the Dred Scott v. Sandford decision.

CONGRESSIONAL FORUM: The three incumbent Democratic congressmen who represent Howard County showed up at a forum Saturday to face their opponents. Missing was one challenger, Republican Del. Pat McDonough, who had loudly complained that Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger refused to debate him. “My opponent says I won’t debate him. Yet he’s not here today. I do have a problem that he’s not here,” said Ruppersberger, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District for 14 years.

HOGAN STUMPS FOR HOEBER: Gov. Larry Hogan is meeting with constituents and campaigning for fellow Republicans during a three-day swing through western Maryland. He spoke Thursday in Hagerstown at a fundraising breakfast for congressional candidate Amie Hoeber, followed by a cabinet meeting at the downtown Maryland Theatre, according to an AP story in the Daily Record. Hogan says Hoeber’s bid to unseat 6th District Rep. John Delaney reminds him of his own upset victory in the 2014 governor’s race.

JUDGE PARES SUIT AGAINST MOSBY: A federal judge said Thursday that he would pare down a lawsuit filed against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby by officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray, but he asked questions about how her dual role as investigator and prosecutor in the case could expose her to liability, Justin Fenton of the Sun reports.

TWO CARROLL POSTS OK: After more than a year of complaints and questions regarding Carroll Commissioner Dennis Frazier’s positions as both a county commissioner and an employee of Carroll County Public Schools, the Maryland Attorney General has issued an opinion on the matter, stating that there is no reason in state law that Frazier shouldn’t be able to maintain both roles, Heather Norris writes for the Carroll County Times.

LET BURNS BACK IN: The editorial board for the Sun writes that Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is allowed to dislike reporters who cover her. She can disagree with what they write or broadcast. She can complain about the questions they ask. But she crossed a line when she decreed this week that one of them, WYPR-FM’s P. Kenneth Burns, would no longer be allowed at her weekly press conferences after Board of Estimates meetings. If officials are allowed to choose what journalists cover them, all public accountability will be lost.

KURTZ MAY LAUNCH NEWS WEBSITE: Looks like may be getting an online competitor if Josh Kurtz can raise enough money. Adam Pagnucco reports in Seventh State that Kurtz has been looking for more than a year to start a large online news website covering government and politics in Maryland at all levels with five reporters sometime in 2017, and he recently found an angel investor. It would be called Maryland Matters; Kurtz registered the domain name Sept. 30, 2015. Brian Griffiths at Red Maryland has a commentary on this development from his usual conservative point of view.