State Roundup, October 20, 2016

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ETHICS PANEL MEETS ON MORHAIM: A panel of state lawmakers was scheduled to debate Wednesday whether to open a formal ethics inquiry into Del. Dan K. Morhaim and his ties to the medical marijuana industry he helped create, writes Erin Cox for the Sun. The confidential proceedings of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics was set to review a preliminary investigation by ethics staff, according to three people with direct knowledge with the situation.

BATTLE LINES OVER POT RX LAW: Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, co-author of the Maryland state law that permits the use of marijuana for medical purposes, says that measure needs an overhaul. Michael Bronfein is chief executive of a company that was awarded one of the state’s 15 licenses to grow medical marijuana. He says the law is the best in the country, and no changes are needed. The two took part Wednesday in a panel discussion. While their comments were cordial, their messages showed where battle lines on medical marijuana are being drawn for the 2017 General Assembly session, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

PENSION INVESTMENTS RECONSIDERED: Scott Dance of the Sun writes that the managers of Maryland’s pension fund have begun considering the effect their investments have on climate change and how to minimize the carbon footprint of the state’s $45 billion portfolio. The state’s chief investment officer told lawmakers Wednesday that the pension system is weighing how efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could lower the value of some of its investments, and how to shift more money to environmentally friendly industries, such as renewable energy.

NEW BIOSCIENCE BUILDING: Wednesday’s groundbreaking for a new biomedical sciences building at the Universities at Shady Grove was a moment some Montgomery County and Maryland officials thought might not happen. Construction on the new $162 million cybersecurity, engineering and biomedical sciences building was nearly set back until 2020 after Gov. Larry Hogan delayed funding for the project in his fiscal 2017 capital budget, Andrew Metcalf reports for Bethesda Beat.

LOW BID CONTRACT CANCELED: Sometimes the lowest bidder isn’t the best, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Maryland’s three-member Board of Public Works Wednesday unanimously approved an emergency short-term deal to replace a winning bidder, whose bid was so low it attracted questions earlier this year from Comptroller Peter Franchot. Ultimately, the lowest bidder quickly faltered in its contractual obligations and was terminated by the Department of Juvenile Services just a month after it took over the contract.

STATE AGENCY WINS LAWSUIT: Lauren Kirkwood of the Daily Record reports that the Maryland Insurance Administration has defeated a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming the agency paid female investigators less than male employees with the same job. Senior U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz granted summary judgment in favor of the agency last week, citing evidence that pay disparities were caused by factors such as the employees’ differing levels of experience rather than gender.

MIDGE DOLLARS: The editorial board for the Sun opines that after a bill to authorize tax dollars on midge eradication failed in the General Assembly last spring, Gov. Larry Hogan came up with an offer to help out the Republican lawmaker — the state would kick in half the funds for a $1.3 million, one-year insecticide spraying this fall if Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz came up with the other half. Last week, Mr. Kamenetz’s environmental protection director sent his response: Thanks, but no thanks. The problem? By Vincent J. Gardina’s calculation, the money spent on the chemical derived from a naturally occurring bacteria that can kill midge larvae but is harmless to other animals would hardly put a dent in the midge population.

ALL BA CO POLICE TO GET BODY CAMS: Baltimore County will equip all uniformed officers with body cameras within a year and review how officers respond to individuals with mental-health and drug-abuse issues, officials said Wednesday. Josh Hicks of the Post writes that the reforms were announced 11 weeks after the death of Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old woman who was shot by police in her apartment as she wielded a shotgun during a standoff that she live-streamed on social media.

PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FUND IN HOWARD: Howard County voters in November will decide if candidates running in local races can use public funds for campaigns. Fatimah Waseem of the Howard County Times reports that, as part of a nationwide push to purge big money from politics, the charter change would allow the Howard County Council to create a system that allows candidates who raise enough small donations and shun large contributions to get matching funds from a county fund.

EX-HO CO SHERIFF MOVES ON: Former Howard County Sheriff James F. Fitzgerald, who resigned last week following accusations that he discriminated and retaliated against employees, said Wednesday he’s moving on from the controversy, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Fitzgerald did not directly address the accusations detailed in a scathing report from Howard County’s Office of Human Rights.

FREDERICK GOP CANCELS LOAN TO TRUMP CAMP: The Frederick County Republican Central Committee’s chairman was planning to lend thousands of dollars to Donald Trump’s campaign in Maryland, where the billionaire presidential candidate faces long odds of winning. The chairman, Billy Shreve, said the planned expense was canceled. But while it was considered, the nearly $12,000 loan would have represented a significant majority of the committee’s coffers, campaign finance and central committee records show, Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post reports.

CITY LACKS ELECTIONS JUDGES: A month ago, Baltimore City officials announced plans to hire an additional 1,000 election judges to ensure problems that surfaced in the April primary aren’t repeated.Carrie Wells of the Sun reports that with weeks to go before the November general election, around the same number of election judges as in April have signed up for training, Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., director of the Baltimore City Elections Board, told a Baltimore city council committee Wednesday evening.

TRUMP POLL WATCHERS IN PG, BALTIMORE: WYPR-FM’s Fraser Smith and John Lee talk about Trump supporters’ plans to monitor polls in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County on election day.

SHORING UP TRUMP SUPPORT: Rhetoric professor Richard Vatz writing in MarylandReporter.com says that suspense was high surrounding the final debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. In the history of presidential debates since 1960, after the first debate, most elections were little changed by subsequent debates, as voter sentiment becomes solidified. That said, a debate focusing on domestic and foreign policy differences is always worthwhile and could at least shore up Donald Trump’s support.  The latter two thirds of the second presidential debate focused on issues to Trump’s advantage.