State Roundup, October 26, 2016

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POLICE SURVEILLANCE SCUFFLE: Law enforcement officials and civil liberties advocates sparred during a wide-ranging hearing in Annapolis on Tuesday over whether state lawmakers should rein in the use of police surveillance technologies in Maryland, Kevin Rector of the Sun reports.

  • Law enforcement officials told legislators they are willing to consider policy tweaks to their increased use of new surveillance technology but said those changes should not be incorporated into new law, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Some of the technology, such as the aerial surveillance used in Baltimore, began as battlefield applications that were adapted for civilian law enforcement use. Some legislators and privacy advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, want state law to govern the use of the equipment.

STATE ED BOARD MEMBER QUITS IN PROTEST: A well-respected Maryland State School board member quit Tuesday, saying he believed Gov. Larry Hogan had usurped the power of the independent board when he issued an executive order requiring schools to start after Labor Day, Liz Bowie reports in the Sun. James Gates, a University of Maryland physicist who has served for seven years since he was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, called the action “intolerable” because he believes it is bad education policy and takes away the right of state and local school boards to make decisions about schools.

‘GET REAL’ ON BUDGET: A top legislative analyst told Maryland lawmakers on Tuesday that they need to “get real” and “consider other approaches” to deal with state budget shortfalls, including taking a close look at spending, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.  “We have to look at what is driving our spending upwards,” said Warren G. Deschenaux, executive director of the Department of Legislative Services.

FBI HQ DELAY FRUSTRATES: Maryland officials expressed frustration Tuesday over the federal government’s decision to delay picking a site for the FBI’s consolidated headquarters until March, Sydney Tonic and Kimberly Escobar of CNS write in the Frederick News Post. The General Services Administration had been expected to make a decision in December, but the agency said Monday it was putting off action for an additional three months.

NEW VOTING SYSTEM: A new Maryland voting system designed to make it easier for the blind to vote independently isn’t restricted to the blind, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. When voters begin checking in at early voting centers starting Thursday, they will for the first time be told they have the option of using paper ballots or a machine that marks voting sheets for them. The same machines will be at polling places Nov. 8 for Election Day.

EARLY VOTING: Early voting begins Thursday and the Montgomery County Board of Elections will open 10 early voting centers from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Early voting ends Nov. 3. Election Day is Nov. 8, writes Doug Tallman for Bethesda Beat.

FOR SZELIGA, HARRIS & RASKIN: The editorial board of the Carroll County Times endorses Kathy Szeliga for U.S. Senate and Andy Harris and Jamie Raskin for U.S. House.

MAYORAL DEBATE MINUS PUGH: Three of the leading candidates for Baltimore mayor clashed Tuesday in their first broadcast debate of the general election. But they did so without Democratic state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, the favorite in the race, who pulled out after initially confirming her attendance, writes Luke Broadwater in the Sun. Pugh’s absence frustrated her opponents and the host of the event, WYPR’s Tom Hall, who told listeners the Pugh campaign had declined to provide an explanation.

MAYORAL TRANSITIONS: The mayoral election hasn’t happened yet, but WYPR-FM’s Fraser Smith and Kenneth Burns talk about transitions from William Donald Schaefer to Kurt Schmoke all the way to…Catherine Pugh?

SRB’s VACATION SECURITY: Baltimore’s spending panel is being asked to approve more than $1,800 for outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s security detail, which joined her on a trip to Martha’s Vineyard for a political fundraiser and vacation. The board memo lists the purpose of the trip as a fundraiser for Kamala Harris, the California attorney general who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports. Rawlings-Blake is secretary of the Democratic National Committee and active in party politics.

BALTIMORE AREA PARCC SCORES: Liz Bowie of the Sun writes about a Sun analysis of the PARCC scores for Baltimore-area schools and finds that Baltimore Polytechnic Institute has the highest pass rate of any in the region on the state’s tough new Algebra I exam.

FREDERICK BODY CAMS: The city of Frederick is the latest to move toward the use of police body cameras and the editorial board for the Frederick News Post says that is a good thing: With the addition of the cameras, Frederick becomes just the latest jurisdiction in the United States to have turned to the devices as a way to improve community policing and help ensure that police departments remain more accountable to the communities they serve and are more transparent in their actions.

PROSECUTOR CHARGED: A Baltimore prosecutor assigned to the juvenile division was arrested early Tuesday in Baltimore County and charged with possession and distribution of child pornography, Justin Fenton reports in the Sun.