State Roundup, November 3, 2016

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BPW OKS BUDGET CUTS: The Maryland Board of Public Works voted unanimously Wednesday to cut $82 million from the current fiscal year budget to help close what could amount to a $250 million gap in the state’s $42 billion budget, Ovetta Wiggins writes in the Post. Comptroller Peter Franchot said the action by the three-member panel underscores the fiscal challenges the state continues to face.

CHANGE IN METRO SERVICE IN MD: A Metro budget proposal expected to be unveiled today would decrease the frequency of trains at many stations, raise fares and increase what Maryland pays to keep the transit service running by $44 million, writes Ryan Marshall for the Frederick News-Post. The $1.8 billion fiscal 2018 proposal cuts 1,000 positions and proposes to get rid of about a dozen bus routes on which ridership has declined.

COUNSEL FOR INDIGENTS: Maryland’s chief public defender called on state legislators Wednesday to transfer to district court commissioners the responsibility for determining if a criminal defendant qualifies for state-sponsored counsel, Steve Lash reports for the Daily Record. The commissioners already have the duty to ask criminal defendants at their initial appearances whether they want to be represented by counsel and if they can afford one, Paul B. DeWolfe said at a joint session of Senate and House judiciary committee members. The current law, which requires the public defender’s office to conduct a subsequent inquiry, is “duplicative,” DeWolfe said.

SAFER PEDESTRIAN CROSSINGS: Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner is asking state lawmakers to pursue a change in Maryland’s road regulations to allow the installation of pedestrian-activated HAWK signals at popular crosswalks, writes Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat. In a letter sent to the county’s state legislative delegation Wednesday, Berliner wrote that the signals have the potential to significantly reduce pedestrian and vehicle collisions at heavily-used crosswalks that don’t have a standard traffic signal.

SEWER LINES IN KENT ISLAND: A hotly contested plan to extend sewer lines to southern Kent Island to replace failing septic systems got a green light Wednesday from the Maryland Board of Public Works, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. The board voted 2-1 to approve the $34 million project to connect 1,518 existing homes and eight commercial properties to Queen Anne’s County’s public sewer system. Gov. Larry Hogan and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp voted to approve it. Comptroller Peter Franchot dissented.

EARLY VOTING SUCCESS: Even before Maryland’s week-long period of early voting concludes Thursday night, voter turnout records have been set. The editorial board for the Sun opines that at the current pace, it’s expected that more than 800,000 Maryland voters will have cast their ballots at one of the state’s 69 early voting centers this year. If turnout is similar to 2012, that will represent about one-third of all Maryland’s votes cast, even more if the state’s 200,000 outstanding absentees are included.By any measure, that makes this state’s six-year experience with early voting an extraordinary success in at least one regard — it has made it easier to vote.

WOMANLESS DELEGATION: After former Rep. Connie Morella was elected to the House of Representatives in 1986, four out of 10 members of the Maryland congressional delegation were women. Today, the number of women in Maryland’s congressional delegation is down to two – and after Tuesday’s balloting, it could be zero. Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s career as the longest-serving woman in Congress is set to be followed by Maryland’s first all-male congressional delegation since 1973, CNS’s Mina Haq and Maya Pottiger report in MarylandReporter.com.

CARDIN, VAN HOLLEN URGE VOTING: With Election Day less than a week away, Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Chris Van Hollen visited Baltimore’s Lexington Market on Wednesday to remind voters to go to the polls, Rachel Baye reports for WYPR-FM. The pair wound through the market at the start of the lunchtime rush. Van Hollen, the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski, introduced himself to vendors and hungry customers, while Cardin greeted several as though they were old friends.

HOEBER, DELANEY SPEND: With Election Day fast approaching, almost $700,000 is being spent on media advertising in the final days of the contentious battle for the District 6 congressional seat between Democratic Rep. John Delaney and his Republican challenger, national security consultant Amie Hoeber, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.

WEALTH DIVIDE, PRESIDENTIAL SPLIT: There is a clear gap in ideology between the state’s blue urban center and its red outskirts, as shown by the Trump signs on the Eastern Shore. A major reason is economics, said Stella Rouse, the director of the University of Maryland’s Center for American Politics and Citizenship. Zachary Melvin and Hannah Lang of Capital News Service report in MarylandReporter.com.