State Roundup, November 18, 2016

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SICK LEAVE LEGISLATION: At a meeting called by Sen. Mac Middleton, proponents and opponents of statewide sick leave legislation discussed the legislation that passed the House of Delegates last year. Much of the conversation focused on preemption of local laws, Robin Clark Eilenberg writes in Conduit Street for MACo. Middleton, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said that he would be the primary Senate sponsor of the sick and safe leave legislation this year at a meeting he called Thursday in Annapolis.

ADDRESSING CASH BAIL: Ahead of a key meeting today to propose changes in the state’s cash-bail system, some judges in Maryland have cut back significantly on setting bail for defendants, according to one of the state’s leading bail bondsmen, writes Ovetta Wiggins for the Post. Richard Jones, who owns East Coast Bail Bonds in Frederick, said business has dropped nearly 75% since District Court Chief Judge John P. Morrissey advised judges and commissioners last month to impose the “least onerous” conditions on defendants who cannot be released on their own recognizance.

  • Maryland Public Defender Paul B. DeWolfe said Thursday during the “Money Bail and its Role in Mass Incarceration” symposium that the state’s rules on setting bail and other pretrial conditions are relatively liberal but are not applied that way, as pretrial detainees make up roughly 20% of the state’s prison population, Heather Cobun reports in the Daily Record. “In practice, amounts of money are (selected) randomly,” he said. “Setting of bail is really all over the map in Maryland.”
  • In a column for the Sun, law Professor Doug Colbert writes that “as a court rules committee considers whether to require Maryland judicial officers to set bail prices that defendants can afford, the student-lawyers I work with, who represented a dozen incarcerated people charged with non-violent crimes … have learned (that money) decides liberty or jail for too many of Maryland’s defendants, a fact that privileges the wealthy and others able to pay a bondsman’s 10 percent, non-refundable fee.”

JURISDICTIONS AFFECTED BY MISDIRECTED FUNDS: In seven years, Frederick County will start a 10-year repayment plan to send almost $700,000 in local income tax payments back to the state, Danielle Gaines and Brandi Bottalico report in the Frederick News Post. Maryland’s top tax collector said this week that his office accidentally misdirected $21.4 million of local income tax payments for years.

The Natural Resources Police academy graduated its largest ever class this week. Gov. Larry Hogan is shown here with three of its 27 graduates. Natural Resources photo.

The Natural Resources Police academy graduated its largest ever class this week. Gov. Larry Hogan is shown here with three of its 27 graduates. Natural Resources photo.

HATE CRIME HOT LINE: After increased reports of hate speech in the state, Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh on Thursday launched a hotline for victims to report the crimes, Erin Cox reports in the Sun. Frosh said in a statement that “Maryland is not immune” to a national “outbreak” of hate incidents targeting racial minorities, Muslims, Jews, immigrants and LGBT people.

LIMITING VOLATILITY: Three of the state’s top fiscal leaders are proposing to change how Maryland projects and sets future budgets in an effort to limit volatility, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record.

MDOT REVENUE ESTIMATES: The Department of Legislative Services – the professional staff agency to the General Assembly – suggests that the Maryland Department of Transportation’s estimates for revenues are too optimistic. The discrepancy is shown in the report made to the Spending Affordability Committee on Nov. 18. DLS believes that revenues are overstated modestly — approximately $221 million over the 6-year forecast connected to the state’s Consolidated Transportation Plan. An even larger differential appears in bond proceeds and premiums – totaling an additional $930 million difference, Michael Sanderson writes in Conduit Street.

UMBC BILLING QUESTIONED: Two employees at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County directed on-call contractors to bill more than $200,000 for work that was performed by other vendors in an effort to skirt state procurement rules, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. The finding is part of a special review released Thursday by the Office of Legislative Audits in response to allegations made against the university. The matter has been referred to the Office of the Attorney General for possible criminal investigation.

PUBLIC DOCUMENT LAWS: Miranda Spivack, of the Center for Investigative Reporting, takes a look at public document laws throughout the country and highlights one situation in Montgomery County, in which residents sought documents to try to figure out what was going on behind the scenes when the school board attempted to kick a farmer off school land to rent it to a private soccer club.

EVEN LONGER RIGGED VOTING: Please vote today and every day till Black Friday, Nov. 25. You can do that voting for MarylandReporter.com as the “most informative” website in the Baltimore Sun’s annual Mobbies contest. This is an audience building tool for the Sun, but we actually won in 2013. No idea who nominated us this time, or who left off one of our potential competitors. Sounds like an ideal contest for 2016, don’t you think? You don’t have to be a citizen, you don’t have to be 18, you don’t have to be from Maryland. Let’s show ’em who can stuff the ballot box. Vote here. Early and often.

WOMEN MULL HIGHER OFFICE: Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that two female Democratic lawmakers in Maryland — Dels. Joseline Pena-Melnyk and Maggie McIntosh — disappointed in Hillary Clinton’s presidential loss and the sudden absence of women in the state’s congressional delegation, said Thursday that they are considering statewide runs for office in 2018.

TRUMP & HOGAN’S FUTURE: In a column in MarylandReporter.com, Josh Kurtz, late of Center Maryland as he seeks to establish a new online news outlet, draws clear parallels between the 2014 Maryland gubernatorial election and the 2016 presidential election. He then looks to the 2018 gubernatorial election and what two years of a Trump presidency could mean for Gov. Hogan.

HARRIS LOSES CAUCUS VOTE: North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker was elected Thursday to lead an influential caucus of House conservatives, denying Maryland Rep. Andy Harris a shot at the job and the chance to help craft the party’s message, reports John Fritze for the Sun. Walker, in his first term, was elected chairman of the Republican Study Committee on what several lawmakers described as a close vote. The group has worked since the 1970s to pull the House of Representatives to the right on fiscal and social issues.

SRB REAFFIRMS CITY SANCTUARY: Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake reaffirmed Thursday that Baltimore welcomes immigrants and refugees, joining a growing number of mayors across the country who say they are trying to allay fear in those communities after the election of Donald J. Trump as president, Yvonne Wenger reports for the Sun.

MO CO LIQUOR CONTROL: Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is proposing to move the Department of Liquor Control’s wholesale and retail operations under the control of a liquor authority, which would maintain the monopoly structure over the wholesale distribution of most alcohol and the retail sale of all liquor in the county, writes Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.