State Roundup, December 12, 2016

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STATE DEMS SEE TOUGH BUDGETING: Top state lawmakers predicted tough budget cuts Friday and said the Trump administration creates uncertainty about Maryland’s economic future. Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch promised that an expected budget gap of roughly $400 million would not be closed through new taxes or fees. But the Democrats warned local officials to prepare for unpopular spending cuts, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.

102 POT DISPENSARIES: Maryland moved another step closer to making medical marijuana available to patients with the announcement Friday of preliminary licenses for 102 dispensaries across the state, Pamela Wood reports for the Sun. The companies picked to run the dispensaries now must undergo additional review by the state and pass inspections before opening. They’ll also have to wait for Maryland’s growers and processors to produce medical cannabis products, a process that has been complicated by litigation and political wrangling.

RIOT AT PSYCHIATRIC UNIT: Patients at a unit of the Springfield Hospital Center, the Sykesville psychiatric facility run by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, rioted for hours in the early morning hours of Thanksgiving Day, endangering hospital workers and themselves. Michael Dresser of the Sun reports on the riot and the fact that DHMH now says that 90% of patients in its facilities are referred by the criminal justice system, up from 38% 15 years ago. What are the deficiencies in these facilities and what remedies are the state looking at?

NEW TEACHER RETENTION: Maryland schools often are touted as some of the best in the country, but beneath the surface, it is becoming increasingly difficult to retain qualified teachers during their first few years in the profession, despite relatively high pay among teachers nationwide, CNS’s Katishi Maake reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

TRANSIT RANKING REPEAL: An effort to repeal a recently enacted law that requires the state to score and rank local transportation projects will be part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s legislative package when the 2017 session begins in less than a month. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports that Hogan on Friday said he would include a repeal of the law to fulfill a promise he made earlier in the year to overturn a veto override by the General Assembly.

MANUFACTURING REVIVAL PLAN: Gov. Larry Hogan will try to revive a plan to create manufacturing jobs in high-unemployment areas, his office said Friday, despite the measure failing during the 2016 legislative session, Josh Hicks of the Post writes.

WORKSMART PARTNERSHIPS: With help from the state’s Department of Commerce, Maryland is working to create a network of partners to build customized workforce training for local employers. Maryland WorkSmart connects the state’s 16 community colleges in the Maryland Association of Community Colleges together with local businesses and employers, writes Emily Chappell for the Carroll County Times.

SENATE PANEL POSTS: Senate President Mike Miller on Friday announced new committee and leadership appointments. Some of the changes were necessitated by the loss of two members due to November’s election, writes Pamela Wood in the Sun.

FEDERAL FBI HQ BUCKS: John Fritze of the Sun writes that a short-term U.S. government funding bill approved late Friday by the U.S. Senate includes $255 million for the proposed new headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sen. Barbara Mikulski said. Making her final remarks on the Senate floor before her retirement in January, the Maryland Democrat called the money “a down payment on the new, much needed FBI facility.”

TRUMP & HOGAN: In a column for the Sun, former Republican speech writer Richard Cross writes about the effect a Republican Trump presidency will have upon Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican who has distanced himself from the unpredictable controversial  president-elect.

WOMEN & ELECTED OFFICE: Martha McKenna expected about 75 people to attend her group’s annual fundraiser. Then Hillary Clinton lost. Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports that the RSVP list for last week’s gathering for Emerge Maryland, part of a national network that identifies potential female Democratic candidates for office and encourages them to run, swelled to nearly 250 people.

Sarah Jessica Parker, left, with Wolf Blitzer and a photobombing. Photo fro Wolf Blitzer's Twitter feed.

Sarah Jessica Parker, left, with Wolf Blitzer and a photobombing Jake Weissmann. Photo from Wolf Blitzer’s Twitter feed.

EPIC PHOTOBOMB: CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer and Sarah Jessica Parker had an unexpected guest in a photo taken at the grand opening of the MGM National Harbor Casino.  Jake Weissmann, deputy chief of staff to Senate President Mike Miller, just happened to walk by.  Weissmann, who is known for his sense of humor, was captured in a big smile as he popped his head up for an epic photobomb. Hat tip to Bryan Sears of the Daily Record.

DEFERRED COMPENSATION FOR CARET: University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret’s revised contract no longer contains a performance bonus provision following action from the USM Board of Regents Friday, the Daily Record is reporting. Under the new compensation agreement,  the system will make contributions on Caret’s behalf to a deferred compensation plan of $150,000 in January 2017 and $250,000 the following January.

HARRIS THREAT: Fraser Smith and John Lee, of the WYPR news team, talk about U.S. Rep. Andy Harris’ threat to withhold federal money from Baltimore County because of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz’s immigration stance.

TRUMP AT THE GAME: President-elect Donald Trump arrived at M&T Bank Stadium shortly before kickoff of the 117th Army-Navy game on Saturday afternoon, Childs Walker and Peter Schmuck of the Sun report. The sellout crowd of 71,600 offered no apparent reaction to the president-elect’s arrival as he made his way to a glass-enclosed suite on the Navy side of the stadium. (A Facebook video shows people cheering, and other Facebook entries report similar reactions.)

President-elect Donald Trump, left, accepts a letter from Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. Photo from Pugh's Facebook page.

President-elect Donald Trump, left, accepts a letter from Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh. Photo from Pugh’s Facebook page.

PUGH DELIVERS MESSAGE TO TRUMP: Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh says she has given President-elect Donald Trump a letter describing the city’s need for federal money. The Sun’s Matthew Hay Brown writes that Pugh, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican, met Saturday afternoon at the Army-Navy football game at M&T Bank Stadium.

PUGH AIDES’ SALARY: Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, who was inaugurated Tuesday, will pay her five top advisers a total of about $805,000. Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports that her chief of staff, former schools CEO Tisha Edwards, is to be paid $190,000, which is $19,000 more than Pugh’s salary. The total is less than Stephanie Rawlings-Blake paid top staff, some of whom were called “deputy mayors.”

ANOTHER PG OFFICIAL IN HOT WATER: Multiple witnesses saw the chairman of the Prince George’s County liquor board strike two vehicles as he was trying to leave the MGM casino in his car on opening night, injuring at least two people, and a video of the incident shows him having difficulty walking when police encountered him, Arelis R. Hernández of the Post reports.