State Roundup, January 4, 2017

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HOGAN OUTLINES ENVIRO AGENDA: Gov. Larry Hogan outlined his legislative agenda for the environment on Tuesday, announcing a plan to spend just under $65 million on programs and initiatives to promote job growth in green industries, encourage the use of electric vehicles and reduce pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post reports.

DELAYING FRACKING REGS: A Maryland legislative panel has placed a temporary hold on the state’s proposed fracking regulations amid sharp disagreements over whether the controversial gas-extraction method should be allowed at all, reports Josh Hicks in the Post.  The rare action by the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review prevents the state’s environmental department from implementing the guidelines until Feb. 27, giving the General Assembly time to consider prohibiting the drilling practice, technically known as hydraulic fracturing.

FROSH WANTS RAPE KITS TESTED: Police in Maryland should test nearly all rape kits, notify victims of the results and store the kits for a fixed period of time, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said. Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports that a report to lawmakers by Frosh’s office issued Tuesday said a lack of statewide guidelines on when to test rape kits and how long to keep them has resulted in police departments adopting inconsistent policies. Some keep the kits indefinitely, but others throw them out.

MARYLAND SCHOOLS DROP TO 5th: Maryland’s place on a national ranking of state public schools fell once again this year from fourth to fifth place. Education Week, the national newspaper that ranks state education systems based on statistical information, placed the state behind Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and New Hampshire on its Quality Counts report which was released Wednesday, writes Liz Bowie in the Sun.

SEEKING TAX RELIEF: In an opinion piece for MarylandReporter.com, Dee Hodges of the Maryland Taxpayers Association offers a few ideas for enough tax relief to make Maryland a better place, including eliminating the estate tax (it also has an inheritance tax) and reducing the alcohol tax.

NO TAX RETURNS? NO BALLOT ACCESS: Lawmakers in several deep-blue states — including Maryland — want to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the ballot in those states, a sharp rebuke of President-elect Donald Trump’s ongoing refusal to make his tax records public, Fenit Nirappil reports in the Post. A pair of Maryland Democrats on Tuesday announced they would introduce a bill mandating the release of five years of tax returns, mirroring similar proposals in New York, Massachusetts, California and Maine.

HOGAN, TRUMP HAVEN’T TALKED: Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that he hasn’t spoken to President-elect Donald Trump since his election and doesn’t expect to before the Jan. 20 inauguration, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. The governor disclosed his lack of direct communication with Trump at a news conference called to announce environmental initiatives. Hogan said he has held talks with other members of the incoming Trump administration, including Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

RASKIN, BROWN & VAN HOLLEN SWORN IN: Doug Tallman of Bethesda Beat writes that on Tuesday both Jamie Raskin and Chris Van Hollen were sworn in as new members of the House and the Senate respectively.  Receptions for well-wishers would follow.

RASKIN TO LEAVE TEACHING: For the past quarter of a century, Jamie Raskin’s day job has been teaching constitutional law to students at American University’s Washington College of Law — including over the last 10 years, when he spent part of his time representing Silver Spring and Takoma Park as an outspokenly liberal voice in the Maryland Senate. But Raskin will be leaving the classroom, at least for the foreseeable future, after he is sworn in Tuesday afternoon as the new member of Congress from the Montgomery County-based 8th District, Louis Peck of Bethesda Beat writes.

VAN HOLLEN TAMPS HOPE FOR METRORAIL FUNDS: U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen will sit on two committees — Appropriations and Banking — with jurisdiction over funding and policy affecting mass transit. But, writes Louis Peck in Bethesda Beat, Van Hollen, the first Maryland senator from the Washington,D.C., suburbs in a century, in a recent interview downplayed hopes that increased federal aid for the embattled Metrorail system is a possibility in the near term.

JUDGE CANDIDATE MUST REPAY CAMPAIGN: State election campaign officials have ordered Claudia Barber, an unsuccessful candidate for Circuit Court, to repay her campaign $8,746 she used to illegally pay her private legal expenses, Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital reports.

JUDGE MAY BE DISCIPLINED: For at least the third time, Maryland’s panel that oversees judges’ conduct has publicly moved to discipline a longtime Baltimore judge for inappropriate behavior on the bench. Judge Alfred J. Nance, 68, who is currently the chief judge for Baltimore, was charged by the Commission on Judicial Disabilities for a series of “persistently disrespectful and unprofessional” interactions with a public defender, Deborah K. Levi.