OPENING DAY ANGST: Maryland’s General Assembly will convene today while juggling more plot lines than a soap opera, Pamela Wood and Michael Dresser report for the Sun. As the legislature prepares to begin its annual 90-day session at noon, it is grappling with emerging scandals, partisan bickering, internal shuffling and vacant seats. All this accompanies more standard fare, including a yawning revenue gap and expected votes to override a gubernatorial veto regarding energy policy.
- Maryland Democrats gathered Tuesday for what was supposed to be an energetic pre-legislative-session lunch featuring top elected officials and rising stars railing against President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Washington. Fenit Nirappil and Josh Hicks write that hanging over them, however, was the specter of a growing federal corruption investigation in Prince George’s County that has expanded to the State House in Annapolis.
- Maryland lawmakers will leave the State House in 90 days with about one year to go for the 2018 primary. But the politics for that campaign starts now, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. Gov. Larry Hogan enters his third session vowing a more aggressive approach to advancing his agenda. Leaders in the House and Senate say they are equally determined to more clearly define the differences between their party’s values and those of a first-term governor.
- “I’m ready to get going,” Del. Carol Krimm said after a day of meetings on Tuesday. “Today, we had the opportunity to renew our friendships and see leadership and talk to them about the bills we’re working on.” Soon will come the wrangling over vetoed and emergency legislation and the marathon committee meetings, but for now, it’s all about the wonder of walking into the oldest state capitol in continuous legislative use, writes Danielle Gaines for the Frederick News Post.
- In this 50-minute discussion on WYPR-FM, Erin Cox of the Sun, Rachel Baye and Tom Hall of WYPR take a look at the mood, the controversies and the legislation that will be the focus of this year’s 90-day session.
MILLER’S ROAD RAGE: Comparing Gov. Larry Hogan to some of the words expressed by tweeter in chief Donald Trump, Senate President Mike Miller, in an opinion column for the Sun writes that “thousands of Marylanders sit in traffic for hours every day as congestion and gridlock prevent them from getting home and getting to and from work in a reasonable time period. That is why Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent behavior threatening 71 state roads projects is so outrageous.”
ANNAPOLIS SUMMIT: Here’s a handy-dandy 40-page guide put out by the Daily Record touting not only the annual Annapolis Summit, which Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM hosts today (now in its 13th year), but looking at various issues from several sides that will be coming up this session. Video of the event should be available tomorrow.
BILLS TO TAMP DOWN DRUG PRICES: On the eve of the 2017 legislative session, Democrat lawmakers and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh rolled out two bills that would authorize the state to sue drugmakers for price gouging — and require that companies give public notice when price hikes exceed 10%, reports Dan Menefee for MarylandReporter.com.
- The pair of bills are backed by some top Democrats, the Legislative Black Caucus and an array of interest groups representing doctors, seniors and minorities, writes Pamela Wood for the Sun. “This is an attempt to make sure Marylanders can afford the prescription drugs they so desperately need,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, which is running radio ads in support of the bills.
METRO PANEL: A new Metro safety oversight commission is a step closer to happening as the Virginia and Maryland legislatures convene this week. Robert McCartney of the Post reports that officials in both states had been concerned that the legislation would be delayed this year, but the plan got a boost after Virginia obtained a concession that the new commission’s board would have to give unanimous consent before ordering any shutdown of the transit system, legislators and others said.
CAPPING COLLEGE TUITION COSTS: Gov. Larry Hogan announced plans Tuesday to spend $17.5 million next year to defray rising tuition at many public Maryland colleges. Along with his proposed 2% cap on in-state tuition increases, the governor pitched a small tax break for many state residents repaying student loans, Erin Cox of the Sun reports.
- Hogan said nearly 60% of college students are graduating with student debt that averages more than $27,000. The loan-interest tax-credit program, which would be available to state residents earning less than $200,000 and couples earning less than $250,000, would cost about $20 million each year, writes Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.
SEN. GLADDEN NOT EXPECTED AT OPENING: Senate President Mike Miller said he does not expect Sen. Lisa A. Gladden to be in her seat today when the General Assembly reconvenes for its 2017 session. The Northwest Baltimore Democrat, serving her fourth term in the Senate, missed the second half of last year’s session as symptoms of her multiple sclerosis worsened, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.
NEW DELEGATE NAMED: Jheanelle Wilkins, a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee since 2014, was named Monday night by the MCDCC to fill a vacant delegate seat from Silver Spring/Takoma Park District 20—but not before a strong challenge from Takoma Park civic activist Lorig Charkoudian, Louis Peck reports in Bethesda Beat.
- Wilkins, 28, replaces former delegate William C. Smith Jr., who succeeded Jamie B. Raskin in the state Senate after Raskin was elected to Congress this November, Bill Turque reports in the Post.
INDICTED, STILL ON PUGH PAYROLL: Gary Brown Jr., indicted on charges of making illegal contributions to Catherine Pugh’s mayoral campaign, has been described as a former Pugh campaign aide and former staffer in Pugh’s 40th District Senate office in Annapolis. But a spokesman has confirmed to Mark Reutter and Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew that Brown currently works for Mayor Pugh, reporting to her director of communications.
FORMER DELEGATE PLEADS GUILTY: A former Maryland state delegate has pleaded guilty to taking bribes related to his official duties, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday. William Alberto Campos, a Democrat who represented Prince George’s County in the House of Delegates for less than a year in 2015, pleaded guilty on Thursday to one count of conspiracy and one count of bribery, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.
- The bulk of the illegal activity involves Campos’s directing more than $325,000 in government grants or funds intended for charitable giving to business owners, nonprofit organizations and other parties in exchange for personal payments while serving on the Prince George’s council, Lynh Bui and Arelis Hernandez of the Post report.
FACTS MATTER: In a column for MarylandReporter, editor Len Lazarick looks at the state of journalism in a time when facts don’t seem to matter, but says that yes, they still do and they should whether it is in the White House or in the Statehouse.
KAMENETZ FIRM ON SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BUCKS: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is gearing up to fight for construction money for the county’s aging schools in the General Assembly session that opens today, writes Pamela Wood for the Sun. Ensuring that the county gets its fair share of school money is Kamenetz’s top priority and he’s willing to do battle with Gov. Larry Hogan if necessary, the county executive said during an interview outside the State House on Tuesday.
FULL CIRCLE FOR REP. RASKIN: U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of Maryland’s two new congressmen, will serve on the House Judiciary Committee — returning to work he began as an intern 36 years ago, John Fritze reports in the Sun. A college junior, the Montgomery County Democrat interned for Rep. John Conyers Jr., of Michigan on the committee in 1981. Raskin was appointed Tuesday to the committee, where Conyers is now the ranking Democrat.
MILITARY POST FOR REP. BROWN: U.S. Rep. Anthony Brown, one of the state’s two new members of Congress, was appointed Tuesday to the House Armed Services Committee — underscoring his three-decade history with the military. A colonel in the Army Reserve, Brown was awarded the Bronze Star after nine months in Iraq working as a senior consultant to the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, John Fritze is reporting for the Sun.
CUMMINGS, VAN HOLLEN ON FUTURE: In Dan Rodricks’ Episode 195 of his Roughly Speaking podcast for the Sun, he speaks with U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings and Sen. Chris Van Hollen on soon-to-be-President Trump, the repeal of the ACA, the Russian hacking and on President Obama’s legacy.
RALLY FOR ACA: Democratic leaders — including Sen. Chris Van Hollen — are planning a rally on Sunday at Bowie State University that is part of a national effort to preserve health care coverage for nearly 30 million people, according to the Annapolis Capital. Organizers are calling the event “A National Day of Action” and rallies are planned all over the country that day.
CARDIN CONCERNED OVER TOP EPA PICK: Sen. Ben Cardin said he had “major concerns” with President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to the lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency after meeting with him on Tuesday, John Fritze reports for the Sun. The Maryland Democrat and member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works said he spoke with Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt about cleanup efforts for the Chesapeake Bay, controversial regulations on streams and energy policy.
SESSIONS QUESTIONS CONSENT DECREES: President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice expressed skepticism Tuesday over the use of consent decrees to address civil rights abuses in policing but declined to speak specifically on the pending agreement for Baltimore, John Fritze of the Sun writes.