State Roundup, January 16, 2017

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Some of the overflow crowd at the ACA rally. From Chris Van Hollen's Facebook page

Some of the overflow crowd at the ACA rally. From Chris Van Hollen’s Facebook page

RALLY IN BOWIE FOR ACA: Hundreds of people crowded into the ballroom of the Bowie State University student center on Sunday to signal their support for the Affordable Care Act, part of a “national day of action” that brought similar rallies to cities around the country. And more people showed up to the Bowie rally than the ballroom could hold. After speaking to the crowd inside the building, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who organized the event, and others addressed the large crowd gathered outside from atop the student center steps, Megan Brockett of the Annapolis Capital reports. The article is topped by a video of the outdoors speeches.

DEVELOPERS’ DOLLARS: State Sen. Jim Brochin, who is considering a run for Baltimore County executive, wants to prevent developers from giving campaign donations to county candidates. Brochin, a Democrat from Towson, plans to introduce the bill in the General Assembly as a way to end what he calls “pay-to-play” developer contributions, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.

FRACKING REGS CALLED INADEQUATE: Del. Dan Morhaim, in an opinion piece for the Sun, writes that  state Environment Secretary Benjamin Grumbles referred to the proposed regulations governing fracking as the “platinum standard” compared to other states. But these regulations are wholly inadequate and, if anything, speak to the lax standards elsewhere. As is often said, the devil is in the details. Here are some of the details that should be of concern to all Marylanders.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION PLANS: Lawmakers seeking to make changes to how public school construction and renovation projects in the state are selected and funded may have to develop their own plans or wait another year, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record. An interim report discussed by the 21st Century School Facilities Commission ultimately will not contain any recommendations when it is formalized in the near future. Instead, the document notes four areas on which commission Chairman Martin Knott said there was broad consensus and needed additional review.

I-81 & THE TRANSPORTATION BILL: Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that Senate President Mike Miller said last week he believes widening I-81 is important for safety and economic development, and that he backs it “1,000%.” But he chided Hogan for saying I-81 was among projects being cut because of the transportation scoring system, then going to “Western Maryland dedicating a road saying we’re gonna build this road to West Virginia” while urban residents sat in gridlock. “My point was (Hogan) said it would be canceled, but it’s funded,” he told Herald-Mail Media on Wednesday. Only it isn’t, at least not the whole thing.

HOUSE PANEL DOWN 3: The House Judiciary Committee has entered the 2017 General Assembly session with a net reduction of three members, writes Steve Lash for the Daily Record. Since last term, the panel lost five delegates due to resignations from the legislature or transfers in committee assignments, while picking up a 22-year delegate and a rookie legislator. “I have lost a lot of good players,” Del. Joseph. Vallario Jr., who chairs the panel, said Friday. “It’s going to be a new committee. It’s going to be a new day.”

LOTTERY TICKET DUSTUP: On only the third day of the 90-day General Assembly session, senators had a dust-up over legislation, leading Senate President Mike Miller to admonish his colleagues to be considerate of one another. The Senate was debating a bill that would make it illegal for a business or individual to buy a lottery ticket for someone else and charge them for it. Sponsored by Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration, the bill already won swift and unanimous approval from the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.

MANURE TO FERTILIZER PROGRAM: The state program reimburses farmers, brokers and poultry companies for half of their costs to haul manure around Delmarva and beyond, which in turn gets processed into fertilizers for companies like Scotts. Scott Dance of the Sun writes that Maryland will likely spend more than $1 million this year on the program, and some expect the payouts to increase as restrictions to protect the Chesapeake Bay tighten.

BOOSTING PUBLIC FINANCING FOR CAMPAIGNS: Public financing of Maryland gubernatorial elections could get help from the general fund in years the Fair Campaign Financing Fund falls short, said Del. Eric Luedtke, D-Montgomery. Daniel Menefee and Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com write that Prince George’s Del. Jimmy Tarlau plans to introduce legislation creating public financing for legislative races. Luedtke is sponsoring a bill, HB72 that would require the State Board of Elections to assess the sufficiency of the fund the year before an election to make sure it can fully finance bids for two candidates in the primaries and one in the general election.

STATE CENTER BOONDOGGLE: Calling the State Center project a “state taxpayer funded boondoggle,” Christopher Summers of the Maryland Public Policy Institute writes in an op-ed in the Sun that the Maryland Board of Public Works’ decision to void the controversial State Center project in Baltimore was a refreshing affirmation that Maryland taxpayers have advocates in Annapolis. Few contracts in recent Maryland history raised more concerns than the one former Gov. Martin O’Malley awarded for the State Center redevelopment in 2009.

FATAL FIRE HITS HOME FOR LAWMAKERS: The tragic Baltimore house fire that claimed the lives of six children is reverberating in Annapolis, where the General Assembly is in session. Many Baltimore-area state lawmakers know the children’s mother, Katie Malone, who is special assistant to U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.

PUNDITS GOT IT WRONG: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew outlines how the political pundits got it wrong when it came to predicting who would replace Gary Brown in the House of Delegates. Brown was to have take office last week, but was indicted on charges of making illegal campaign donations to his boss, Mayor Catherine Pugh. Nick Mosby was the surprise winner in the 40th District Democratic Central Committee race.

HONEST PRINCE GEORGE RETURNS: Back when he was a naïve and newbie political reporter covering the Maryland General Assembly in the early 1970s, opines Barry Rascovar in a column for MarylandReporter.com, he was baffled when legislators joked in lounges and hallways about “Honest Prince George.” he found out soon enough it was a jovial but derogatory reference to the questionable “pay for play” politics practiced by some leaders of Prince George’s County. Now “Honest Prince George” has surfaced again.

FOP CLAIMS IT WAS OMITTED FROM DOJ NEGOTIATIONS: Shortly after the Justice Department and Baltimore City officials announced they’d reached a legal contract to reform the city Police Department Thursday, the police union complained it was left out of the negotiations, Mary Rose Madden of WYPR-FM reports.

TRUMP’S EFFECT ON MARYLAND: Ian Duncan of the Sun reports that Democrats in Maryland are looking for ways to use this year’s General Assembly session to protect the legacy of President Barack Obama and blunt the impact of sweeping changes they fear the Trump administration will usher in. Senate President Mike Miller, a Democrat, said he is ready to do battle after Republican President-elect Donald J. Trump is inaugurated Friday in Washington. “We’re going to be playing defense,” Miller said. “We’re not going to stop progress for anybody.”

  • John Fritze of the Sun writes that President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for housing secretary, a longtime critic of government spending, assures lawmakers that he sees a role for the safety-net housing programs on which tens of thousands of Marylanders rely. The likely next attorney general, who would be tasked with upholding the federal end of the consent decree signed Thursday by the city of Baltimore and the Justice Department to reform policing, says he’s skeptical of such agreements.

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MARYLAND U.S. ATTY. TAPPED: The Washington Post is reporting that Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney in Maryland and currently the longest-serving U.S. attorney, is the incoming Trump administration’s pick to become the next deputy attorney general – the second-highest position in the Justice Department, according to a member of the Trump transition team. Rosenstein, 52, is the sole holdover U.S. attorney from the George W. Bush administration who is still in office, and he would replace Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, the former U.S. attorney from Georgia.

CLUB SNUB PART 2: Bill Turque follows up on a New York Post article that reports that President Obama’s stand on Israel and the Middle East may have a detrimental impact should he decide he wants to join the mostly Jewish Woodmont Country  Club in Montgomery County. His stand has already caused a split at the club.

  • Jeffrey Slavin, mayor of little Somerset in Montgomery County and a longtime member of Woodmont County Club, shared a letter with MarylandReporter.com resigning his membership in the club on Monday, Martin Luther King Day.

$15 AN HOUR IN MO CO? Legislation to raise Montgomery’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, scheduled for a County Council vote Tuesday, faces an uncertain fate as supporters work to head off a possible veto by County Executive Ike Leggett. While alliances could easily shift, the bill sponsored by council member Marc Elrich holds a slender 5-to-4 majority — enough for passage but short of the six votes needed to override a veto, Bill Turque reports in the Post.

WOMAN CHARGED IN STEALING FROM PAC: An Annapolis woman has been indicted on charges that she stole more than $42,000 over three years from the political action committee where she worked. State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davis issued a statement Friday morning saying that the woman was the office manager for the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station and Automotive Association, reports Rick Hutzell in the Annapolis Capital.