SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION FUNDS: Dissatisfied with answers from Howard County public school officials about their handling of mold remediation in school buildings, Maryland’s Board of Public Works voted Wednesday to temporarily withhold $9.6 million in school construction funding, Amanda Yeager reports for the Annapolis Capital.
- Anne Arundel County officials on Wednesday made a pitch for more state money for school construction projects, including funds for a high school in Crofton, a replacement Arnold Elementary School and revitalization work at George Cromwell Elementary School, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital reports.
- The state’s Board of Public Works reinstated $10 million of school construction money for Baltimore city and Baltimore County Wednesday, after the school districts presented plans to install air conditioning in overheated classrooms. The city plans to cool all of its schools within five years, and the county has plans to install air conditioning within four years.
- Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot, who voted together last May to withhold $5 million from the city and $10 million from the county, softened their positions Wednesday morning, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. The votes were representative of a more easy-going meeting this year that nonetheless was marked by terse comments from the governor directed at Howard County Public Schools.
HOGAN PUSHES CHARTER SCHOOLS: After a failed attempt in his first year in office, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) is trying once again to increase the number of charter schools in Maryland by proposing to loosen the rules that govern the publicly funded, independently run schools and create an independent body with the power to authorize such institutions, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.
- It is the second time in three years Hogan has sought to establish more charter schools in a state where their operators say laws make it tough to open and thrive, writes Erin Cox in the Sun. Hogan said the initiative would “increase the choices available to Maryland families” and charged that the current system of approving charters stifles innovation.
TRANSPORTATION SCORING: Senate President Mike Miller said Wednesday that he’s open to making changes to a transportation scoring law detested by Gov. Larry Hogan, but hasn’t heard any ideas for a compromise from the administration, Ian Duncan of the Sun reports.
BAIL BOND INDUSTRY DONATIONS UP: The bail bond industry poured $87,000 into the campaign coffers of Maryland politicians in 2016, according to a report released Wednesday by Common Cause Maryland, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post. The influx of donations — which Common Cause said was significantly larger than in previous years — came as the General Assembly prepared to consider whether to alter or eliminate cash bail for most poor defendants. The largest portion — $21,000 — went to Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee that will play a key role in deciding the fate of the state’s money-based bail system.
- Zirkin said the more than $78,000 the industry has given his campaign over the years hasn’t swayed him, reports Rachel Baye for WYPR-FM. “I’m for reforming the bail system,” he said. “I think if you know the system, it would be foolish to say that it doesn’t need reform.”
- Brian Witte of the AP quotes Common Cause executive director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, “When entities are able to exert significantly more influence than the general public, or the people that their industry impacts, it creates an inequality in our democracy.”
- Sen. Michael Hough is among the state lawmakers who receive the most funding from the bail bond industry, reports Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News Post. Hough, R-District 4, received $19,000 in funding from the industry between 2011 and Jan. 11, 2017, according to a “Pay to Play” report released by Common Cause Maryland on Wednesday.
DEATH WITH DIGNITY: After two years of dead ends, Maryland lawmakers have again introduced measures to give terminally ill Marylanders the right to die using doctor prescribed medications, Daniel Menefee of MarylandReporter.com writes. The nation’s oldest end-of-life advocacy group, Compassion & Choices, brought nearly 200 supporters to Annapolis on Wednesday to urge lawmakers to pass the “Richard E. Israel and Roger ‘Pip’ Moyer End of Life Options Act.”
- Several states, plus the District of Columbia, have recently joined a handful of jurisdictions that legalized the practice. Efforts to pass a law In Maryland failed for the past two years. It was opposed by some religious groups and some advocates for the disabled community, as well as the state’s medical association, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.
ACA, STATE BUDGET & TRUMP: The vice chair of the Maryland Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee says the state’s hospital system could be “thrown into disarray” by the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Sen. Richard Madaleno commented after his committee got a briefing from the state’s Department of Legislative Services, a non-partisan office that generates reports on the fiscal impact of government policies, Kate Ryan of WTOP-AM reports.
JUDICIARY CUTS: Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera voiced her willingness Wednesday to cut $6.5 million from the judiciary’s proposed $576.4 million budget for fiscal year 2018 – but not at the expense of cybersecurity, courtroom safety or the quality of service provided by circuit court clerk’s offices, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.
DELEGATE NOMINEE: Jazz Lewis, a former campaign director to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) who was Maryland political director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, was nominated Tuesday night to succeed former state Del. Michael L. Vaughn in the General Assembly, Arelis Hernandez reports in the Post.
MORE CHOICES: In an op-ed for the Sun urging that central committees offer the governor more than one choice to fill a General Assembly vacancy, attorney David Loveland writes that the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee has recommended to Maryland’s governor only one person to fill each of two open delegate seats (one of which was created because a criminal indictment was filed against the original appointee): Both men were chosen after a hasty, opaque process. Gov. Larry Hogan asked for a background check on each and was promptly criticized for the optics of it. One might wonder how this request could be considered unreasonable after the city committee’s first choice was charged with making illegal campaign contributions.
STATE 7th IN LEED RANKING: Maryland ranked seventh in the nation in terms of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, green building, Adam Bednar of the Daily Record writes. The U.S. Green Building Council released its national rankings on Wednesday. The organization called Maryland one of the leaders in environmentally sound building in 2016, citing the 2.33 square feet of certified space per resident and 104 LEED-certified projects.
FROZEN BAY BUCKS? Federal money awarded to the Chesapeake Bay Trust and distributed in Anne Arundel County for environmental projects could be frozen after President Donald Trump’s administration issued a halt on Environmental Protection Agency grants and contracts.The Chesapeake Bay Trust officials want clarification from the federal government on whether the EPA decision will affect grants awarded or would stop new grants.
SHOWDOWN OVER SANCTUARY CITIES: The executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Wednesday to strip federal funding from jurisdictions that have declared themselves sanctuaries for undocumented immigrants drew both praise and alarm in Maryland. Luke Broadwater and Yvonne Wenger of the Sun reports that the order likely sets up a showdown between the Trump administration and local governments in a state where seven colleges have declared themselves sanctuary campuses, lawmakers in Howard County want to declare a sanctuary county, and police generally don’t ask the people they stop about their immigration status.
PUGH UNCONCERNED BY CHARGES: Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports that Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said Wednesday she was not concerned about charges filed by state prosecutors against two of her campaign donors. “I don’t talk about campaigns here,” Pugh told reporters at City Hall after the Board of Estimates meeting. “We did everything by the book. Our campaign report is public and open to scrutiny.”