State Roundup, January 31, 2017

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REACTION TO TRUMP TRAVEL BAN: Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh is evaluating whether to join in one of the legal actions that’s been filed to block President Donald Trump’s ban on entry into the country for people from seven predominantly Muslim nations, writes Pamela Wood in the Sun. “Ultimately we may have to join in one of the actions to stop the executive order from being implemented,” he said. “We think the orders are illegal. We think they’ll make us less safe.”

RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA: Democratic lawmakers announced a push Monday to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use in Maryland. They announced a pair of bills to make lighting up a legal act. Some of the same lawmakers are also trying to put the issue on a ballot for voters to decide. The pro-marijuana lawmakers said their preference is for the General Assembly to legalize it without going to voters, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

BLUE LIVES: Maryland’s hate crime law protects people against crimes based on race, color, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, gender, disability, national origin and homelessness, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital writes. Two Anne Arundel County lawmakers want to add crimes against law enforcement officers to the list. A House of Delegates committee today will hear testimony on legislation sponsored by Sen. Bryan Simonaire and Del. Meagan Simonaire, Republicans from Pasadena who argue the state’s police and corrections officers should have another layer of protection under the law.

HOGAN PROPOSES 401(k): Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday proposed legislation to allow state employees to pay into a 401(k)-style retirement plan instead of the state’s public-pension system, sparking immediate criticism from unions that represent the workers.

JAIL FUNDING: Gov. Larry Hogan’s decision not to include money in the next budget toward a new jail drew various reactions from government officials, lawyers and civil rights leaders, writes Justin George of the Sun. Hogan shuttered the dilapidated Baltimore City Detention Center in 2015, and pretrial detainees have since been spread among different state correctional buildings.

COMMITTED TO THE ENVIRONMENT: The editorial board for the Sun opines that these are dark days for Marylanders who care about protecting the environment. In his first week in office, President Donald Trump has made it clear that he sees environmental restrictions mostly, albeit falsely, as an impediment to the economy. His nominee to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can’t even bring himself to commit to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup.Under these circumstances, it’s more important than ever that states stand up for environmental concerns, for protecting our children’s health from pollution, for ensuring that the threat of climate change is taken seriously.

KAMENETZ ON BALTIMORE COUNTY: Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM hosts Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in-studio for an hourlong chat about what his vision for the county is.

PRINCE GEORGE’s COMPLEX: A couple of amazing things happened last week, Michael Collins writes in a column for MarylandReporter.com. First, several members of the House of Delegates from Prince George’s County sent letters to constituents imploring them to lobby the Maryland Health Care Commission to reject Anne Arundel Medical Center’s application to start a cardiac surgery program. Then two days later, several of them, along with Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker and Senate President Mike Miller held a press conference to drive home the point. The exercise was intended to show political unity and determination. The unintended consequence, however, was to highlight Prince George’s County’s inferiority complex.

BAKER SEEKS BOOZE BOARD REINS: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker said Monday that he will seek control of the county’s Board of Liquor Commissioners, assuming responsibility for the appointment of the five-member panel, its chair and the board’s administrator, and effectively removing the governor and local senators from the process. Baker offered an outline of legislation that will be submitted this week by the county’s House delegation, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

SCHUH’S BARREL OF MONKEYS: Halfway through his first term — and planning for a second one to finish what he’s started — Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh is having a great time, with a few not so minor frustrations, such as dealing with the county council, procurement roadblocks, the merit system for county employees and the teachers union, according to Len Lazarick’s column in the Business Monthly. “I love the job. It’s a barrel of monkeys,” Schuh said in a second annual year-end interview in his Annapolis office. The executive talks about his new focus on quality of life issues.

WHAT JOURNALISTS SHOULD DO: Maryland Reporter agrees with Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of The Washington Post, about what journalists should do — and that is not to embrace the role of “opposition party.” “The answer to dishonest or partisan journalism cannot be more partisan journalism, which would only harm our credibility and make civil discourse even less possible. The response to administration insults cannot be to remake ourselves in the mold of their accusations.”

“Our answer must be professionalism: to do our jobs according to the highest standards, as always.”

“If the president makes a statement, we report it. If it is false, we report the evidence of its falsehood. If the president’s critics say he is a totalitarian, we report that. If their charge is exaggerated, we provide the evidence of exaggeration. We investigate relentlessly.”

This may be an ideal we seldom reach, but it’s worth striving for.