State Roundup, February 2, 2017

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At a Government House reception after the speech, Gov. Larry Hogan attended the two former Democratic governors who attended the speech: Harry Hughes, left, and Parris Glendening, right. Governor's office photo.

At a Government House reception after the speech, Gov. Larry Hogan hosted the two former Democratic governors who attended the speech: Harry Hughes, left, and Parris Glendening, right. Governor’s Office photo.

HOGAN’s 3rd STATE OF THE STATE: Hogan spoke of a need for bipartisanship in Annapolis and pressed the Democratic-controlled General Assembly to approve his most ambitious legislative agenda yet, Erin Cox and Michael Dresser of the Sun report.

JUDGE ORDERS MILLER, BUSCH TO TESTIFY: A federal judge has ordered Maryland’s top two legislative leaders — Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch — to testify and turn over records for a lawsuit challenging the 2011 redrawing of the state’s congressional districts, which effectively ensured Democratic control of seven out of eight U.S. House seats, Josh Hicks reports in the Post.

PENSION SUPPLEMENT WITHHELD: In his State of the State speech Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan worried about the state’s pension system’s $20 billion unfunded liability, and urged legislators to pass a new pension option like a 401(k) for new employees, Dan Menefee of MarylandReporter.com reports. But in his fiscal 2018 budget, the governor withholds a mandated $50 million supplement to the State Retirement and Pension System due to declining revenue estimates that have left a slim $70 million surplus in fiscal 2017.

RECORD SIGNUPS FOR ACA: Amid uncertainty about the future of the national health care law, record numbers of Marylanders signed up for coverage this year, Meredith Cohn and John Fritze of the Sun write. In what could be the final enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act, nearly 432,000 Maryland residents signed up for the law’s various offerings, up 7.5% over last year. All of that growth came from new Medicaid participants. The number of people buying into private plans declined 3%.

SANCTUARY STATE: Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that Democrats in Annapolis are preparing a slew of legislation and other initiatives that they say are direct responses to President Donald Trump and anticipated changes in federal policy. Among them is a bill that would make Maryland a sanctuary state for immigrants without legal status.

ANTI-FRACKING RALLY: With a state moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — set to expire in eight months, Maryland legislators and activists are throwing their support behind a permanent ban, Jack Chavez of Capital News Service reports. Activist group Don’t Frack Maryland on Wednesday held a rally in front of the State House in Annapolis, attracting supporters from Maryland and nearby states who contend that fracking negatively impacts the environment in places it is used.

BERNSTEIN PROBING MORHAIM? A former top Baltimore prosecutor appears to be part of an ongoing confidential ethics review of Del. Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County. Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes that Gregg L. Bernstein, who had served as the Baltimore City State’s Attorney, was whisked past a reporter and into a House office building suite nearly an hour before the scheduled start of a Legislative Joint Ethics Committee meeting.

MSP MED COPTERS OUT OF SERVICE: Maryland State Police took their medical helicopters out of service over the past three days to examine tail rotor blades after two recent inspections revealed cracked paint, write Fenit Nirappil and Dan Morse of the Post. About half of the fleet of 10 was expected to still be out of service through Thursday morning, but police officials said they have been using medevacs from other police agencies to respond to emergency calls.

ETHICS REFORM EFFORT: After weeks of debate, Sen. Michael Hough will sidestep the Frederick County General Assembly delegation and local elected officials by introducing his own bill to change portions of county ethics laws, Danielle Gaines reports for the Frederick News-Post. Initially, the delegation was asked to review a bill that was proposed by the League of Women Voters and Frederick County Ethics Task Force and supported by County Executive Jan Gardner and a majority of the County Council.

ACCOUNTANT CHARGED IN PG BRIBERY CASE: A Rockville accountant has been charged with bribing then-Prince George’s County Council member William A. Campos so Campos would steer thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to a D.C.-based nonprofit group, Arelis Hernandez of the Post writes.

SRB THROWS A PARTY: A month before leaving office, Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake threw a party for herself. A dj got the crowd up and dancing, a magician circulated among the guests, delighting them with card tricks. For take-home favors, there were mini-bottles of Mumm Napa sparkling wine. The cost of the Nov. 11 bash: $54,437. The full tab was deducted from Stephanie Rawlings-Blake For Baltimore, her political fundraising committee. Maryland law is vague regarding how an official not running for office can spend campaign funds, reports Mark Reutter for Baltimore Brew. The state elections board promises an audit.

PEREZ SEEKS DNC SEAT: Tom Perez served up a plate of red meat in a stump-like speech Tuesday night to local supporters of his candidacy for chairman of the Democratic National Committee at a “closed press” fundraiser in Silver Spring, writes Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat. Perez, the former labor secretary under President Barack Obama, took aim at President Donald Trump’s controversial policies and predicted minutes before Trump announced his nominee, federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch,  for the Supreme Court that the nominee would “suck.”

MOTHER CONDEMNS TRUMP ACTION: The Bethesda mother whose 5-year-old son was detained for hours at a Virginia airport while traveling home from overseas is calling President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration “counter to everything America stands for.” Bethany Rodgers of Bethesda Beat writes that the boy was isolated from his mother and legal representation for more than four hours at Washington Dulles International Airport on Saturday, according to news reports and a press release from U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen.

VAN HOLLEN TOUTS PUBLIC-PRIVATE WORK: U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen and the former director of the NSA talked Wednesday in Linthicum about the importance of the government working with the private sector to improve the country’s cyber security. The discussion was hosted by Fort Meade Alliance, a non-profit that supports Fort Meade and its government agencies, such as the NSA. Figures in both the private and public sector attended the event, Meredith Newman of the Annapolis Capital writes.

TRUMP CABINET VOTES: The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate is beginning to confirm President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees. John Fritze of the Sun lists how Maryland’s two senators — both Democrats — have voted on those appointments on the floor.