State Roundup, February 6, 2017

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BIPARTISAN DRUG ABUSE FIGHT: Fighting heroin abuse is one effort that seems likely to find bipartisan consensus this General Assembly session, with legislators from both sides of the political aisle proposing measures to address addiction prevention, treatment and long-term recovery, writes Amanda Yeager in the Annapolis Capital. She leads the story with a profile of a group made up of parents whose children died from drugs.

FRACKING BAN BILL: Opponents of the natural gas extraction method known as fracking introduced a bill in the Maryland Senate Friday to ban the practice. The effort to forbid hydraulic fracturing is expected to become one of the most heavily contested environmental battles of the 2017 General Assembly session. A moratorium on the practice is scheduled to expire in October, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

PRE-K TESTING MORATORIUM: Del. Haven Shoemaker has proposed a bill that would place a moratorium on implementing standardized state testing in pre-kindergarten. Such testing is reportedly only in the pilot phase this year, and not in Carroll County, but Shoemaker, who represents Carroll, said he is concerned about the widespread use of state-mandated tests in schools, John Kelvey of the Carroll County Times reports.

GUINNESS SEEKS LAW CHANGE: Plans to put a Guinness brewery in Baltimore County will fall flat unless the Maryland General Assembly takes action. It’s all about how much beer Guinness would be allowed to pour. John Lee of  WYPR-FM reports that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz told the county’s House delegation that Diageo, the company that owns Guinness, needs a change in the liquor license, otherwise the brewery won’t fly.

HOME PROTECTION: Carroll County Del. Susan Krebs and Del. Trent Kittleman, who represents part of Carroll, are co-sponsoring a bill that would allow an occupant to use any amount of force to protect their residence from an intruder, Heather Mongilio reports for the Carroll County Times.

LOCAL LAWMAKERS BLAST KAMENETZ: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was publicly chastised Friday for not being responsive to the concerns of the county‘s lawmakers in Annapolis, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Del. Stephen Lafferty, a Towson Democrat who chairs Baltimore County’s group of state delegates, told Kamenetz that he should spend more time talking with legislators and helping them with county issues.

STATE DUCK: Del. Mary Ann Lisanti, D-Harford, is proposing a bill that would add a new state symbol to those such as the Baltimore oriole and the sport of jousting: the canvasback duck, also known as the “King of Ducks,” as the state waterfowl. The duck would be the first state symbol added officially since 2008, when walking became the state’s official exercise and Smith Island Cake became the state’s official dessert, Jake Brodsky reports for CNS.

HOGAN BIPARTISAN, OR NOT: Political commentator Barry Rascovar, in a column for MarylandReporter.com, opines that Gov. Larry Hogan acts the role of bipartisan governor quite well for the cameras. Behind the scenes, though, he’s unwilling to open the door to Democrats and quick to play the blame game. He sharply mocks his political critics.

O’MALLEY ON GERRYMANDERING: Josh Hicks of the Post writes about former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s change of heart when it comes to gerrymandering, a task that he embraced as governor.

BWI EXPANSION: Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is plotting a major expansion of its international terminal as it continues to add flights outside of the country. Pending approval by the Board of Public Works, BWI will contract with Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. for a 70,000-square-foot expansion of concourse E, which services the international flights for the airport. The contract to be approved with Whiting-Turner is for $60.3 million, writes Joshua Gordon for the Baltimore Business Journal.

USING THE TRUMP CLUB: President Donald Trump’s actions have given Maryland Democrats a bigger club to try to beat down the popularity of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and his chances for reelection. Challenge Trump on Obamacare repeal, they insist; condemn Trump on the refugee ban, they demand. Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes that Democrats are particularly upset that Hogan made not even the slightest allusion in last week’s State of the State address to the severe budget problems Trump policies might cause for Maryland.

HOGAN STAYS MUM ON BAN: Erin Cox of the Sun reports that as protesters crowded the international arrivals hall at BWI Marshall Airport last week to denounce President Donald J. Trump’s immigration ban, online commenters bombarded Gov. Larry Hogan’s Facebook page to demand that he take a position. Two other GOP governors in Democratic states had condemned Trump’s executive order to suspend refugee admissions and temporarily bar visitors from seven mostly Muslim countries. Protesters wanted Hogan to join them.

PROTESTERS ON BAN: Hundreds of protesters gathered Saturday in Annapolis outside the residence of Gov. Larry Hogan, demanding that he wield his status as a Republican governor of a moderate state to condemn President Trump’s Cabinet nominations as well as his order temporarily banning the entry of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries as well as refugees, Ian Shapira of the Post reports.

AID FOR SCIENTISTS STUCK ABROAD: A University of Maryland researcher is using a self-created communication network to help house scientists who might be stuck abroad following President Trump’s immigration ban, Lindsey Feingold writes in the Diamondback. Though a federal judge in Seattle issued a ruling Friday that has temporarily blocked a ban barring citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from traveling to the U.S. for 90 days, the future of some U.S. scientists who have been doing work abroad remains in limbo.

CONDEMNING REMARKS: Fern Shen of Baltimore Brew writes that Johns Hopkins Hospital has had to issue a memo condemning a visitor’s disparaging remarks made to a patient from another country.

STATE CHOPPERS BACK IN SERVICE: Six of the seven Maryland State Police Helicopters are in operation as of Friday afternoon after four were grounded last week, WMAR-TV is reporting. Officials expected the seventh in Cumberland operating by the weekend.

HIGH COURT WEIGHS POT SMELL PAT-DOWNS: A legal battle at the Court of Appeals comes just two weeks after the judges ruled that the mere odor of marijuana from a car in Maryland gives police probable cause to search the vehicle, even though the possession of less than 10 grams of the drug is a civil offense – not a crime – under state law, reports Steve Lash for the Daily Record.

HO CO COUNCIL TO VOTE ON SANCTUARY: The Howard County Council is set to vote today on whether to declare the county a sanctuary for undocumented immigrants, less than two weeks after President Donald J. Trump issued an order to withhold federal grants from jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, writes Pamela Wood of the Sun.

CITY COUNCIL CONSIDERS $15 MINIMUM WAGE: Baltimore City Council President Jack Young is joining a coalition of council members pushing for a $15 hourly minimum wage in Baltimore, reports Yvonne Wenger in the Sun. Legislation is expected to be introduced at the council meeting tonight. The bill would incrementally raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2022. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees would have until 2026 to increase their minimum wage to that level.

BLOGGER ALONE IN TRUMP LAWSUIT: Gaithersburg blogger Webster Tarpley will be facing off on his own against first lady Melania Trump in Montgomery County Circuit Court, Andrew Metcalf reports for Bethesda Beat. On Thursday, Judge Sharon Burrell dismissed Trump’s defamation claim brought against the British tabloid Daily Mail. The publisher was the co-defendant in the case brought by Trump, who claims Tarpley and the tabloid each published an online article in August that falsely alleged she worked as an escort in New York City in the 1990s. Both stories were later retracted.