State Roundup, February 13, 2017

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FEDS HOLD ONTO MARYLAND MILLIONS: Erin Cox reports for the Sun that the federal government announced Friday that it will withhold millions in transportation funding from Maryland. Maryland, together with Virginia and Washington, D.C., missed a deadline Thursday to create a new safety agency to oversee the Washington-area Metro rail system, despite agreeing more than seven years ago that one was necessary.

FROSH BILL UP TODAY: The first items on the agenda for the Maryland House of Delegates today are House and Senate resolutions that will give Attorney General Brian Frosh sole discretion to sue the Trump administration to protect the “state’s interest as well as the health and welfare of Maryland residents.” Daniel Menefee reports the story for MarylandReporter.com.

TAX APPEAL BILL: Marylanders unhappy with how the state has valued their home for tax purposes face a fast-approaching Feb. 13 deadline to file appeals.  Natalie Sherman of the Sun reports that now some people say it’s the state’s turn to face some deadlines too. A bill up for debate in the General Assembly would require the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation to hold a hearing for petitioners within 90 days. The measure is aimed at reducing the stress — and extended timeline — of the state’s complicated, three-level process for property tax appeals, which can take months, or years, to be resolved.

ENDING CHILD MARRIAGES: Child marriages are still happening in America, but a Maryland lawmaker is fighting back and has vowed to reintroduce her child marriage bill after it failed last year in the Maryland legislature, Kathy Stewart of WTOP-AM reports. Del. Vanessa Atterbeary, D-Howard County, introduced her HB 799 on Feb. 3 in hopes of ending child marriages in her state. The bill would make 18 the legal age to marry, no exceptions. Her new bill heads to a house committee hearing on Feb. 23.

NEW SENATOR, DELEGATE: Nathaniel T. Oaks, a Democrat who represented Baltimore in the House of Delegates for almost 30 years, is now a senator, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. Oaks, 70, took the oath of office in the Senate chamber Friday afternoon after waiting out a lengthy debate on the powers of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office.

AGAINST DEL. DAVIS’ BILL: In an op-ed for the Post, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Christine Owens of the National Employment Law Project urges the state legislature to not pass legislation sponsored by Del. Dereck Davis. Owens and Henderson write that one of the most inspiring movements in recent history has been the Fight for $15, led by low-wage workers who organized to win higher wages and other benefits in their workplaces, communities and states. But now, in Maryland, the Fight for $15 finds itself under attack from a surprising source. Davis introduced legislation that would block cities and counties in the state from raising the minimum wage higher than the state’s level of $8.75 per hour or adopting other basic worker safeguards, including paid sick leave.

DC PARTISANSHIP IN ANNAPOLIS: For years, members of the General Assembly have openly boasted of a more genteel brand of politics than their federal cousins practice just 30 miles west on Route 50. But some members, Democrats and Republicans, expressed concern Friday that this is changing as a result of the election of President Donald Trump. In the last week, legislators in both the House and Senate have introduced bills aimed primarily at the new president, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record writes.

HOGAN ON TRUMP: On Friday on 98 Rock, sister station of WBAL radio, Gov. Larry Hogan was asked about the Trump presidency. “I’m focused on solving Maryland problems,” Hogan said. “I have 31 different policy proposals and a real agenda to turn our state around and the only questions we get [asked] about is why aren’t you protesting Donald Trump? I don’t see that as my role.  I’m focused on our problems here. We’ve got elected representatives in Washington that are supposed to do that, and the courts. With the previous president, I didn’t support him but I had a great relationship with him, and I wanted him to be successful. I want this president to be successful.”

FRANCHOT ON…: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot came to Hagerstown on Friday to visit Fountaindale Elementary School and to tout next weekend’s Shop Maryland Energy tax-free promotion for Energy Star-rated appliances. But he talked about a lot of other things during a visit with Herald-Mail Media, including income tax relief, school construction and his own political plans. Tamela Baker writes the article.

FREE PRESS DEBATE: There’s a subtle free-press debate going on in the Maryland General Assembly, writes Andy Schotz for the Mid-Atlantic Muckraker, a blog for the local Society for Professional Journalists. He goes on to write about the Daily Record’s Bryan Sears and the SPJ’s push to allow as a matter of course videotaping at will of happenings inside the Senate and House chambers by striking a rule that says permission must be gotten from the heads of those chambers first.

401(k) IDEA FALLS APART: No one wants to face up to Maryland’s giant $19 billion long-term shortfall in its retirement program for state workers and teachers. Not the Republican governor nor the Democratic legislature, opines political pundit Barry Rascovar for MarylandReporter.com. True to his Lone Ranger approach, Gov. Larry Hogan is calling for a dramatic change – an optional 401(k)-style retirement program for new state employees. It sounds good but falls apart when examined close up.

‘PROTOCOL CALENDAR:’ Doug Donovan of the Sun writes that the Sun has begun posting the General Assembly’s updated “Protocol Calendar” to provide the public a glimpse at the activities of their elected officials outside of official government proceedings. You can view the calendar here.

ACA REPEAL & PRINCE GEORGE’s: In a Post article about how Trump administration actions may affect the Washington, D.C., area, Robert McCartney writes that Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said a repeal of the Affordable Care Act could mean that a long-planned regional hospital would not be financially viable, because so many recently insured poor patients would again need uncompensated care.

PG’s $110,000 AUTO BENEFIT: The Prince George’s County government spends more than $110,000 a year on automobile allowances and take-home cars for county council officials, a perk that goes far beyond what is offered in neighboring jurisdictions. Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports that all nine council members and the council’s two top administrators are either assigned a government vehicle or paid a yearly car allowance.

STATE, CITY TEAR DOWN OLD HOMES: Luke Broadwater of the Sun reports that East Baltimore residents remember when the Broadway East neighborhood was thriving — full of families and businesses, children and shops — before an exodus began after the riots of 1968. On Friday, they gathered to watch state and city officials tear down properties in the 1700 block of N. Chester St., making way for what they hope will be a neighborhood that thrives again: home to renovated buildings near a new, $16 million food production campus.

FREDERICK HOTEL REJECTED AGAIN: Maryland Historical Trust, the state’s historic preservation agency, has forcefully rejected submissions by historic consultants of the developer and the City of Frederick on behalf of proposals for the city-sponsored downtown hotel complex, according to the blog Frederick Hotel Boondoggle. The rejections are contained in an eight-page letter dated Feb. 7 from MHT director and State Preservation Officer Elizabeth Hughes addressed to Richard Griffin the city’s Director of Economic Development and the hotel project manager.