State Roundup, February 15, 2017

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SENATE PUSHES TO RECOUP FED MONEY: After federal authorities followed through last week on a threat to withhold millions in transit aid from Maryland, the state Senate on Tuesday began fast-tracking a bill to restore the money. Sen. Brian Feldman said lawmakers believed they had a “soft deadline” of Feb. 9 to create a new safety agency to oversee Washington, D.C.’s troubled Metro rail line. He said they didn’t realize it was a “hard deadline” until the new Trump administration sent a letter Friday revoking $4.8 million in federal aid, Erin Cox of the Sun reports.

HOUSE MOVES ON FROSH RESOLUTION: The House of Delegates on Tuesday advanced a measure that would let Attorney General Brian Frosh sue the federal government without Gov. Larry Hogan’s permission, nearly assuring the measure’s final passage today, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.

  • By following normal legislative procedure, the House of Delegates Tuesday defused the political fireworks that went off in the Maryland Senate five days earlier when Democrats rammed through a broad expansion of the powers of the Democratic attorney to sue the federal government, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com reports. A somewhat muted response by House Republicans also helped to reduce the heat by limiting their debate to a single amendment focusing on the constitutional authority legislators were handing over to Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh.

HOGAN SCALES BACK BAY PLAN: Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration is scaling back his ambitious plan to jumpstart a pollution credit trading program as part of the state’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts, following protests from environmental groups. The Sun’s Pamela Wood reports that the initial proposal would have allowed farmers, developers or governments who do extra to reduce pollution to sell those reduction credits to others who are struggling to cut down on pollution.

A MOVE TOWARD EQUAL PAY: If women and minorities are historically paid less, one way to balance pay scales could be to take past salaries off the negotiating table. Frederick County Del. Karen Lewis Young is sponsoring a bill aimed at equaling pay for men, women and minorities. It would require companies with 15 or more employees to include salary information in job postings and narrow employers’ ability to ask applicants about their salary history.

NEW POWERS FOR FRANCHOT? Legislation supported by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Gov. Larry Hogan would give new powers to the comptroller’s office to combat tax fraud, Jacob Taylor of CNS reports in MarylandReporter.com. Testifying Tuesday before the House Judiciary Committee, Franchot, a Democrat, asked lawmakers to “give me the power to make a difference here.”

BILL STRIPS GOV. OF PAROLE DECISIONS: Unwilling to wait for a federal court ruling, Democratic legislators have reintroduced legislation to take parole decisions away from the governor, saying Maryland chief executives from both parties have bowed to political pressure and gone more than 20 years without adopting any Parole Commission recommendation to release a prisoner sentenced to life in prison, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FOR USM STUDENT WORKERS: The Fearless Student Employees Coalition is teaming up with a Maryland delegate this semester to gain collective bargaining rights for undergraduate and graduate student workers in the University System of Maryland, reports Carrie Snurr for the Diamondback.

AID FOR EX-LAB PETS: When George Washington first came to Gail Thomssen’s D.C. home, he was afraid of doors, wasn’t housebroken and had to be coaxed to eat through hand feeding. George, a beagle, was just shy of 4 years old and getting his first taste of the world outside of a laboratory. Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post writes about a bill that would aim to give new life to cats and dogs that were used in laboratory experiments by requiring the labs to work with rescue organizations.

RENTERS WITH CAMPAIGN SIGNS: It all started when some Washington County residents who live in mobile-home parks contacted Del. Neil Parrott to complain that campaign signs they had posted during the last two election cycles had been removed by their landlords. “They were really frustrated” because they wanted to show their support for particular candidates and issues, said Parrott, R-Washington. So Parrott has proposed legislation to prevent landlords from forbidding tenants from putting up campaign signs, Tamela Baker reports for the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

DEMS HIRE ‘HOGAN ACCOUNTABILITY’ ADVISER: The Maryland Democratic Party announced Tuesday it hired a communications adviser to focus on “holding Gov. Larry Hogan accountable.”  Erin Cox of the Sun writes that Hogan, a popular Republican, has amassed a $5.1 million war chest for his 2018 re-election bid, and Democrats have not coalesced around a candidate to face him.

CITY COUNCIL BACKS ELLISON FOR DNC CHAIR: Baltimore City Council President Jack Young and a majority of council want Rep. Keith Ellison to be the Democratic National Committee’s next chairman, Yvonne Wenger writes in the Sun. Ellison, a congressman from Minnesota, is facing former U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez of Maryland and eight others who want to lead the party as it tries to recover from November’s election losses.

PLANK ADDRESSES IMMIGRATION BAN: Under Armour founder Kevin Plank responded today to criticism sparked by his comments last week about President Donald J. Trump, addressing the company’s hometown of Baltimore to stress personal and brand values such as diversity, equal rights and opportunity, Lorraine Mirabella of the Sun reports. Plank penned an open letter to the city that appeared as a full-page advertisement in The Baltimore Sun.

CECIL PROSECUTOR RESIGNS: Cecil County State’s Attorney Edward “Ellis” Rollins III was arrested in June for indecent exposure and disorderly conduct, for having sex, standing naked and other related acts at the sliding glass door of his tenth-floor Ocean City hotel room, while four tourists, a security officer and two Ocean City police officers watched. He’s been convicted and sentenced and now he has submitted his resignation, Tom Jackman reports in the Post.

RX POT SHOP IN SILVER SPRING: Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat writes about Green Thumb Industries’ presentation to a group of Silver Spring residents. GTI is one of two companies awarded a license by the state to sell medical marijuana in Silver Spring’s state legislative District 20, which encompasses Takoma Park and downtown Silver Spring, plus the neighborhoods of Four Corners and White Oak.