State Roundup, March 1, 2017

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The House of Delegates honored the late Lou Davis on Tuesday for his 50 years in broadcasting, of which 30 were spent covering Annapolis for WMAR and later Maryland Public TV. His family was there to accept a posthumous citation in his honor from House Speaker Michael Busch. “He was an individual that was universally respected here,” Busch said in a tribute to Davis during Tuesday’s House session. “He is a legendary figure, a man for all seasons.”

HOUSE OKs TESTING LIMITS: The Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill Tuesday that would limit the amount of time school districts can spend on testing, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The Less Testing, More Learning Act sailed through with minimal debate on a 139-0 vote.

OVERDOSES HIT MARYLAND HARD: The Sun’s Ian Duncan writes about the opioid epidemic in Maryland, where opioid overdoses now rank with cancer, strokes and heart attacks among the top killers in the state. He begins the article writing about Taylor Sprague, a 21-year-old student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County who had interned at the Library of Congress and served as a page in the General Assembly. In late 2015, she had died of an overdose.

SAFE DRUG FACILITIES: Tom Hall of WYPR-FM interviews Del. Dan Morhaim on his bill authorizing the creation of safe drug injection facilities in communities across Maryland. He also talks with Dr. Susan Sherman who recently published a report that makes the argument for the creation of these safe spaces in Baltimore City, and Robert Kinneberg, the director of the Phoenix Recovery Center, who works to cure addiction.

REPEAT SEX OFFENDERS: Legislation to allow prosecutors to introduce evidence at trial of past sexually assaultive behavior under limited circumstances has returned to the General Assembly, and while advocates say it is narrowly tailored and includes procedural safeguards, defense attorneys maintain it is still too dangerous to allow such highly prejudicial evidence into criminal trials, Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports.

DEMS CALL ON BARNEY FRANK: Maryland Democrats enlisted retired Rep. Barney Frank, one of the architects of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms, to bring some national party support to their latest proposal to hold the Trump administration to account. Democrats in the General Assembly are proposing to create a commission to look out for moves in Washington to undo Dodd-Frank and other financial rules put into place as a response to the economy-wrecking housing crisis of 2008, reports Ian Duncan for the Sun.

SERAFINI CAUTIOUS ON TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: A Senate committee heard additional pleas Tuesday for the state to return more money from transportation-generated fees to local governments for road construction and maintenance. Although committee members were sympathetic, at least one of them, Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, said the time might not be right for new legislation to require more money for local jurisdictions, Tamela Baker writes in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. The article is topped by a short video interview with Serafini.

FRACKING BAN DEBATE: John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports that Maryland legislators are debating a bill that would permanently ban hydraulic fracking in the state. A moratorium on the high-tech method of extracting natural gas from shale in Western Maryland expires this fall. And members of several environmental groups who gathered for a rally Tuesday at the State House, say there are enough studies to conclude that a permanent ban on fracking is warranted.

HOGAN WON’T POUR BIG BUCKS INTO PIMLICO: In this 15-minute interview with Derek Hunter of WBAL-AM, Gov. Larry Hogan said that while Pimlico Race Course is important to Baltimore and Maryland, the state isn’t going to hand over nine figures to renovate it without a fight on his watch. “We’re going to be watching every penny of taxpayers’ money to make sure it’s spent wisely. We’re certainly not going to write a check for $300 million.” Hogan also discussed his push for sweeping legislative ethics reform, jobs programs and “working with the Mikes.”

PROTECTING STUDENT INFO: The cost of identity protection services is a small price for Maryland to pay to protect the future of students whose personal information is stolen, Del. David E. Vogt told a House committee on Tuesday. Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post writes that Vogt’s Student Identity Protection Act requires the State Board of Education to provide identity protection and credit monitoring services for at least five years to any current or former student whose personal information has been compromised by a breach of a public school’s or local school system’s computer systems.

‘STINGRAY’ REGULATION DRAWS FIRE: Legislation that would require police to spell out for a judge where they plan to use cell-site-simulation technology to track a criminal suspect’s movements drew fire Tuesday from a chief county prosecutor, who called the provision too restrictive on law enforcement, as well as unnecessary due to existing court oversight of its use. “The criminals in this state do not recognize boundaries,” Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott D. Shellenberger told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. Steve Lash reports the story for the Daily Record.

CHICKEN POO CONCERNS SHORE RESIDENTS: With no help from their state representatives, some residents of the lower Eastern Shore have sought help from a Montgomery County Democrat to address health problems blamed on an explosion of large poultry operations. Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, is sponsoring a bill that would require Maryland Department of the Environment to determine if the agency, and large scale poultry operations, are in compliance with Clean Air Act standards — specifically pollutants from concentrated animal feed operations, Daniel Menefee writes in MarylandReporter.com.

HOUSE EXTENDS ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM: Over the objections of Republicans, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill Tuesday that would extend the state’s energy efficiency program. The vote was 92-46. The Senate has not yet voted on the measure, the Sun’s Pamela Wood reports.

SENATE REJECTS DISSECTION OPT-OUT: Supporters of a traditional ­biology curriculum scored a victory in Annapolis on Monday night when the state Senate rejected a proposal to allow students to opt out of dissecting animals in class if they have religious or ethical objections, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.

MARYLAND NO. 8: Maryland is ranked No. 8 overall on a series of issues including health care, education, crime and corrections, opportunity, infrastructure, economy and government, with its lowest ranking — coming in at No. 22 in crime and corrections, according to U.S. News & World Report. Massachusetts comes in at No. 1 and never breaks out of the Top 20 in any category.

MARYLAND EMBRACING TECHNOLOGY? Colin Tooze of Uber Technologies, writes in an op-ed in MarylandReporter.com, that America is on the verge of a transportation revolution powered by self-driving technology. As this industry takes shape, Maryland’s elected leaders are facing a serious question this legislative session: Will the Old Line State embrace the future or get left behind?

MILLER OK AFTER HEALTH CONCERN: Senate President Mike Miller, 74, was taken to an Annapolis-area hospital Tuesday afternoon after he complained to the State House nurse about feeling lightheaded, Erin Cox reports in the Sun.

JEALOUS CONSIDERS RUN FOR GOVERNOR: Former NAACP chief Benjamin Jealous is “actively weighing” a campaign to be Maryland’s governor, Erin Cox writes in the Sun. Jealous said Tuesday that he is in the early stages of contemplating a Democratic challenge to popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, and that he has been recruited since the summer to enter the 2018 election.

NEW HOME FOR REBEL STATUE: More than 18 months after Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett ordered it off of government property, officials have found a home for the bronze statue of a Confederate soldier: the docking site of a Potomac River ferry that is named for a Confederate general and has operated since before the Civil War, Bill Turque of the Post reports.