State Roundup, March 9, 2017

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Legislators rallied to support Planned Parenthood. Susan Dobbs O’Brien Facebook photo

PLANNED PARENTHOOD AID: Leading Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly want to increase funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state if Congress cuts federal funds for the reproductive health-care services, writes Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

  • Leading Democratic lawmakers are backing legislation that would require the governor to budget about $2.7 million to pay for non-abortion services offered by Planned Parenthood if federal officials cut funding. Dozens of women lawmakers turned out for the announcement at an Annapolis news conference — most dressed in red to mark International Women’s Day. They were joined by male colleagues, many in red shirts and ties, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.
  • “Planned Parenthood serves an incredibly important public service in this state,” said Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat and the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “To eliminate that would be to consign more people, especially poor women in our state, to a life with poorer health care and limited choices.” Rachel Baye reports the story for WYPR-FM.

WOMEN IN THE STATE HOUSE: There was a time when the women in red couldn’t get a seat at the table, and now on Wednesday, there — quite literally— weren’t enough, writes Meredith Newman for the Annapolis Capital. “Look at us today,” said Del. Sheila Hixson to the crowded room during the Women’s Caucus of Maryland meeting. “We’ve obviously done something right.” Like many around the country, the bi-partisan group acknowledged the A Day Without a Woman demonstration and International Women’s Day, which both occurred Wednesday. They wore red pantsuits, red dresses, red flats and red scarves. They talked about the time when there weren’t women’s bathrooms in the State House and how they would sometimes sneak a glass of wine in each others’ offices on bad days.

SENATE IFFY ON FRACKING BAN: The House of Delegates is poised to approve a bill to ban fracking for natural gas, but the measure won’t move forward in the state Senate unless supporters can get a veto-proof majority, a key senator said Wednesday. Pamela Wood and Erin Cox report that Sen. Joan Carter Conway, chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, said she supports a fracking ban but it doesn’t make sense to pass one if Gov. Larry Hogan is going to veto it.

HOGAN ADMITS DROPPED BALL: Gov. Larry Hogan said that the court records of  state school board nominee Brandon Cooper, who withdrew his name from consideration, should have been picked up through a vetting process in his office, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record. “I think somebody dropped the ball on that one,” Hogan said Wednesday. “I know that there was a vetting process. I’m not sure what happened.”

ANTIQUE FIREARMS: The mother of a Germantown woman killed by a replica handgun pleaded with a Senate committee on Wednesday to keep convicted felons from owning antique firearms in the same way they’re prohibited from owning other guns, writes Danielle E. Gaines in the Frederick News Post. The woman’s 24-year-old daughter was killed in a Target parking lot in Germantown in 2015 by her ex-boyfriend, who came to their final meeting armed with a replica of an 1851 pistol he bought online though his criminal record would have blocked him from buying a traditional firearm.

BUSINESS TAX INCENTIVES: Washington County is one of 10 jurisdictions that could benefit from a bill that would offer tax incentives to new or expanding businesses in distressed counties, writes Tamela Baker in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Proposed by Sen. George Edwards, the bill would establish the County Economic Development Tax Incentives Program. Qualifying new or expanding businesses with 10 or more new jobs would not have to pay state property taxes, income taxes or sales taxes on equipment for 10 years.

ONLINE SALES TAX: Maryland retailers are again pushing for the state to collect sales taxes from online merchants not based in Maryland, helping them and potentially raising hundreds of millions for the state, writes Dan Menefee in MarylandReporter.com. Brick and mortar stores are struggling to compete with online sellers in other states, retail business interests testified in Annapolis on Wednesday in support of the Main Street Fairness Act of 2017.

LOCAL CARE FOR DISABLED CHILDREN: A state official is vowing to begin bringing severely developmentally disabled youths in out-of-state group homes back to Maryland in six to eight weeks, reports Bryan Sears in the Daily Record. Gregory James, deputy secretary of operations for the Department of Human Resources, told the Board of Public Works Wednesday that his agency is working on plans that would lead to an in-state facility after the panel rejected an initial report and raised questions about a contract with one such facility in Massachusetts.

MIDGE ERADICATION: Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday announced plans to spend $330,000 on treating “hotspots” of midges in Baltimore County’s Back River this year, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun. Hogan said the state is funding the treatments to help marinas, restaurants and local residents who find the small insects to be a nuisance.

FOOD TRUCK BILL: A bill that would streamline the health inspection process for food trucks looking to operate in multiple counties in Maryland is advancing in the state legislature, writes Sarah Meehan of the Sun. First introduced in 2016 and tabled, the bill has been revived with new requirements and a fee structure for health department licensing for food trucks that would apply across county lines.

STATE AID FOR CITY SCHOOL BUDGET: Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh said she met separately with Gov. Larry Hogan and Senate President Mike Miller this week to negotiate state aid to help close the city school system’s $130 million budget deficit, writes Yvonne Wenger in the Sun. Pugh, a Democrat, said Wednesday that she left the meetings with the understanding that the Republican governor and Democratic leader of the state Senate were willing to help.

FORMER DELEGATE CHARGED: A federal grand jury has indicted former state Del. Michael Vaughn on charges that he took bribes to support a Prince George’s County liquor license bill that was being considered by the General Assembly, authorities said. Ian Duncan of the Sun writes that the indictment, announced Wednesday, also alleges that Vaughn misused his campaign finance account.

  • Federal authorities allege Vaughn received more than $10,000 in cash from liquor store owners in exchange for favorable legislation that would expand liquor sales in Prince George’s County or edge out the competitors of those who paid him writes Lynh Bui in the Post.

Sen. Richard Madaleno

MADALENO CONSIDERS RUN FOR GOV.: Sen. Richard S. Madaleno, who may be Gov. Larry Hogan’s most outspoken critic in the General Assembly, said Wednesday he is considering a run for the Democratic nomination for governor, Michael Dresser is reporting for the Sun. Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat, told a reporter who asked about his plans that he could be included on the list of Democrats considering a run against Hogan in 2018.

HOGAN CAUTIOUS ON GOP PLAN: The AP is reporting that the new health care plan proposed by U.S. House Republicans still has a long way to go, and it’s too soon to say how the legislation will affect the state’s residents, Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday. Sen. Ben Cardin, meanwhile, is calling the bill a “misguided” attempt to shift costs to middle-class Americans who rely on the Affordable Care Act.

CUMMINGS CHIDES, PRAISES TRUMP: U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings said he told President Donald Trump during a meeting Wednesday that his language describing African-American communities has been “hurtful” and “insulting,” and suggested the administration look into allegations of voter suppression as well as election fraud, writes John Fritze for the Sun. The exchange came during what appears to have been an otherwise congenial Oval Office meeting in which Cummings presented the Republican president and HHS Secretary Tom Price with a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

  • Cummings said after the hour-long meeting he wasn’t surprised by Trump’s enthusiasm on the drug pricing issue–which was part of a campaign pledge for the president–but was pleasantly surprised by the president’s own proposals. “The president was clearly very much aware of what was going on,” WBAL-AM reports. “He understood the issue very well,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “He was able to provide us with his take on it and he felt that it was important that we address this issue head on.”

CUMMINGS SEEKS CLARITY ON KUSHNER CONFLICTS: U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings and two U.S. senators Wednesday called for the White House to clarify which financial assets Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Trump, has divested to avoid potential conflicts of interest with his role in the administration, Jean Marbella and Doug Donovan report in the Sun. The story is topped by a short video explainer by Donovan.

CARDIN WON’T BACK ISRAEL ENVOY PICK: Sen. Ben Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Wednesday he will not support President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as U.S. ambassador to Israel, saying this his past statements would “compromise his effectiveness,” reports John Fritze for the Sun.

FIRST AMENDMENT CASE: Montgomery County announced Wednesday it has reached a settlement with photographer Mannie Garcia in a long-running First Amendment lawsuit in which Garcia claimed his civil rights were violated when county police officers detained him while he was taking photos of what he believed to be excessive force applied during an arrest, reports Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.