State Roundup, March 14, 2017

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Planning Secreatary Wendi Peters

HOGAN PLANNING NOMINEE REJECTED: A Maryland Senate committee rejected Gov. Larry Hogan’s nominee to head the Department of Planning, arguing that she lacked the planning and managerial experience to lead the state agency, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports. The Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted 11-6 against Wendi Peter’s nomination on Monday night.

DNR CHIEF MUM ON FIRING: Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources Secretary Mark J. Belton on Monday offered lawmakers no explanation for why he fired the longtime manager of the state’s crab program days after watermen complained to Gov. Larry Hogan about the employee. Belton repeatedly declined to justify the dismissal during a joint hearing with the House and Senate environmental committees, as Democratic lawmakers questioned whether the termination of Brenda Davis, a 28-year state employee, was politically motivated, Josh Hicks reports for the Post.

TRANSPORTATION SCORING COMPROMISE: A Maryland Senate committee has advanced a compromise measure that would delay implementation of a transportation project scoring law that Gov. Larry Hogan consistently pans as the “Road Kill Bill,” Ian Duncan reports in the Sun. The law, passed over Hogan’s veto last year, requires officials to study local transportation projects, rank them and offer an explanation if any project receives state funding over one that is ranked higher.

SAVING ANIMALS: Calvin, a 3-year-old English springer spaniel firehouse dog, works hard at his explosives-detection job out of Station 3 in Hagerstown. But few know that it is currently illegal in Maryland for rescue workers to save dogs like him using even basic first aid and oxygen. A new bill would make it legal for rescue workers to treat animals, writes Valerie Bonk in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

BALTIMORE COUNTY BREWERY BILL: Baltimore County’s state delegates on Monday endorsed their own version of legislation to allow Diageo to open a Guinness brewery in Relay, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The delegates voted for a bill that allows all production breweries in the county to gradually increase sales in their on-site taprooms to 4,000 barrels per year — a key request from Diageo. New breweries must close at 10 p.m. nightly, while existing breweries must close at 10 on weeknights and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

ON GOVERNMENT: Marc Steiner of WEAA-FM sits down with Annapolis reporter Bryan Sears of the Daily Record for a 20-minute chat on what is happening in state government. They start off by talking about the effect that the Trump administration will have on Maryland.

MARYLAND GAINS JOBS: Maryland gained 6,700 jobs in January while the unemployment rate held steady, writes Holden Wilen in the Baltimore Business Journal. The private sector added 7,500 jobs while the state saw a loss of 800 government jobs, according to preliminary data released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate remained 4.2%, lower than U.S. rate of 4.8% in January.

CARDIN PRESSES TUNISIA: Sen. Ben Cardin pressed the Tunisian government on Monday to resolve a years-old, international kidnapping case involving a Maryland family, arguing that returning the child would “demonstrate Tunisia’s commitment to the rule of law.” Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, raised the case in a meeting on Capitol Hill with Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui, reports John Fritze in the Sun.

DONNA EDWARDS, TODAY: Amber Ferguson of the Huffington Post reports on life after Congress for former U.S. Rep. Donna Edwards, who ran for the Democratic nomination for Senate against Chris Van Hollen and lost. Van Hollen was backed by most of the Democratic elite of Maryland. She has a compelling backstory, the progressive credentials and many loyal supporters, but couldn’t muster the establishment help needed. As one supporter said, “The good old boy network has no problem with elevating an obedient African-American woman that does what she is told to do. That is not Congresswoman Donna Edwards.”

FLOUTING IMMIGRATION LAWS: In a column for MarylandReporter.com, Michael Collins writes that many communities in Maryland are openly flouting federal laws regarding immigration by establishing themselves as “sanctuary cities,” and, by doing so; they are creating a troublesome precedent. These “sanctuary cities” often prohibit their police from notifying federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they have detained an illegal immigrant. Given the political climate in many jurisdictions in Maryland, it’s hardly surprising that our state has its share of sanctuary communities.

UM AIDE FOR UNDOCUMENTED STUDENTS: Amid student coalition demands and strengthened immigration policies under President Trump’s administration, the University of Maryland is creating an undocumented student coordinator position, Rosie Kean reports for the Diamondback. “We are assigning a UMD staff person to serve as a coordinator to address the immediate needs of the undocumented student population,” university spokeswoman Katie Lawson wrote in a statement to The Diamondback on Monday. “We will continue to assess the need for staff support moving forward.”

TRANSPORTATION SPENDING: As President Donald Trump prepares to release a budget this week that will propose heavy limits on spending, Maryland’s congressional delegation wants the administration to maintain a $4.5 billion transportation program that may have a significant impact on the state, reports John Fritze in the Sun.

BROWN HEARS FROM CONSTITUENTS: Congressman Anthony Brown’s town hall at Anne Arundel Community College on Saturday drew about 150 people, most of whom showed up to ask Brown to fight the policies of Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, reports Cindy Huang for the Annapolis Capital. “We elected a president and we can only hope his Cabinet can save us from him,” he said to a nodding and cheering crowd. The article is topped by a video of some of the meeting.

RACE FOR MO CO EXEC: The annual Committee for Montgomery legislative breakfast is usually a low-key affair, in part because it starts at 7 o’clock in the morning. But this past December, the breakfast, which draws some 800 political, business and civic leaders for a preview of the coming year’s legislative agenda in Annapolis and Rockville, felt more like a speed dating event than a policy briefing. Upwards of 10 potential candidates for county executive worked the crowd at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. Louis Peck of Bethesda Magazine writes about the ever-growing crowded field to take over from Ike Leggett.