State Roundup, March 15, 2017

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BAIL REFORM: Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh has a stark warning for the General Assembly: A bill backed by the bail bond industry could undo a landmark rule issued by the state’s top court curbing the role of money in determining which accused suspects are granted pretrial release. Frosh is taking aim at legislation that has won the support of bail bondsmen who are fighting to maintain their industry’s place in the criminal justice system, reports the Sun’s Michael Dresser.

SICK LEAVE, TRANSIT SCORING: The Maryland Senate will consider two major bills today, one that would provide employees with five days of paid sick leave and another that offers a compromise on Gov. Larry’s Hogan’s call to repeal a 2016 transportation-scoring law, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

MEDICAID FOR ADULT DENTAL: Del. Mike McKay wants to restore Medicaid coverage for adult dental care for Maryland residents who fall below 133% of the federal poverty level, reports Tamela Baker in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. But as with many proposals that come before the Maryland General Assembly, the issue could come down to money. Although there are a few exceptions — such as pregnant women and former foster children — Medicaid does not currently cover comprehensive dental care for adults.

ACTOR PUSHES SCHOOL FUNDING: Facing what it says are potentially devastating budget cuts in the coming year, the Baltimore School for the Arts is calling on famous alumni to advocate on its behalf, writes Ian Duncan in the Sun. Josh Charles, an actor who attended the school, wrote a series of tweets to his 126,000 followers spotlighting the funding problems faced by the school and public schools across Baltimore. “Watching people play politics with the education and lives of children is infuriating, and reduced funding would be devastating for the city,” he told the Baltimore Sun via Twitter.

MORE FACEBOOK SHENANIGANS: Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s staff altered the headline on a news story posted to his Facebook page in a way that falsely implied the governor’s top legislative priority in Annapolis was gaining support. In fact, Democrats in the General Assembly had gutted his proposal. The doctored headline on a Baltimore Sun story appeared on Hogan’s Facebook page for several hours Tuesday, but was changed after the Sun asked the governor’s office why it misrepresented the newspaper’s work. An identically altered headline appeared on the Maryland Republican Party’s Facebook page, but the post was deleted late Tuesday. Party officials did not respond to a request for comment, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

TOUGH TIMES FOR HOGAN NOMINEES: Ovetta Wiggins of the Post writes that it has not been a good couple of weeks for people nominated by Gov. Larry Hogan to lead state agencies and serve on state boards. On Monday night, Hogan withdrew Wendi Peters’ name as his choice to head the Department of Planning, after a Senate committee rejected her as unqualified. That same committee approved Day Gardner to serve on the state Board of Physicians, but only after grilling her about whether her advocacy against doctors who provide abortions would affect her work on the board. And last week, Brandon Cooper, picked to join the state Board of Education, withdrew his nomination after he took a hammering from state senators over his legal and financial history.

  • Abortion rights groups began scrambling on Tuesday to defeat Hogan’s pick of Day Gardner to serve on the 22-member Board of Physicians. Gardner, whose nomination cleared the Senate panel on a 12-3 vote Monday despite sharp questioning from some Democrats, is founder and president of the National Black Pro-Life Union. Diana Phillips, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland, called Gardner’s nomination “unacceptable” in a statement on Tuesday, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters.

FREDERICK PROJECTS IN LIMBO: Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post reports that as the Maryland House of Delegates continues work on next year’s state budget, funding for two key Frederick County projects has been thrown into question: the LYNX pilot program set to begin at Frederick High School next fall and $16 million in bond funding for a proposed hotel and conference center in downtown Frederick.

SAVING BAY IN TIME OF TRUMP: In an op-ed for the Sun, Tom Pelton of the Environmental Integrity Project opines that cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay is critical not only to the geographical and cultural heart of Maryland but also to the idea of environmental restoration around the world. If the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth won’t restore a waterway that shines on the doorstep of its own capital, what chance do other waters have?

LONG SUMMER BREAK: After a winter of little snow — and an order by the governor — Maryland school children are likely to have an exceptionally long summer break. Tim Prudente of the Sun writes that by this time last year, students had been snowed-out of school at least a week, and the makeup school days pushed deep into June.

AA COUNCILMAN TO RUN FOR DELEGATE: Anne Arundel County Councilman Jerry Walker is setting his sights on a new elected role: a seat in the Maryland General Assembly, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital reports. The Republican from Crofton said, “I’ve kept up with what’s happening at the state level, and especially how what happens at the state level impacts our local jurisdictions like the county governments.”

WHY TRUMP? LOOK AT MARYLAND: In an article for MarylandReporter.com, UMBC professor emeritus William Rothstein writes that the reasons for the election of Donald Trump as president can be better understood by an analysis of voting patterns in Maryland counties. Hillary Clinton received 60% of the total Maryland vote and President Trump 36%. However, 17 of the 24 Maryland counties voted for Trump and seven voted for Clinton.

MARYLAND CHALLENGE TO TRAVEL BAN: Today, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland will hear arguments on whether to halt President Trump’s revised executive order that suspends the U.S. refu­gee program, temporarily bars the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and slashes refu­gee admissions to the United States this fiscal year from 110,000 to 50,000, Maria Sacchetti and Matt Zapotosky report in the Post .

SARBANES EYES GORSUCH HEARING: U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a leading Democratic voice on campaign finance, is hoping that issue plays front and center when Judge Neil Gorsuch appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee for his confirmation hearing next week. Sarbanes crafted a letter, signed by 109 of his fellow Democrats, requesting that senators pin Gorsuch down on the issue of money in politics during the Monday hearing, reports John Fritze in the Sun.

COLUMBIA AT 50: THE ENVIRONMENT: In the Part 9  of his 12 Part series on Columbia at 50, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com writes “to respect the land” was one of the four basic goals for Columbia often repeated by developer James Rouse more than 50 years ago as he pitched his proposal “to build a complete city” on 14,000 acres of farmland, woods and stream valleys. But thanks to two highways that were about to open Howard County to lots of traffic, “respecting the land” would not mean leaving the fields and forests as they were.