State Roundup, March 20, 2017

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HOGAN OPPOSES FRACKING: In a surprise move, Gov. Larry Hogan announced Friday he supports banning fracking, which could make Maryland one of the first states to ban the controversial method of drilling for natural gas, Michael Dresser and Pamela Wood report in the Sun. The Republican governor said passing legislation to prohibit fracking was “an important initiative to safeguard our environment. “I urge members of the legislature on both sides of the aisle and in both houses to come together and finally put this issue to rest,” Hogan said during a State House news conference. The article is topped by a three-minute video of Hogan and Sen. Bobby Zirkin addressing the matter.

HEALTH INSURANCE: The Maryland Senate on Friday adopted the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Act to monitor congressional plans to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that could cost the state billions to maintain current coverage, reports Daniel Menefee for MarylandReporter.com. The intent of the bill is to study ways to prevent 400,000 Marylanders from losing health insurance and plan for a potential loss of $4 billion in federal Medicaid and Medicaid dollars that flow to the state each year.

WATER BILL REPRIEVE: Marylanders who fall behind on their water bills would get a year’s reprieve from the threat of having their homes sold under legislation passed by the House of Delegates Saturday. The 125-12 vote sends the measure to the state Senate, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports.

CROSSOVER DAY: Maryland lawmakers will have a busy day voting on legislation. That’s because today marks the General Assembly’s crossover day. It’s a day on the legislature’s calendar when the House and Senate aim to pass bills they plan to send to the other chamber for passage this year. It comes with three weeks left in the 90-day session, which is scheduled to adjourn April 10, according to an AP report.

HOUSE OKs BREWERY BILL: The House of Delegates unanimously approved legislation Saturday that would increase the amount of beer Maryland breweries can sell on their premises — but not as much as the industry wanted, write Pamela Wood and Michael Dresser in the Sun. The vote sends the measure to the state Senate. The legislation would pave the way for the opening of a Guinness brewery and tourist destination at a former distillery in Relay.

DHMH NOMINEE HEARING: Dennis R. Schrader, the state’s acting health secretary, will get his long-delayed confirmation hearing today, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun. Schrader has led the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene since December. The Democrats who run the state Senate on Friday invited Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s nominee to appear before the Executive Nominations Committee.

SAVING RACING: Thanks to revenue from Maryland’s successful slots casinos, the state’s thoroughbred racing industry has seen a re-birth that hints at prosperity for the Free State’s billion-dollar horse industry in future decades, writes columnist Barry Rascovar in MarylandReporter.com.

VIEWS ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION: Hongling Zhou came to Maryland for a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University and then waited 14 years to become a U.S. citizen. “It was not easy, but we did it with dignity,” she told a Maryland state senate committee last month. Zhou, a mother of two Howard County schoolchildren and statistician for a federal agency, said that’s the way immigrants should come to America, reports Bill Turque in the Post.

END DELAYS TO RX POT: It has now been four years since Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation to establish a commission to set up and oversee the medical marijuana industry in the state. It has been, without question, the slowest rollout of a medical cannabis program by any of the 26 states that have legalized medical cannabis.Today, however, Maryland patients are still waiting for these important medicines, and the General Assembly is considering new legislation that promises additional delay — something that Maryland patients can no longer afford and that can be avoided, Suzanne Quintero of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association opines in the Sun.

‘YES MEANS YES:’ The House of Delegates on Saturday approved legislation that would require public schools to teach a “yes means yes” standard for sexual consent, moving the state one step closer to becoming only the second to adopt such a mandate, writes Josh Hicks in the Post.

IMPACT OF $15 MINIMUM WAGE: A possible increase in the minimum wage proposed by lawmakers in Annapolis has some Frederick business owners preparing for changes in how they could do business. Jennifer Dougherty, who owns Magoo’s Pub & Eatery in downtown Frederick and is running for mayor, said an increase in minimum wage to $15 an hour would force her to raise wages for the rest of her employees. But not all businesses are concerned about how they’ll manage under a higher minimum wage, Allen Etzler and Danielle Gaines report for the Frederick News Post.

SESSION SLUMP OR TRUMP DRAG: After about a month into the Trump presidency and efforts by Democrats to link Gov. Larry Hogan and Donald Trump together, the Goucher Poll found that Hogan remained popular with a low-60’s approval rating. This was a downtick from the low-70’s high he registered in September 2016 and the same as his approval ratings in February 2016. Was this a session slump or Trump drag? asks Mileah Kromer of the Goucher Poll in a column for Maryland Matters.

PANEL KILLS STATE’S ATTORNEY BILL: A Senate committee has killed a bill that would have given police powers to investigators in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, a move the city’s top prosecutor sought to improve investigations of police misconduct, report Justin Fenton and Ian Duncan in the Sun. The legislation was one of a slate of proposals State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby put forward last fall that were aimed at helping her office better investigate and prosecute officers accused of misconduct.

ARUNDEL DEM WOMEN’s CLUB REVIVED: The Democratic Women’s Club of Anne Arundel County had been moribund for a decade. The 2016 election and its results triggered its rapid revival, reports Wendi Winters for the Annapolis Capital. Sunday afternoon, nearly 150 women and nine men crowded into the meeting hall at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Annapolis to learn how to use the emotional energy generated by the election to achieve positive results. The article is topped by a short video.

GOP PUSHBACK ON BAY PROGRAM CUTS: Pushback against President Trump’s elimination of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program came not only from predictable Trump foes. Four House Republicans — Virginia Reps. Rob Wittman, Barbara Comstock and Scott W. Taylor and Maryland Rep. Andy Harris — last week reiterated their opposition to cleanup cuts. Even before reports surfaced that the administration planned to eliminate the estuary cleanup program, they had joined 12 Democrats in signing a Feb. 23 letter urging Trump to continue funding bay restoration efforts, Jenna Portnoy reports for the Post.

TANEY BUST MOVED: The bust of former U.S. Chief Justice Roger B. Taney will no longer greet visitors outside Frederick’s City Hall. Jessica Anderson of the Sun reports that the bronze likeness of the Maryland native who wrote the watershed Dred Scott decision affirming slavery 160 years ago, was gently loosened Saturday morning by a crew of three men and loaded by a small crane into the back of an old Chevy pickup truck.