State Roundup, March 22, 2017

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LATE BREAKING — HOGAN DOWN IN NEW POST POLL: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s stratospheric approval rating has slipped for the first time since the Republican took office, a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds, while voter skepticism of President Trump and his party threatens to complicate the governor’s bid for reelection next year. Hogan holds a 65 percent job approval rating, down from a high of 71 percent last September, but still above the highest mark in Post polls for each of the state’s three previous governors. Yet Hogan’s support for reelection lags far behind his approval rating, with 41 percent of registered voters saying they would support him for a second term and 37 percent preferring a Democrat.

REDISTRICTING REFORM: Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that Democrats in the state Senate are offering a plan that would create an independent commission to redraw Maryland’s congressional districts if five other states in the region agree to do the same. The bill was voted out of committee just as Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed redistricting reform bill died.

  • The editorial board for the Annapolis Capital is not surprised by the Senate action, writing that “The Democratic leadership of the General Assembly may realize that public sentiment has turned against gerrymandering … But they still find the tool politically indispensable. Instead, Democrats have proposed an alternative: setting up a redistricting commission for Maryland just as soon as substantially similar moves have taken place in Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York — or until steamed crabs and Old Bay rain from the heavens.”

BAIL REFORM WEAKENED: The Maryland Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that would allow bail for criminal defendants even if they cannot afford to pay, potentially undoing a recent decision by the state’s highest court and setting the stage for a battle with the more liberal House of Delegates and members of the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, reports Ovetta Wiggins for the Post.

OPIOID PRESCRIPTIONS: Maryland’s doctors are on course to turn back Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to put strict limits on prescribing addictive opioid pain pills after securing major concessions Tuesday from a key House of Delegates panel.The bill would have limited doctors and other medics to prescribing a seven-day supply of the pills when first treating a patient for pain, with a few exceptions. But a work group of delegates adopted an amended version of the bill that instructs medical professionals to follow best practices and give patients as few pills as they judge necessary, Ian Duncan of the Sun reports.

CROSSOVER DAY SURVIVORS: Monday was a busy day in Annapolis, where state lawmakers hurried to meet a legislative deadline. Any bills not passed by either the state Senate or the House of Delegates by the end of the day had to go through the Rules Committee before they could continue on. In this 4.5 minute audio segment, WYPR-FM’s Rachel Baye joins Nathan Sterner to talk about what bills made the cut and what will face additional hurdles.

NO RELIEF FROM TOLL PENALTIES: A Senate bill to address “predatory” toll penalties, technical problems with transponders and poor customer service at E-ZPass will die in the Senate Finance Committee this session, its chairman said Tuesday, along with a watered down House version that delegates supported unanimously on Monday, reports Daniel Menefee for MarylandReporter.com.

ARUNDEL BILLS: Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital outlines the status of the bills proposed by the Anne Arundel County delegation, writing that they have passed comfortably out of the House or Senate with time to spare. One is a House measure that would create a fully elected school board. A Senate version proposed a hybrid school board, with some members elected and some appointed.

STATUS OF FREDERICK BILLS: Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post summarizes bills sponsored by members of the Frederick County delegation, including one from Sen. Ron Young that passed in the Senate. It prohibits future sales of electric switches, relays or gas-valve switches containing mercury.

KILL SANCTUARY BILL: Gov. Larry Hogan said Tuesday that local law enforcement should be doing more, not less, to help enforce federal immigration law, the Sun’s Erin Cox and Pamela Wood report. The Republican governor criticized Maryland jurisdictions that have rebuffed requests to aid immigration officials. Hogan vowed to do “everything we can” to kill what he termed a “sanctuary bill” that would limit how jails and police could assist federal authorities.

HOGAN, TRUMP ON ROCKVILLE RAPE: Gov. Larry Hogan stated Tuesday he is “outraged” by the report of a brutal rape of a Rockville High School freshman and called on Montgomery County to fully cooperate with federal authorities in the investigation of the crime, Joe Zimmerman of Bethesda Beat reports.

  • White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressed the rape Tuesday during a press briefing after being prompted by Fox 5 D.C. reporter Ronica Cleary, who asked if President Donald Trump would consider denying public education to students based on their immigration status, writes Andrew Metcalf for Bethesda Beat.
  • Spicer called the rape of the 14-year-old girl in a boys bathroom on Thursday “shocking, disturbing, horrific and whatever other words that someone can think of.” He also characterized the victim as an immigrant who had come to this country legally. But Montgomery County officials said she had no immigrant status of any kind, Bill Turque, Donna St. George and Ovetta Wiggins reports for the Post
  • Spicer wasn’t the only government official to conflate some issues when answering questions about the two undocumented immigrants charged with raping a fellow student at Rockville High School. Gov. Larry Hogan, answering questions from a television reporter after touring a police station in Annapolis, made a series of questionable comments about the case, which involved a 14-year-old victim, reports Bill Turque and Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

GANGSTER TIME IN MARYLAND: Open borders. Marijuana. Relaxed rules on bail, lifer parole, and criminal sentencing. Anti-police legislators. It’s great to be a gangster in Maryland, opines former attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division Richard Douglas in a column for MarylandReporter.com. Aspirations to make Maryland a sanctuary for undocumented migrants are getting rave reviews from the “maras” and the transnational human trafficking cartels which smuggle men, women, and children into our state.

BAY POLLUTION: While a number of Republican U.S. representatives are asking the Trump administration to keep the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program, one — Rep. Scott Perry of Pennyslvania — is saying that bay pollution is an act of God, according to Ed Mazza of the Huffington Post. Talking to a group of Pennsylvania residents, he spoke of the Chesapeake Bay strategy, which he said was “forced on” the state and “left some violators out.”