State Roundup, March 23, 2017

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HOGAN MEETS WITH TRUMP CABINET: Gov. Larry Hogan was scheduled to meet with three of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet secretaries on Wednesday to advocate for the state’s health care, transportation and housing priorities, Josh Hicks writes in the Post.  The meetings come a day before the House of Representatives is expected to vote on Republican health-care legislation that would make major changes to coverage requirements, tax credits and Medicaid.

HOGAN REDISTRICTING PLAN KILLED: Gov. Larry Hogan, who has been demanding an up-or-down floor vote on his proposed congressional redistricting plan, got one in the Maryland Senate Wednesday. It went down. The 30-16 vote came on an amendment to a Democratic redistricting bill, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. The amendment would have erased the legislation advanced by Democrats and substituted language from the governor’s rejected bill. Hogan proposed creating an independent redistricting commission to draw lines for the state’s eight congressional districts.

FRACKING BAN ADVANCES: A bill to ban hydraulic fracturing in Maryland cleared a major hurdle Wednesday, days after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) surprised advocates by endorsing the ban, Josh Hicks of the Post reports. The state Senate’s environmental committee voted 8-3 in favor of the House bill, with one of the panel’s four Republicans joining all seven Democrats. The measure, which has 23 sponsors, now advances to the full Senate, where it would need at least 24 votes to pass.

COMPENSATION EFFORT ENDS: An effort by Del. Wendel Beitzel to seek state compensation for landowners, prevented from capitalizing on mineral rights, has ended, writes Greg Larry in the Cumberland Times-News. As a bill banning fracking continues to move forward in the Maryland legislature, Beitzel sought to seek compensation for those he believes have been faced with a loss of property rights. Beitzel, and the rest of the four-person District 1 legislative delegation, have been staunchly pro-fracking.  Beitzel is one of Garrett County’s largest landowners. He said he and fellow legislators introduced two bills this week supporting land rights: one in the House and one in the Senate.

BAIL REFORM WATERED DOWN: The Senate on Wednesday passed legislation that would block a pending Maryland Judiciary bail-reform rule by lifting its requirement that judicial officers give preference to non-financial conditions for a defendant’s pre-trial release, Steve Lash of the Daily Record writes.

SENATE NIXES PETERS’ SALARY: The state Senate has voted to prohibit salary payments for the acting state Department of Planning secretary who has continued in her position even after Gov. Larry Hogan withdrew her nomination. The Senate voted 33-14, along strict party lines, to restrict Wendi Peters from being paid in her capacity as interim secretary of the department beginning July 1. Hogan withdrew her name nearly two weeks ago less than an hour after the Senate Executive Nominations Committee voted to recommend she not be confirmed, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.

  • Hogan (R) withdrew his nomination of Wendi Peters as planning secretary this month after the Senate Executive Nominations Committee urged that the full chamber not confirm her, writes Danielle E. Gaines in the News Post. Because Peters, a Mount Airy resident, continues to work as secretary despite an unfavorable Executive Nominations Committee report and the governor’s withdrawal, the Democratically dominated Senate approved language in the state budget to eliminate her salary, effective July 1.The planning secretary’s salary is set at $137,749 in the 2017 state budget.

TYKE SUSPENSIONS: Shirl Struck says her son, Noah, was getting suspended so often for acting out at Baltimore’s Patterson Park Public Charter School that she had to quit her job. Noah is 6. He has autism. Michael Dresser of the Sun reports that Noah and other young students would be much less likely to face such discipline under legislation that’s headed for passage in the Maryland General Assembly. The Senate voted 32-15 Wednesday to severely restrict the use of suspensions and expulsions for public school students in pre-K, kindergarten and the first and second grades. The House of Delegates has approved similar legislation over strong Republican opposition.

STATE CENTER RECONSIDERATION SOUGHT: The Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution Monday night urging Gov. Larry Hogan to reconsider the $1.5 billion redevelopment of State Center. The council’s action comes three months after Hogan led a vote putting a halt to the beleaguered midtown project. It also comes on the heels of an aggressive radio campaign against Hogan by the developer, State Center LLC, writes Holden Wilen for the Baltimore Business Journal.

BORDER-STUDENT TUITION: Legislation sponsored by Washington County’s state senators would allow community colleges to set lower out-of-state tuition rates for students from border states, Tamela Baker reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Sponsored by Sens. George Edwards and Andrew Serafini, the bill would let trustees set a tuition rate for those students that is more than the in-county rate, but less than the currently required out-of-state rate.

FOUL ON FISH: Environmental reporter Tom Horton, in an op-ed for MarylandReporter.com, writes about the influence of developers in Baltimore County politics and the toll that it has taken on wildlife, such  in the Dipping Pond Run, which he calls “a rare and trouty tributary of Baltimore’s central drainage way, the Jones Falls. Exquisitely sensitive to water quality, trout are not just a fish, but an idea, a synecdoche something whose very presence proclaims that a larger whole remains intact, that in some small way we may be learning peaceful coexistence with the rest of  nature. Of course, this is Baltimore County, and I should have known better.”

IMMIGRATION & RAPE CASE: Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat writes that Montgomery County elected officials say Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent comments about the case of a rape at Rockville High School, including those accusing the county of failing to cooperate with federal officials, amount to politicizing the alleged crime.  County Council President Roger Berliner took to his Facebook page Tuesday evening, writing that he is appalled the Republican governor “would irresponsibly add fuel to the fire” by implying the county is refusing to cooperate in any way with the investigation of the March 16 incident.

HELPING SCHOOL BUDGET: Baltimore City Council President Jack  Young said Tuesday he will look to cut $10 million from the police budget and redirect the money to city schools. Young, who first made that pledge to cheering education advocates outside City Hall, is among a growing number of city leaders who have suggested spending less on policing and more on education and other services — even as Baltimore grapples with unrelenting violence, Luke Broadwater and Tim Prudente report in the Sun.