State Roundup, March 24, 2017

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SENATE OKs REVISED BUDGET: The state Senate approved its revision of the state’s $43.5 billion budget on Thursday, though some senators expressed concern that the plan doesn’t resolve long-term spending imbalances. While the budget must be balanced each year, the state’s finances project a structural deficit in future years, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports.

DEMS BLAST HOGAN ON BAY: Democrats in Annapolis Thursday railed against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan for not doing enough to protect the Chesapeake Bay under the Trump administration’s  proposed cuts to the Bay cleanup plan and under a new EPA administrator historically hostile to environmental regulations, writes Daniel Menefee for MarylandReporter.com. “The Bay can’t speak for itself obviously and needs a spokesperson,” said Senate President Mike Miller, leading a press conference of House and Senate Democratic leaders.

HOGAN VOWS VETO ON SCHOOL REFORM LIMIT: Gov. Larry Hogan is pledging to veto a bill moving quickly through the General Assembly that would prevent Maryland from enacting controversial reforms for struggling schools. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that the bill would prevent the state from creating a new district to govern the lowest-performing schools. It would also prohibit the state from converting them into charter schools, giving the students vouchers to transfer to private schools or bringing in private managers for the schools. Hogan favors such reforms.

SCHOOL SPENDING: Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed additional spending for police, colleges and economic development but so far is putting no additional money in his budget to help the Baltimore school system with its $130 million budget gap, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

PAID SICK LEAVE: Bruce DePuyt reports in Maryland Matters that backers of a paid sick leave measure that’s been working its way through the General Assembly are trying to get a bill onto Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk as quickly as possible, hoping to force him to sign or veto the bill in time for lawmakers to override him before this year’s legislative session adjourns.

WAGE GAP BILL: A bill seeking to close the wage gap between men and women in Maryland must overcome an unfavorable report from a Senate committee if it has any chance of becoming law, Anamika Roy of the Daily Record writes. Senate Bill 404 would require employers with 15 or more employees to include salary information in job announcements and prohibit certain employers from seeking salary history information from prospective employers during the interview process.

SENATE OKs CONTINGENT REDISTRICTING REFORM: The Senate approved a bill Thursday that would require the state to create a nonpartisan commission for redistricting — but only if five other states agree to do the same, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun. Senators were divided between those who see the bill as a hollow gesture and others who say it’s a first step toward fixing Maryland’s confusing, gerrymandered political districts

MORE MEDICAL POT LICENSES: General Assembly leaders have coalesced around a plan to issue an additional five medical marijuana growing licenses and increase the likelihood that several of those lucrative deals go to minority-owned companies, writes Erin Cox in the Sun.The consensus emerging in Annapolis about how to revamp the state’s fledgling medical cannabis industry also includes creating a “compassionate use” fund to help poor patients and veterans pay for the drug.

ACTOR ASTIN AGAINST FRACKING: The actor who played the patriarch of the Addams Family says the gas drilling process known as fracking is no joke. John Astin, a Baltimore native and comedian who played Gomez Addams, is the voice of a radio ad that supporters of a ban were broadcasting Thursday morning, according to an AP report.

IMMIGRANT STATUS: Every Washington County delegate voted against it, writes Tamela Baker in the Hagerstown Herald Mail, but a bill to curb Maryland authorities from detaining immigrants to ask about their status is awaiting a hearing before a Senate panel after clearing the House of Delegates this week. Gov. Larry Hogan has called the bill “outrageously irresponsible” and said he will veto it if it reaches his desk.

FREDERICK FUNDING: Downtown Frederick was the center of attention Thursday as Maryland’s senators debated a $16 million appropriation in the state’s capital budget that would benefit a proposed hotel and conference center, write Danielle E. Gaines and Mallory Panuska in the News Post.

HOWARD BILLS CROSS OVER: Bills changing the way Howard County’s school board is elected, creating tax credits for properties damaged by flooding and bulking up noise regulations around Merriweather Post Pavilion have all cleared one chamber of the General Assembly with less than three weeks to go before the end of session, Amanda Yeager reports in the Howard County Times.

LAUREL MARC STOP TO REMAIN: The Maryland Department of Transportation announced Thursday that the Laurel MARC train stops will not be eliminated while scheduling adjustments are made to a planned Laurel Park station in Howard County, Andrew Michaels writes for the Howard County Times.

AA MEDICAL GETS HEART-SURGERY PROGRAM: Anne Arundel Medical Center has been awarded an open-heart surgery program, the Maryland Health Care Commission decided Thursday in Baltimore, reports Meredith Newman for the Sun. After hours of testimony, the panel’s ruling — in denying Baltimore Washington Medical Center’s application — makes AAMC the first of its kind in the county with such a cardiac care unit.

HOGAN STEPS BACK FROM MO CO CRITICISM: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) moved Thursday to smooth the sharp edges from his criticism of Montgomery County officials earlier this week after two undocumented immigrants were charged with raping a 14-year-old at Rockville High School, reports Bill Turque in the Post.

DEVOS PROTESTED: As the black SUVs carrying Gov. Larry Hogan, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and their support staffs arrived at Carderock Springs Elementary School in Bethesda, more than 150 protesters followed them, chanting “Public schools are a public good!” Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat reports that the protesters had gathered in advance of the Republican officials’ visit in heavily Democratic Montgomery County, where President Donald Trump received less than 20 percent of the vote.

O’MALLEY MUST TESTIFY: Gov. Martin O’Malley must provide testimony in a challenge by Republicans to a congressional district they allege was unconstitutionally redrawn to favor Democrats, the Daily Record’s Steve Lash reports. U.S. District Judge James Bredar last week rejected arguments by O’Malley that he cannot be compelled to testify regarding his discussions leading to the redrawing of the 6th Congressional District in 2011. O’Malley had argued that he has “executive privilege” from being hauled into a court proceeding to explain his discussions.

LAWYER CONSIDERS RUN FOR GOVERNOR: Baltimore lawyer James L. Shea, who until last month was chairman of one the state’s most prominent firms, said Wednesday he is seriously considering a run for governor and formed an exploratory committee to evaluate a bid, reports Erin Cox in the Sun.

HARRIS NOT SWAYED ON OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT: Rep. Andy Harris, a Baltimore County Republican and member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Thursday that last-minute changes to the Republican plan to replace Obamacare are not yet enough to win his support. Harris, who ran his first campaign for Congress on a vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act, joined about three dozen Republicans who announced opposition to the legislation, John Fritze of the Sun reports.

BLACK CAUCUS MEETS TRUMP: Members of the Congressional Black Caucus — including  Rep. Anthony Brown — said they were encouraged by a long-awaited meeting with President Donald Trump on Wednesday and suggested there may be room for agreement on issues like infrastructure, John Fritze writes the story for the Sun.

SUNSHINE SUIT AGAINST CUMBERLAND: WCBC-AM reports that the Institute for Justice has filed suit alleging the City of Cumberland and developers violated sunshine laws. This lawsuit challenges the refusal of the city and the CEDC to provide public records in response to IJ’s public information requests about the redevelopment project.