State Roundup, March 27, 2017

Print More

MORE BUCKS FOR BALTIMORE SCHOOLS: Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday he’s proposing an additional $23.7 million for Baltimore schools, extra funding he said he’ll include in a supplemental budget Monday. The money would be contingent upon the General Assembly passing “accountability legislation” for city schools that would include an audit of the school system’s finances. Erin Cox and Pamela Wood of the Sun report that city and state officials have been negotiating for weeks about extra aid for city schools, which are facing a $130 million shortfall for next year.

  • The extra funding for Baltimore City Schools caps several weeks of negotiations which included meetings between the governor, Mayor Catherine Pugh and Baltimore City Schools CEO Sonja Santelises, Robert Lang of WBAL-AM reports.
  • Earlier, Michael Dresser of the Sun had reported that a deal is taking shape in Annapolis that would give the Baltimore school system money to help close its $130 million funding shortfall and also create a tax break that Gov. Larry Hogan proposed for manufacturers. Del. Maggie McIntosh, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, predicted Friday that the House of Delegates would pass legislation to create a tax break for manufacturing companies that move to Baltimore and other financially distressed areas of the state after the bill gets through the state Senate.

HOGAN BLASTS ED REFORM BILL: Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday blasted an education reform bill that’s moving through the General Assembly, calling it “misguided and horrible.” Hogan said the bill — known as the “Protect Our Schools Act” — would thwart “an exciting opportunity to move beyond outdated practices” for reforming schools, Pamela Wood of the Sun writes. The bill would set standards for how to identify low-performing schools, using a combination of test scores and other factors, such as absenteeism and the number of highly qualified teachers. A video of Hogan tops the article.

BATTLING OPIOIDS: With two weeks left before the end of Maryland’s 2017 legislative session, lawmakers are rushing to pass a package of bills aimed at combating the heroin and opioid epidemic that a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll shows is touching about one-third of state residents, Josh Hicks of the Post reports.

UPDATE TO SEX ASSAULT LAWS: A half-dozen bills moving through the General Assembly would update Maryland’s sexual assault laws and, advocates say, make it easier for victims to secure justice, reports Ian Duncan in the Sun. One measure would sweep aside a centuries-old vestige of English law that requires prosecutors to prove that rape victims resisted their attackers. Another would broaden the definition of rape to include a wider of range of attacks.

FRACKING BAN MOVES FORWARD: Maryland is on track to become the third state in the nation to ban hydraulic fracturing, after the Senate gave preliminary approval Friday to a House bill that would prohibit the controversial gas-extraction method, Josh Hicks and Ovetta Wiggins report for the Post. The legislation is expected to face a final vote in the Senate today before advancing to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who endorsed it this month in a move that surprised advocates and disappointed pro-fracking Republican lawmakers from Western Maryland.

BAIL BOND INDUSTRY MUSCLE: The economic clout of the bail bond industry hangs over a debate in the General Assembly that could decide the future of cash bail in Maryland. Reports Michael Dresser for the Sun. As the legislature’s 2017 session heads toward a close at midnight on April 10, bail reform remains one of the most hotly contested topics. And bail bond companies are among Maryland’s biggest political campaign contributors

NEW RULES POSSIBLE FOR CRABBING: As crabbing season begins, officials in Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration said this month they are willing to consider changes to the harvest limits if crab population growth remains strong, just as they are exploring opening some prosperous oyster sanctuaries to harvest. For years, watermen from the lower Eastern Shore have begged state officials to ease crab catch limits. They are hoping changes may be coming from an administration that recently fired a veteran crab scientist and pledged a “customer service”-oriented approach to fishery management.

FOR REDISTRICTING REFORM: The editorial board for the Frederick News Post opines that the bipartisan solution to gerrymandering backed by Gov. Hogan would help to depoliticize the process and craft district maps that better reflect the will of the electorate, not the machinations of party bosses.

PINBALL LAW REFORM: A Maryland law prohibits minors from playing pinball in public places in certain parts of the state. Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that the law caught the attention of state Del. Eric Luedtke, who represents part of Montgomery County. Every year Luedtke picks an outdated law to repeal, and this year, the pinball restriction is his target.

TAX TO BOOST METRO FUNDS: Emily Guskin and Martine Powers of the Post report that Marylanders narrowly support a regionwide sales tax to boost Metro funding, giving it the most support among several proposals to bolster the struggling transit agency, a new Washington Post-University of Maryland poll finds.

ETHICS PERCEPTION, LAWS: Fenit Nirappil and Arelis R. Hernández report in the Post that nearly a third of Maryland residents see corruption as a major problem in state government, according to a Washington ­Post-University of Maryland poll, a perception that coincides with a push by lawmakers and Gov. Larry Hogan to strengthen ethics laws. The House of Delegates gave final approval Friday to compromise legislation crafted by Hogan (R) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) that would increase financial disclosure requirements and expand the definition of what constitutes a conflict of interest.

PREPARING FOR ACA REPEAL: The Maryland House of Delegates on Friday adopted its version and a Senate version of the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Act to plan for the potential loss of $4 billion in annual Medicare and Medicaid dollars that flow to the state annually, should the Republican-controlled Congress succeed in repealing the Affordable Care Act.

LUCK ON HOGAN’s SIDE: Opinionator Barry Rascovar, in a column for MarylandReporter.com, writes that Gov. Larry Hogan can thank his lucky stars the bitter and intractable Republican disputes in Washington sabotaged plans to do away with the nation’s current health care plan, the Affordable Care Act. Rascovar also addresses fracking in the state, the road kill bill and Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s decision to veto the city minimum wage proposal.

HAIRE TODAY & TOMORROW: Dirk Haire, the new chair of the Maryland Republican Party, is one of the most successful federal construction law and procurement attorneys in town. It’s a gig he fell into, writes Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters. Haire’s ascension in the state party last fall was perhaps a little less serendipitous, but in some ways no less surprising. A behind-the-scenes player in state Republicans circles for years, Haire is making his first foray into the statewide spotlight, taking over the party as the critical 2018 election cycle gets under way.

NEW FBI HQ: The years-long effort to build a new headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation faces fresh uncertainty as supporters in Congress scramble to secure more than a billion dollars of funding by next month to keep the massive project on track, reports John Fritze in the Sun.

PUGH VETOES WAGE BILL: Mayor Catherine Pugh vetoed legislation Friday that would have raised the minimum wage in Baltimore City to $15 by 2022, leaving the measure’s future in question, Yvonne Wenger of the Sun writes. The council — which next meets on April 3 — would need 12 of its 15 members to vote to overturn the veto. On Friday, the 12-member coalition that originally backed the higher wage began to disband. A video of Pugh announcing her veto tops the article.

SCHOOL CRIME PROTEST: About 100 demonstrators rallied Sunday in front of Montgomery County government headquarters, urging county leaders to do more to prevent crimes in public schools after a 14-year-old girl was reportedly raped inside the bathroom at Rockville High School this month, Antonio Olivo writes in the Post. Many of the demonstrators were angry that the two suspects in that crime were undocumented immigrants who enrolled in the school after arriving in the United States illegally from Central America.

TOO MUCH TRANSPARENCY? It was a signature achievement for Montgomery County Council member Hans Riemer: passage of the 2012 Open Government bill, which requires all county departments to make public records more available and accessible through a central Web portal.  Last week, however, after more than 200,000 email addresses of people receiving newsletters and other information from the county government were made public on the county’s website, Riemer and some of his colleagues decided they had opened the portals of government a bit too wide, reports Bill Turque in the Post.