State Roundup, March 29, 2017

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$43.5 BILLION BUDGET: The General Assembly gave final approval Tuesday to a $43.5 billion state budget that closes a $400 million revenue gap while holding the line on taxes and sending new funding to Baltimore and 10 other school systems, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.  The lawmakers’ action came with time to spare — two weeks remain before the legislature will adjourn its annual 90-day session. The legislature’s only constitutionally mandated annual duty is to pass a balanced budget.

HELP FOR CITY SCHOOLS: The final budget includes nearly $30 million to help Baltimore City Public Schools fill its own budget hole. Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that most of that money replaces funds Baltimore City Public Schools lost as a result of declining enrollment.  Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, who chairs that body’s Budget and Taxation Committee, said additional legislation helps cover the city schools’ transportation costs by allowing students to use Maryland Transit Administration vehicles for free.

SCHOOL EVALUATION LEGISLATION: Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly on Tuesday passed legislation establishing parameters for school evaluations that the state school board strongly opposes and Gov. Larry Hogan has promised to veto. The House went along with Senate amendments, and sent the bill to Hogan, who called it “an utter disgrace.” MarylandReporter.com and Capital News Service contributed to the story.

PROTEST AGAINST BAIL BILL: About 100 people rallied on Tuesday, with the support of Maryland legislators, against a Senate bill they argued would walk back a ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals regarding bail reform, Carrie Snurr of Capital News Service writes. The bill, which passed in the Senate and is under consideration in the House of Delegates, establishes new requirements and standards for the release of defendants before their trial. The bill would increase the use of bail, according to a state analysis.

PLANNED PARENTHOOD: The General Assembly gave final passage Tuesday to a bill designed to protect Planned Parenthood if Congress votes to cut off federal funding, writes Ian Duncan for the Sun. The state Senate passed the bill 3215 Tuesday. It will quickly be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan, who will be forced to decide whether to veto it, while leaving lawmakers sufficient time to override the veto before the General Assembly session ends April 10.

COMPLAINTS ON CRAFT BREWING BILL: A new bill passed through the Maryland House has craft brewers on their toes. House Bill 1283, adopted by the  Economic Matters Committee March 22 with unanimous House approval, will increase the cap on how much Maryland class 5 breweries will be able to produce annually for on-site consumption — from 500 barrels to 2,000 barrels. However, the restrictions on the bill, from mandatory closing hours at 9 p.m. to halting collaborations between breweries, are said to outweigh the positives, Gina Fanelli writes in the Salisbury Daily Times.

DRUG DEALER PENALTIES: After undergoing a major overhaul in a Senate committee, a bill that started out as a way to punish individuals who distribute an opioid that is linked to a user’s death now instead would create an enhanced penalty for distribution of a mixture of controlled dangerous substances that contains fentanyl, reports Heather Cobun for the Daily Record.

UNTRUSTWORTHY ‘TRUST ACT:’ In an op-ed for the Annapolis Capital, Del. Herb McMillan opines that the “Trust Act” (House Bill 1362)  was sold as a way to protect hardworking undocumented immigrants and their children, who only want a better life, from local law enforcement agencies more interested in deporting them than protecting us.  The bill goes far beyond protecting undocumented immigrants who haven’t committed criminal acts from deportation. It makes Maryland a criminal sanctuary state for convicted felon illegal immigrants, McMillan says.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM: Lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to an extension of the state’s EmPOWER energy efficiency program. A coalition of businesses sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan urging him to sign the bill, which also has been championed by environmental advocates. Under the program, utility customers are charged a fee on their monthly bills. The money is used for efficient appliances, home energy checkups, rebates and bill credits for reducing electricity use, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.

  • In an op-ed for MarylandReporter, business owner Michael Giangrandi writes that when energy efficiency comes to mind, most of us think about our home or apartment and how upgrading our thermostat, for example, could save us hundreds of dollars. But that’s only part of the story here in Maryland. Energy efficiency is also shaped by statewide policies. These policies not only determine how much we pay for electricity but also have an enormous impact on how many jobs our state has, how competitive our economy is, and whether employers move here or leave.

McCORMICK LOAN: The Baltimore County Council is poised to support a $2 million loan from the state to McCormick & Co. Inc. as part of a deal made in 2015 to keep the spice and seasoning maker’s corporate offices in the county, Alison Knezevich reports for the Sun.  The council is expected to approve a resolution endorsing the state loan at its April 3 meeting.

KAGAN AIDE ARRESTED: An aide to a state senator was arrested driving the wrong way on Route 50 early Thursday morning following a social outing with other legislative staff and nearly a dozen lawmakers. Katherine Donnelly, 23 of Crofton, was arrested after a police chase on Route 50 that exceeded 70 mph, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. She is a legislative aide to Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery.

ARUNDEL 3rd IN OD DEATHS: Anne Arundel County saw the third most deaths caused by drug overdoses in Maryland from 2013 to 2015, outpacing more populated counties by a significant margin, according to a study released this  morning, reports Phil Davis in the Annapolis Capital. Only Baltimore City and Baltimore County saw more deaths because of drugs during the time, the study found. Law enforcement and public officials have largely attributed the increase in overdoses to an increase of heroin and opiate use in the region.

CARDIN, VAN HOLLEN OPPOSE GORSUCH: Maryland’s two Democratic senators said Tuesday they will oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve on the Supreme Court, but they took a different approach on how far they would go to try to stop his confirmation, reports John Fritze in the Sun. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen said in separate statements that Judge Neil Gorsuch falls outside of the judicial mainstream and questioned his ability to separate his political and legal views.

ELRICH IN MO CO EXEC RACE: Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich has officially launched a widely expected campaign for county executive, promising to bring his brand of liberal community activism to the office, writes Bill Turque for the Post.