State Roundup, April 24, 2017

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HOGAN ORDERS BOYCOTT: A panel charged with making recommendations on nearly $114 million in state aid for local school construction projects was unable to vote Thursday after Gov. Larry Hogan ordered his two representatives to stay away in protest, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports. The absence of Planning Secretary-designee Wendi Peters and Department of General Services Secretary Ellington Churchill from the Interagency Committee on School Construction meeting reflects a squabble between the governor and the legislature over the role of the Board of Public Works in approving $285 million in state aid for school construction. The protest has also raised the specter of a legal brouhaha between the state’s executive and legislative branches.

STATE IN GOOD SHAPE FOR DISASTER: If Maryland were to be hit by a public health emergency — such as a natural disaster or an outbreak of a serious disease — officials here are better prepared than in many other states, according to a new survey. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that on a 10-point scale, Maryland rates 7.5 for its efforts to prepare for and respond to such emergencies, according to the 2017 National Health Security Preparedness Index.

BAY RESTORATION UNDER TRUMP: WYPR’s Joel McCord and Karen Hosler discuss the changed political climate governing  Chesapeake Bay restoration under the Trump administration.

GOOD SAMARITAN RULE EXTENDED: Jon Bleiweis of the Catonsville Times reports that police, firefighters and medics who provide aid to animals during emergencies would get new protection from liability under legislation that cleared the General Assembly this month. First responders in Maryland have not been covered by Good Samaritan laws when treating animals — whether they were trying to stop bleeding, rinse soot from a pet’s eyes or use an oxygen mask on an animal — because it was considered practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

HOWARD FIRE GETS ENFORCEMENT RIGHT: Howard County fire investigators will begin training with the county’s police academy following the passage of House Bill 1343, which gives the fire officials law enforcement privileges when responding to a fire-related incident, Andrew Michaels writes in the Howard County Times.

OFF-SHORE WIND & TOURISM: The editorial board of the sun urges tourists and residents of Ocean City to write to the town to let them know how they feel the 189 proposed off-shore wind turbines would impact their visits, if at all. Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan and all seven members of the City Council have already written to the  Maryland Public Service Commission protesting the “visual impact” of the proposals.

SHORTER SPRING BREAKS: The week-long spring break that Maryland schoolchildren just enjoyed will be much shorter next year in some counties, Carrie Wells of the Sun reports. Several school systems in the state have shortened their 2018 spring breaks to comply with Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order mandating that the school year start after Labor Day and end by June 15.

REMEMBERING HOGAN SR.: Political pundit Barry Rascovar, in a column for MarylandReporter, remembers the late U.S. Rep. Larry Hogan Sr., writing that he stood alone and defied his party, voting not once but three times to impeach Republican President Richard Nixon. It was the most principled stand taken by a Maryland politician in our lifetimes. He did what was right, not what was politically correct. Hogan died last week at 88, eclipsed in the public eye by his son and namesake, the current Maryland governor – an office the father was denied due to his impeachment stance.

PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCING IN HO CO: A proposal to create a public financing system for candidates who swear off large donations in Howard County drew strong backing at a public hearing Wednesday night, Fatimah Waseem reports for the Howard County Times. The system, which received an early nod from voters by a narrow margin in the November election, hopes to draw more small individual donors into campaigns and limit the financial clout of special interests.

HO CO ED BUDGET: Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman’s $1.1 billion general fund operating budget for fiscal 2018 includes $572 million in county funding for the school system — $54 million less than the school board’s record-high request, Fatimah Waseem reports for the Howard County Times. Despite the mismatch between the school system’s ambitious request and the county’s proposal, Kittleman’s tempered budget is $10 million above what local lawmakers approved last year for the school system after a contentious back-and-forth between school and county officials.

ROADWORK IN WA CO: A long list of road projects, from paving to painting, is on the to-do list this year for the Maryland State Highway Administration in Washington County, Mike Lewis of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes. Included in the work is overseeing Wal-Mart-backed improvements at Sharpsburg Pike, or Md. 65, and Interstate 70 near the location of the retailer’s new store that is under construction.

FREDERICK CITY CONSIDERS CHARTER CHANGE: With a city charter change, a potential six-figure salary and the will of the majority of the Board of Aldermen, Frederick could feasibly hire a city manager. One alderman is on a mission to get that done, Mallory Panushka reports for the Frederick News Post.

SCALING MT. RAINIER: Arelis Hernandez of the Post writes about political tensions that have popped up in tiny Mount Rainier, population 8,000. Residents receive frequent postcards with unsolicited offers to buy their turn-of-the century Victorians and 1920s bungalows, just four miles from downtown D.C. Anxiety over the influx of more affluent residents is fueling an unusually sour political season — tinged by a nasty debate over the decision to allow noncitizens to vote in municipal elections such as the mayoral and council contests that will be decided May 1.

COLLEGE GOP ANSWERS COMPLAINTS: Members of the Hood College Republicans spent Sunday night fielding questions from fellow students who were frustrated — and in many cases, angered — by a recent display by the group in the Whitaker Campus Center, Ken Masters of the Frederick News-Post writes. The club sparked controversy on Tuesday by decorating a board in the campus center with posters and pictures from the modern conservative movement, many of which included views that students viewed as hostile to minorities.

MD CONGRESSMEN HEAR FROM CONSTITUENTS: Last Thursday night, four Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation heard from their constituents. Sen. Chris Van Hollen as well as U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, Dutch Ruppersberger  and Elijah Cummings took questions at a town hall meeting at the Baltimore War Memorial. WYPR’s Rachel Baye was there, and spoke with Nathan Sterner about what happened.