State Roundup, May 8, 2017

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DAM EMERGENCY PLANS: More than 40 dams across Maryland whose failure could cause deaths or significant destruction lack updated emergency plans, according to state officials. Now a new law is requiring owners of those dams — counties, municipalities and private businesses — to prepare, reports the Sun’s Scott Dance.

MD GOP EYES VETO-PROOF DEMS: Maryland’s Republican Party is trying to break the veto-proof majority Democrats have held in the state legislature for nearly a century, hoping to use the popularity and fundraising prowess of Gov. Larry Hogan to oust a handful of Senate incumbents and increase the governor’s ability to block legislation he opposes, reports Josh Hicks in the Post. Party leaders have dubbed the effort “Drive for Five” and are recruiting candidates, raising money and counting on Hogan, who plans to seek a second term, to campaign in down-ballot races as well.

WHAT’s HOGAN TO DO? Proponents and opponents of the recently passed paid sick leave bill in the General Assembly are attempting to read the tea leaves regarding a potential veto, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.  They are parsing Gov. Larry Hogan’s statements on the legislation in an attempt to determine the first-term governor’s intentions. Business groups who generally oppose the bill, and a coalition of supporters that include unions and some smaller businesses each believe politics is on their side.

HOGAN AND TRUMPCARE: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s worst nightmare is starting to come true, Barry Rascovar writes in MarylandReporter.com. Trumpcare has passed the U.S. House of Representatives. If the Senate finds a way to give President Trump what he wants, it could spell a heap of trouble for Hogan in 2018’s general election.

SEX ASSAULT BILLS THAT SUCCEEDED: The Post’s Ovetta Wiggins takes another looks at the passage and failure of several sexual assault bills in the Maryland General Assembly, writing that one bill’s defeat made headlines and triggered an outcry from advocates. But that criticism in some ways has overshadowed what advocates describe as victories on other bills that address the way rape is prosecuted and the options available to survivors of sexual assault.

BAY BRIDGE WORK: When drivers look up as they’re headed to and from the Eastern Shore this summer, they’ll see two new structures atop the towers of the westbound span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.The 16-by-16-foot temporary construction platforms, one for each tower, are part of a $29.6 million effort to rehabilitate the 44-year-old westbound span of the bridge. That work is a piece of a broader $273 million investment the Maryland Transportation Authority said it is putting into the Bay Bridge in the next six years, reports Rachael Pacella for the Annapolis Capital.

ILLEGAL, BUT A SHOT AT COLLEGE: Arelis Hernandez profiles a young Prince George’s County man who entered the United States illegally after fleeing El Salvador. Once in the U.S. he developed a talent as an artist and is now on his way to art school. Unlike thousands of other undocumented immigrants of college age, this young man has a chance of being able to seek federal student loans to cover a college loan thanks to a little-known but increasingly in-demand program that will give him legal residency — and is easier for young people to access in Maryland than in most of the rest of the country.

FROSH’s DETAINMENT ADVISORY: Josh Hicks of the Post writes that Attorney General Brian E. Frosh last week advised state and local law-enforcement agencies not to hold undocumented immigrants past their release dates on behalf of federal authorities unless they have a judicial warrant or probable cause.

RX POT OVERCHARGE: Maryland’s medical marijuana regulating agency skirted state contracting rules and may have overcharged taxpayers when it hired an outside group to review applications to open cannabis businesses, a legislative audit found, Fenit Nirappil of the Post reports. It’s the latest black eye for a state agency that has been criticized by state lawmakers, businesses and medical marijuana advocates for struggling to get the program off the ground.

NO REVIEW FOR FIRED ASST ATTY GEN: A former Maryland assistant attorney general who was fired in 2012 is not entitled to judicial review of the decision, a Maryland appellate court has held, Anamika Roy reports for the  Daily Record. Alfreda Cooper claimed her dismissal was due to racial discrimination, according to a complaint filed with the state Commission on Civil Rights. But the commission said in 2015 that its investigation did not find proof of Cooper’s allegation, and it subsequently denied Cooper’s request for reconsideration.

WHAT’s NEXT FOR HOWARD SCHOOLS? The departure of Renee Foose from her job as superintendent of the Howard County Public School System may have been abrupt, but it was certainly not unexpected. The relationship between the embattled administrator and the county’s school board had become so toxic  that a divorce of some kind was overdue. Yet lingering questions remain, particularly over how much collateral damage may have been done to one of Maryland’s finest school systems, the editorial board for the Sun ponders.

MATTHEWS TO HEAD DEM PARTY: Maryland Democrats chose Montgomery County businesswoman Kathleen Matthews, who had the support of party leaders, on Saturday to lead their party through the 2018 election, reports Michael Dresser for the Sun.

KAMENETZ HONORARY MEMBER OF TWO CLUBS: Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz continued receiving “honorary social memberships” at a pair of country clubs this past year, according to his latest financial disclosure filing. Kamenetz, a Democrat who is considering a run for governor next year, lists social memberships at Woodholme Country Club in Pikesville and Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills on his annual financial disclosure for 2016, reports Pamela Wood in the Sun.

MADALENO IN GUBERNATORIAL RACE: State Sen. Richard Madaleno told a crowd of activists rallying around dedicated Metro funding Sunday that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Larry Hogan in 2018, Faiz Siddiqui and Josh Hicks report for the Post.

INTEREST IN DELANEY’s SEAT: Democratic Rep. John Delaney’s flirtation with next year’s governor’s race has inspired an early shadow primary in the state’s westernmost congressional district, where a half dozen prominent Democrats are expressing an interest in his seat, reports John Fritze in the Sun.

HARRIS’s SECURE SEAT: In his Roughly Speaking column for the Sun, Dan Rodricks takes a look at all the people in Maryland who have been covered by Obamacare who were not covered by insurance before and concludes that even though U.S. Rep. Andy Harris voted to repeal the law, his Republican seat in Maryland is secure.

HIGH RISK POOLS: In 2002, state leaders created what became one of the nation’s most successful “high-risk pools,” covering more than 20,000 people who otherwise might have been bankrupted by medical bills. Now, reports Meredith Cohn and John Fritze for the Sun, congressional Republicans are looking to high-risk pools created in Maryland and other states to help guide their efforts to drive down health insurance premiums. The idea is a central component of the legislation approved by the House on Thursday to overhaul the 2010 law known as Obamacare.

LEGGETT ON DROPPING RAPE CHARGE: While Friday’s dropping of charges against a 17-year-old boy accused of raping a fellow student at Rockville High School reignited controversy over the incident, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett expressed his confidence in the investigation and displeasure with the political discourse that surrounded the case, Bethany Rodgers and Andrew Metcalf report for Bethesda Beat.

SINCLAIR NEARS TRIBUNE DEAL: Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. is nearing a deal to acquire Tribune Media Co. after prevailing in an auction for one of the largest U.S. television station operators, multiple news outlets reported Sunday, writes Carrie Wells in the Sun.