State Roundup, May 15, 2017

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SESSIONS’ ORDER COUNTERS MARYLAND: Joseph Tanfani and Michael Dresser report that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ order that  federal prosecutors return to tough policies against drug abusers runs counter to the principles that prompted Maryland to enact the Justice Reinvestment Act in 2016. The law, passed with bipartisan majorities in both houses of the General Assembly and signed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, seeks to reduce incarceration and redirect the financial savings into treatment for offenders. It also backs off mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

POST BACKS HOGAN REDISTRICTING VETO: The Washington Post editorial page supported last week’s veto by Gov. Hogan. It said: “The redistricting bill that emerged this year in Annapolis — in equal parts cynical and ludicrous — makes clear that the Democrats who dominate both houses of the General Assembly there remain loath to part with the incumbent-protection racket that enables them to choose their voters and perpetuate their grip on power with scant regard for good governance.”

DIVISION OVER WIND DECISION: Josh Hicks of the Post writes about Maryland utility regulators approving subsidies for two offshore wind projects off the coast of Ocean City that would be largest of their kind in the country. The move was a welcome surprise for renewable-energy advocates, but renewed concerns on the Eastern Shore about property values and the obstruction of seaside views if the towering structures are ever completed.

WHAT NEXT FOR HEALTH INSURANCE? High rate increase requests have left health insurance regulators in Maryland with this challenge: At a time when insurers are pulling out of the individual markets in state after state, how high can you allow them to raise their prices without inflicting steep hikes on consumers? Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer will have the final say on Maryland’s rates for 2018. He will have the responsibility of finding that line that will keep insurers in the individual market while still protecting consumers, Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports.

PURPLE LINE: Maryland’s attorney general asked an appellate court Friday to require a federal judge to decide a lawsuit blocking construction of the state’s planned Purple Line, saying court delays have “brought this project to the brink of cancellation.” Katherine Shaver of the Post continues to follow the story.

REBOOTING STATE CENTER: Two years ago, after the smoke cleared from the arsonists’ fires in West Baltimore, John Kyle saw a special opportunity for the governor of Maryland to help the city — particularly, a part of the city long neglected — recover from the trauma of the Freddie Gray disturbances. All Hogan had to do was support State Center, a 10-year, $1.5 billion redevelopment of the old and cruddy state office complex on the west side of central Baltimore, Dan Rodricks of the Sun writes in his Roughly Speaking column.

BAY PROGRAM WORRIES: Just what are the consequences should President Donald Trump’s proposal to zero out federal funding of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program? Joel McCord of WYPR-FM talks with bay advocates to find out.

PIMLICO’s PEOPLE’s PARTY: Kentucky may have the biggest horse race of the year but Maryland has the most entertaining “people’s party” on the infield at Pimlico Race Course on Preakness Day, which takes place Saturday. But, asks Barry Rascovar in a column for MarylandReporter,  will it continue? For decades skeptics have proclaimed “the end is near.” Pimlico’s facilities are antiquated, unable to comfortably accommodate 137,000 patrons, as it did last year.

FUNDRAISERS GALORE: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters hits the road in Baltimore County to visit three major fund-raisers for county executive hopefuls in one night: Del. John Olszewski Jr.; county Councilmember Vicki Almond; and the Republican Spring Bash, where Del. Pat McDonough and Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer attended. McDonough is indeed running, and Redmer is considering it.

GRASSO TO RUN AGAINST SEN. DeGRANGE: Term limits prevent Anne Arundel County Council Chairman John Grasso from trying for another four years on the council. But the outspoken Republican from Glen Burnie says he’s not ready to retire from politics, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital reports. Grasso recently announced he plans to run for Senate in District 32, mounting a likely challenge to incumbent state Sen. Ed DeGrange, a Democrat who has represented the northwest county district for nearly 20 years.

HOGAN HEADS TO TRUMP RESORT: While Gov. Larry Hogan did not endorse Donald J. Trump for president, he will be a guest at one of the president’s golf resorts in Florida next week.Hogan, along with nine other GOP governors, is scheduled to join an event Tuesday at the Trump National Doral Miami, Michael Dresser reports for the Sun. The Governor’s Office confirmed Friday that Hogan plans to attend the Republican Governors Association’s Corporate Policy Summit along with such governors as Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida.

RASKIN OFFERS 25th AMENDMENT ACT: In the nearly four months since Donald Trump took office, many Democrats have questioned his ability to run the country. But only Rep. Jamie B. Raskin has authored legislation to address those concerns, Jenna Portnoy of the Post reports. The Maryland Democrat’s bill, called the Oversight Commission on Presidential Capacity Act, would invoke a never-before-used part of the 25th Amendment to determine whether the president is capable of doing his job.

ENHANCED IMPACT STATEMENTS: Maryland’s top court will consider whether a videotaped, set-to-music victim-impact statement designed to stir a sentencing judge’s emotions violated a criminal defendant’s federal constitutional rights to due process and to be free from arbitrary and capricious punishment, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.

WHAT’s IN A NAME? Libby Solomon of the Columbia Flier recounts an important case in Maryland law that involved a 22-year-old newlywed and brought in current Supreme Court justice. In May 10, 1972, a Howard County judge ruled that Mary Stuart, who had kept her last name after marriage, would have to register to vote under her husband’s name. When the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the decision later that year and allowed Stuart to keep her name, the Columbia resident found herself at the forefront of a landmark case, which set a precedent allowing Maryland women to choose whether or not to take their husband’s name after marriage.

DELAUTER TO RUN FOR COUNTY EXEC: Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter finally made his bid for county executive official at a campaign event in Emmitsburg on Friday night, Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post reports.  Delauter (R), who has served on the county council and the former board of county commissioners for six years, has teased at a run since mid-term on the council, where he has frequently clashed with County Executive Jan Gardner (D).

PG COUNCILMAN PLEADS GUILTY: Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin pleaded guilty Friday to driving under the influence in a crash that wrecked a government vehicle and injured two people, Lyn Bui of the Post reports.  Circuit Court Judge Vincent Femia sentenced him to probation before judgment and ordered him to pay a $645 fine. The sentence means the conviction can be expunged from Franklin’s record if he completes a year of probation without any violations.

LANDLORDS SAY SUN UNFAIR: Representatives of Baltimore’s multi-family housing owners say a recent Sun series on evictions did not give their point of view. The Sun published their response on Saturday, and it contains a link to the original series, which covered how state housing courts handle eviction. The landlords says some tenants abuse the process.

  • Ned Brockman

    Red Maryland posted persuasive piece regarding Preakness not included in your coverage: http://redmaryland.com/2017/05/let-preakness-go/

  • ksteve

    The Post’s editorial stance supporting Hogan’s veto of Democratic-backed bill that responded to the governor’s partisan bill on redistricting makes me happier than ever that I haven’t subscribed to that paper and its slant for years. It’s Hogan who deserves the criticism for pushing a bill that would have the Democrats commit what would amount to unilateral political suicide. Does Hogan and the Post really believe Maryland Democrats were about to stop gerrymandering here while so many Republican-controlled states elsewhere go on doing their merry gerrymandering thing everywhere they can? No way! There is nothing more partisan or political than redistricting. It matters how many members of your party are elected to the Congress. The bill that was vetoed would have allowed an independent panel to do the redistricting here if five neighboring states where Republicans handle the process do it the same way. Surely, that’s the fairer of the two bills. It’s Hogan who’s being “cynical” and “ludicrous.” I’d favor going even further by requiring that ALL states do redistricting in the same way at the same time, but that would require national action.