State Roundup, June 9, 2017

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OD DEATHS RISE: The increase in drug- and alcohol-related deaths in Maryland in 2016 was the biggest ever recorded in the state, officials said Thursday, the latest sign of an opioid epidemic that has triggered a state of emergency and prompted leaders to dedicate millions in funding to combat addiction, Arelis Hernandez reports in the Post. Overdoses killed 2,089 people in 2016, an increase of 66% from the previous year, according to data released by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

DRUG ADDICTION FACILITY OPENS: With mental health and drug addiction overlapping and growing concerns in Maryland, a newly opened facility on the grounds of the former Crownsville Hospital Center will try to tackle addicts’ underlying psychiatric needs, Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital reports.

HOGAN SEEKS FEDERAL BAY FUNDS: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday called on Congress to reject plans to eliminate federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, even as dozens of activists rallied to press him to take a stronger stance against the Trump administration’s environmental policies, Josh Hicks of the Post reports.

HOGAN QUESTIONS CLIMATE ALLIANCE: Gov. Larry Hogan gave perhaps his strongest indication yet that Maryland won’t join the United States Climate Alliance, a group opposed to President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the 2015 Paris climate agreement, reports Scott Dance of the Sun.  “We’re not sure what the intention of the group is,” Hogan said Thursday at an Annapolis meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council.

SNEAKER INDEX WORKS: The Bay Journal’s Rona Kobell writes in Maryland Reporter that for nearly 30 years, on the second Sunday in June, Bernie Fowler has led an ad hoc group of scientists, politicians, friends and concerned citizens into the murky Patuxent River in Calvert County to see if it’s getting any cleaner. Wearing a pair of white sneakers, the former Maryland state senator wades in until he can no longer see his feet. The depth at which the bottom fades from view is recorded. Now, a team of NASA scientists has determined that the Bernie Fowler Sneaker Index is a pretty accurate yardstick after all.

DRUG TRAFFICKING CHIEF: Edgewood native Stephen T. Moyer, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary, has been named to help lead a program aimed at addressing drug trafficking in the Baltimore-Washington region, reports Ericka Butler for the Aegis.

RX POT FACILITY CONCERNS: Edgewater residents on Thursday shared concerns about a proposed medical marijuana dispensary in their community — though the county’s hearing examiner said his chambers were the wrong forum for some of the arguments. Evolution Wellness LLC wants to open a dispensary in a former Susquehanna Bank building, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital writes. (Edgewood is in Harford County, Edgewater is in Anne Arundel.)

HBCU SUIT: The remedy for the “dual and segregated education system” maintained by Maryland’s state colleges and universities will be decided by a federal judge after attorneys for the state and a group representing four historically black institutions gave their closing arguments Thursday in a lawsuit that began in 2006, reports Heather Cobun of the Daily Record.

HOUGH OBSERVES TRUMP: While the world waited to see if there would be a tweet, Frederick County state Sen. Michael Hough had a front-row seat to President Donald Trump’s reactions as the testimony of former FBI Director James Comey to the Senate Intelligence Committee wrapped up on Thursday.  Hough is a policy adviser at the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a conservative nonprofit in Washington that was hosting the president as the keynote speaker of their annual convention on Thursday, writes Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News Post.

Gov. Larry Hogan endorses Del. Christian Miele for Senate. Campaign photo

MIELE TO CHALLENGE KLAUSMEIER: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that setting up one of the marquee state Senate contests of the 2018 election cycle, Del. Christian Miele (R) announced Thursday night that he will challenge Sen. Kathy Klausmeier (D) for the eastern Baltimore County seat she has held since 2003. With Gov. Larry Hogan (R) in attendance at a Knights of Columbus hall in Nottingham, Miele implored supporters to help him get to the Senate to boost Hogan’s agenda.

GOP’s HEALTH CARE ACT: In a commentary for Maryland Matters, Leni Preston and Jeananne Sciabarra of Consumer Health First write that like many Marylanders, we are angry and dismayed that “leaders” in Washington, D.C., are intentionally undermining our health care system for political gain. In the Trump administration’s proposed budget and the Republicans’ American Health Care Act, we see a health care catastrophe in the making, with the most vulnerable people in the nation and in Maryland at highest risk of suffering the most.

BERLINER ANNOUNCES MO CO EXEC RUN: Characterizing himself as “both progressive and pragmatic,” three-term Montgomery County Council member Roger Berliner on Wednesday night formally announced his candidacy for county executive, becoming the third member of the current council seeking the post in the June 2018 Democratic primary, Louis Peck writes in Bethesda Magazine.

CITY REACHES SCHOOL FUNDING DEAL: The Sun’s Ian Duncan reports that as hundreds of Baltimore students, teachers and activists gathered for a hearing on closing the school funding gap, the City Council’s budget committee chairman had some news to share: A deal was done. The council and Mayor Catherine Pugh had agreed to send more money to public schools and after-school programs, Councilman Eric Costello announced. The deal gave the City Council and the audience at the Baltimore War Memorial late Wednesday much of what they have pushed for.

PG SCHOOL BOARD CONTROVERSY: Donna St. George and Arelis Hernández of the Post write that four Prince George’s County  school board members have urged the top leader of their school system to apologize publicly for his administration’s efforts to stop two students from speaking at one graduation and bar a school board member from the stage at another.