State Roundup, June 12, 2017

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MARYLAND, D.C. SUE TRUMP: Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland say they will sue President Trump today, alleging that he has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House, Aaron Davis reports in the Post.

BAIL REFORM CONSEQUENCES: Criminal justice reforms designed to let more Maryland defendants be released without posting exorbitant bail have had an unintended consequence: The proportion of defendants denied bail has sharply increased. More defendants are being released without having to post bail, but many criminal defense lawyers say judges and commissioners now decline to set bail when it would be appropriate, choosing instead to hold defendants for any alleged crimes of violence. The Daily Record’s Heather Cobun reports the story.

RX POT INDUSTRY BACK ON: The state’s top court ruled Friday that the medical cannabis commission can issue final licenses to companies to grow the drug even as legal challenges to the program’s rollout continue. The Court of Appeals held up a case from proceeding in Baltimore Circuit Court last week in which a company that failed to win a lucrative license to grow medical cannabis argues the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission ignored a state law that requires applicants’ racial diversity to be considered when awarding preliminary licenses, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.

NEW OPEN MEETINGS REQUIREMENTS: During the 2017 Session, the Maryland General Assembly passed and Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law new Open Meetings Act training requirements for public bodies (HB 880 / SB 450). The new requirements for public bodies take effect Oct. 1. Les Knapp of MACo’s Conduit Street outlines the new requirements.

DRIVING STUDY APP: Using your cellphone behind the wheel is banned in Maryland, but those looking to get licensed to drive are encouraged to pick up their phones and start studying before they hit the road. An app that works to make the driver’s knowledge test for a learner’s permit a little less daunting has not only reached more than 1 million downloads, but won a Horizon Interactive Award for being an outstanding interactive media project, Valerie Bonk of the Hagerstown Herald Mail reports.

WHEELS IN CROSSWALKS: Maryland law gives pedestrians the right of way in a crosswalk, but it doesn’t say anything about cyclists or others on wheels. That includes skateboarders, people on roller skates, or children in a stroller or being pulled in a wagon.  That law will change on Oct. 1, when it will give anyone on nonmotorized wheels — including bicycles, children’s play vehicles, and even unicycles — the right of way in crosswalks, Katherine Shaver reports in the Post.

PLAINTIFFS SEEK STOP TO PURPLE LINE: Plaintiffs in the long-running Purple Line lawsuit are urging a federal judge to deny a state request that would let the project advance while the legal review continues, Bethany Rodgers reports for Bethesda Beat

MTA DISTRUPTION: One of the top officials who abruptly departed from the Maryland Transit Administration this week had authorized spending more than $65,000 on remodeling the administrator’s office, according to documents released Friday. Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that James Knighton, chief of staff for MTA Administrator Paul Comfort, had ordered furniture, wall coverings, millwork and window coverings for Comfort’s office in downtown Baltimore. The purchases were made without seeking competitive bids, which is normally required under Maryland law for purchases worth more than $25,000.

HOGAN AND THE ENVIRONMENT: The editorial board for the Sun opines, “In general, we’ve had our fill of the press releases from Democratic gubernatorial candidates demanding that Gov. Larry Hogan denounce whatever it is that President Donald Trump just did.  … But occasionally issues come along in which President Trump’s actions have a particular and profound impact on Maryland that demand Mr. Hogan abandon his “don’t touch him with a 10-foot pole” policy … The proposed elimination of Chesapeake Bay cleanup funding was one; the threat to Maryland’s Medicare waiver was another.”

NONPARTISAN DISTRICTING IMPOSSIBLE: In a column in MarylandReporter, Barry Rascovar writes, “Holy mackerel! Can you believe this? Former Gov. Martin O’Malley has admitted politics played a big role in redrawing Maryland’s congressional districts after the 2010 Census.” He then gives the long history of gerrymandering in the country and concludes “Asking for non-partisan panels to draw the boundary lines just isn’t going to happen in Maryland, Texas, North Carolina or most other states.”

WESTERN MD PROGRESSIVES UNITE: About 40 or so engaged progressives picnicked together on Sunday in Frederick for the “First Annual Picnic for Progress,” hosted by the newly minted Our Revolution – Western Maryland group, a progressive organization born out of Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign to carry on Sanders’ progressive grassroots work, Ryan Miner of the Miner Detail blog writes.

MARYLAND’s INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGE: Ryan Marshall of the Frederick News-Post reports that the White House pitched last week as “infrastructure week,” with President Donald Trump making speeches and announcements about various infrastructure issues. But experts say it will take time for a plan to develop, and there are likely to be plenty of disagreements about which projects get funding before a finished product emerges. According to a 2017 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, Maryland faces a number of infrastructure challenges.

HOGAN SET TO CHALLENGE DEM RULE: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has made his first endorsement of the 2018 election, backing a young Baltimore County lawmaker for one of six state Senate seats his party is targeting in an effort to break the Democratic supermajority in that chamber. Josh Hicks of the Post reports that Hogan announced his support for Del. Christian J. Miele (R) at a campaign kickoff event Thursday night, helping the candidate raise at least $34,000 to challenge Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier (D-Baltimore County). Miele’s campaign had about $45,000 cash on hand before the rally.

AN INTERESTING STATE SENATE RACE: In his column for the Annapolis Capital, Michael Collins writes that Election Day 2018 is about 18 months away, but the race for the District 30 state Senate seat is already getting interesting. On its face, it’s a pretty straightforward affair. Democrat John Astle has held the seat since 1995 — and probably would have been re-elected. But he now is running for mayor of Annapolis, and if he wins he’ll be required to vacate the seat. The only Republican who has declared his candidacy is former Del. Ron George. But there’s a joker in this particular deck who could change this race’s status from interesting to downright entertaining: Del. Herb McMillan.

KITTLEMAN ANNOUNCEMENT: Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman is expected to make an announcement about his campaign plans at 6 p.m. today. The announcement comes on the four-year anniversary of Kittleman’s 2013 campaign launch for county executive. No candidates have filed to run for county executive in 2018, reports Andrew Michaels in the Howard County Times.

CARROLL & OD DEATHS: Newly released numbers from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene may suggest Carroll County is bucking the state trend when it comes to the number of fatal overdoses, Heather Mongilio of the Carroll County Times reports. DHMH sent out an alert Thursday with numbers indicating a dramatic increase in overdose numbers across the state.

PANTELIDES ON PARIS ACCORD: Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides said Friday that he disagreed with the president’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord and that he will continue to support the city’s environmental initiatives.  The two Democratic candidates — State Sen. John Astle and businessman Gavin Buckley — running for Annapolis mayor said earlier this week that they would support the Paris climate accord if elected, Meredith Newman of the Annapolis Capital reports.

THE DANCE ALTERNATIVE: The editorial board for the Sun opines that if the Baltimore County school board was looking for a change of pace after Superintendent Dallas Dance’s surprise announcement this spring that he would leave the system, they got it in Verletta White — at least superficially. He came to the superintendent position as a 30-year-old geyser of ideas, short on classroom experience and new to Maryland, much less Baltimore County. She is calm, poised and extremely diplomatic.

FREE SPEECH DEBATE IN ARUNDEL: Anne Arundel residents who attend County Council meetings are barred from carrying balloons, signs and banners in the legislative chambers. They’re restricted to two minutes of testimony on a particular topic. And they can be removed from public meetings for disorderly behavior, Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital reports. But when it comes to the content of their speech, how much can the government limit?