State Roundup, June 16, 2017

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MOVING PREAKNESS TO LAUREL: Some state lawmakers said Thursday the Preakness should be moved from Baltimore to Laurel because of the hundreds of millions needed to renovate Pimlico Race Course, setting up what could be a heated political battle as the future of the horse race continues to be debated, Holden Wilen reports for the Baltimore Business Journal. Democrats Dels. Frank Turner of Howard County and  Jay Walker of Prince George’s County both expressed interest at a briefing of the House Ways and Means Committee in moving the second jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown.

JUDGE DELAYS PURPLE LINE WORK: A federal judge signaled Thursday that he won’t allow construction on Maryland’s Purple Line to begin while a lawsuit seeking to block the project is pending, saying any costs the state might incur for further delays would be “self-inflicted,” writes Katherine Shaver in the Post.

STATE OF EMERGENCY SOUGHT: Two state senators called on Gov. Larry Hogan to declare a state of emergency in Baltimore in an effort to assist the city in stemming the increase in violence and homicide, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The city is on pace again to reach the 300-homicide mark for the third consecutive year while also seeing a spike in non-fatal shootings, street robberies and assaults, including one lunch-time incident involving a deputy Baltimore City health commissioner who oversees anti-violence programs. The article is topped by a WBAL-AM interview with state Sen. Kathy Klausmeier.

BAY ‘DEAD ZONE’ GROWS: A year after experiencing its best water quality in decades, the Chesapeake Bay is expected to have a larger than average “dead zone” this summer, where fish, crabs and shellfish will struggle to breathe, reports the Bay Journal’s Timothy Wheeler in MarylandReporter.com.  Researchers with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the University of Michigan are forecasting that the volume of oxygen-starved water in the Bay will grow to 1.9 cubic miles, enough to nearly fill 3.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

TOPLESS IN OCEAN CITY: Ocean City officials can legally ask topless women to cover up, the Maryland attorney general’s office concluded in a letter this week. Carrie Wells of the Sun reports that an advocate for “normalizing female bare-chestedness” had previously asked the attorney general to weigh in on the matter, and there was no response after about a year. The beach resort town also asked for the office’s opinion on the matter.

Baltimore City Council President Jack Young and Mayor Catherine Pugh joined Gov. Larry Hogan for the launching of Baltimore Link. Governor’s Office photo

BALTIMORELINK OVERHAUL: In a ceremony kicking off the region’s new bus system overhaul, Gov. Larry Hogan touted the $135 million BaltimoreLink — which starts at 3 a.m. Sunday — as a signature project of his administration, Louis Krauss reports for Baltimore Brew. “I pledged to find ways to address many of the state’s fundamental challenges and in the city,” he said, promising that the route changes and re-branding would “create a customer-focused transit system for Baltimore that is safer, cleaner, and which better meets the needs of city residents.”

Local and state officials joined Gov. Hogan and Japanese executives for the opening of the new gas-powered electricity-generating plant in Charles County. Governor’s Office photo.

NEW GAS-POWERED PLANT: Gov. Larry Hogan joined local and Japanese dignitaries in Waldorf Tuesday to herald the dedication ceremony for the Competitive Power Venture  St. Charles Energy Center, Joseph Norris reports in BayNet. The new power generating facility will produce, via combined cycle natural gas-fired electric steam and gas turbines, an estimated 725-megawatts of electricity that will power up to 700,000 homes.

MEDICAID AND OPIOID CRISIS: Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports on how Medicaid fits into Maryland’s ongoing opioid crisis and with patients grappling with substance abuse. More than 1,800 people died last year from overdosing on opioids, a 70% increase from the year before, according to data released last week by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

HOGAN URGED ON PARIS PACT: Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation called on Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday to “forcefully reject” President Donald J. Trump’s decision this month to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, writes John Fritze for the Sun.

FUTURE OF RUSSIA’s SHORE COMPOUND: Legislation passed by the U.S. Senate Thursday to impose new sanctions on Moscow would also require President Donald J. Trump to get consent from Congress before giving a diplomatic compound on Maryland’s Eastern Shore back to Russia, Ian Duncan and John Fritze of the Sun report.

TRONE TESTS WATERS: Wine executive David Trone has been testing the waters in two of Maryland’s marquee 2018 races: for Montgomery county executive or, if Rep. John Delaney (D) runs for governor, the Sixth Congressional District, Bill Turque of the Post writes. The Potomac Democrat sounded more like an aspiring House member in a Sun op-ed Wednesday, slamming the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts as he recounted his nephew’s drug addiction and death from an opioid overdose late last year.