State Roundup, June 19, 2017

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MD RANKS 16th IN KIDS COUNT: Maryland children are thriving in most areas of life, but a recent spike in deaths unveiled in an annual report on the well-being of young people is raising concern among advocates, Andrea McDaniels of the Sun reports.  Maryland ranked 16th among states for the well-being of its children in the 2017 Kids Count Data Book, released each year by the nonprofit Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. The report determines how well kids are thriving by ranking states on 16 indicators across four key areas: health, education, economic well being and family and community.

CASINO REVENUE UP: MGM National Harbor has helped boost the state’s overall gaming revenue since it opened Dec. 8, but the newcomer appears to be eating into the profits of Maryland’s other top casinos. Monthly casino revenue rose an average of 37.8% in Maryland since MGM began operating, according to the state Lottery and Gaming Control Agency’s year-to-year comparisons. The industry, which sends some of its profits to fund schools and other public programs, set its record in the state by generating $141 million in March, Josh Hicks reports for the Post.

OAKS TO STAY IN SENATE: State Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, who is facing federal fraud charges, said he intends to remain a legislator as he fights the case, reports Justin Fenton for the Sun.  Attorneys for Oaks on Friday asked the judge overseeing his case to reschedule his trial for after the next General Assembly session to avoid a conflict. Reached Friday evening, Oaks said in a brief phone conversation that he will continue to serve: “I’m a senator. I have obligations to the constituency that elected me,” he said.

HOGAN RIVAL SEEKS RIDERSHIP DATA: A potential Democratic candidate for governor is calling on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to release weekly data on a new, overhauled transit system, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record.  Jim Shea, who said this year he was seriously considering a run for the Democratic nomination, criticized Hogan in a statement two days before the official rollout of the new BaltimoreLink bus program. Shea said the data he is requesting will prove whether riders are benefiting.

BALTIMORE LOW ON NAXOLONE: Baltimore health officials are running low on naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug used hundreds of times by bystanders in the last couple of years to save lives. Meredith Cohn of the Sun reports that Dr. Leana Wen, the city health commissioner, said demand has jumped significantly along with the drug epidemic and the health department needs funding for more supplies. “We are rationing,” she said. “We’re deciding who is at the highest risk and giving it to them.”

GRUMBLES TO HEAD REGIONAL OZONE PANEL: Amid a petition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for better air pollution control in five states, Maryland was selected to lead a regional air quality board, reports Samantha Hogan for the Frederick News Post. Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles was unanimously elected chairman of the Ozone Transport Commission on June 6.

MD REPS PUSH HOGAN ON CLIMATE: Maryland’s Democratic members of the House of Representatives have joined the chorus of environmental advocates urging Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to denounce President Trump’s climate policies, including his decision this month to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Josh Hicks of the Post reports that the seven lawmakers sent a letter to Hogan on Thursday, two days before he is scheduled to begin a week-long trade mission to London and Paris, asking him to “vocally and forcefully reject” Trump’s actions.

  • Krishanti Vignarajah, former State Department senior advisor, in an opinion piece for the Post, calls the Gov. Hogan’s response to President Trump’s decision on the Paris climate accord “tepid ambivalence (that) is not leadership.” He continues, “If this were Hogan’s only transgression when it comes to Maryland’s natural resources, he might be excused. Unfortunately, it is the latest in a string of failures that threatens to make Maryland’s reversals on safeguarding the environment almost as abrupt and unconscionable as the president’s.”

METRO BOARD OVERHAUL: Ten Maryland legislators are proposing a radical overhaul of Metro’s board and a flexible, equitably shared funding plan that would yield the $500 million in dedicated funding proposed by Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld, Faiz Siddiqui and Robert McCartney of the Post report. In a 29-page Metro reform proposal to be released today, the lawmakers, who are from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, call for significant governance and oversight changes, and separate, $170 million annual payments from Maryland, Virginia and the District to support Metro’s long-term needs.

IMPROVING MD HBCUs: In a column for MarylandReporter, Barry Rascovar opines that, “It could be a cringe-worry moment when U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake finally rules on the lawsuit by black state universities demanding sweeping changes in Maryland’s public higher education system that benefit only their own campuses. In no way is Judge Blake qualified to disassemble Maryland’s well-regarded higher education network and then re-assemble the pieces in an entirely new way that miraculously makes historically black schools integrated and thriving learning institutions.”

DEL. McCRAY COULD UPSET SEN. McFADDEN: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters reports that a recent poll conducted for state Del. Cory McCray shows the freshman lawmaker “is strongly positioned for an upset” if he takes on six-term Sen. Nathaniel McFadden in the 45th district Democratic primary next June.

TRONE READY FOR HOUSE RACE: Several customers at Rockville’s First Watch – and regular readers of A Miner Detail – witnessed a recent early morning meeting between Montgomery County Councilman Sidney Katz and former – and perhaps soon-to-be – Democratic congressional candidate David Trone. They told A Miner Detail that they overheard Trone telling Katz that “he is ready to spend $15 million on another congressional race” and has “300 volunteers standing at the ready.”

MoCo COUNCIL CONFLICT: Adam Pagnucco in the Seventh State blog says:  “By running for an at-large County Council seat and retaining his position as the council’s spokesman, Neil Greenberger is creating a troublesome situation for both the council and the public.  That situation is rooted in the significant conflicts that Greenberger will now have between his two roles.

KUSHNER EMPIRE IN BA CO: Former Del. John Olszewski Jr., in a commentary in Maryland Matters writes that former Sun reporter Alec MacGillis’s recent article on Jared Kushner’s real estate empire in Baltimore County was a hard-hitting critique of a flawed and demoralizing system. It showed the ways in which Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, and the current administration speak out of both sides of their mouths about caring for our communities and “making America great.” It also hits home in personal ways since those are Baltimore County neighborhoods.

DeLAUTER SAYS OTIS THREATENED HIM: Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter on Facebook wrote that his council colleague Bud Otis “threatened him and his family” if Delauter refused to vote how Otis wanted him to, writes Ryan Miner of A Miner Detail blog. He posts a screenshot of the accusation. Then got comment from Otis: Otis emphatically denied Delauter’s accusation, saying, “Never happened. Never.”

ETHICS COMPLAINT AGAINST WA CO OFFICIALS: An ethics complaint has been filed against three Washington County officials, including two county commissioners, a county attorney confirmed Friday. CJ Lovelace of the Hagerstown Herald Mail writes that the issue centers around a meeting held a couple of weeks ago in which the county officials met with representatives from Lanco-Pennland, which owns and operates a Hancock-area cheese plant that is facing stricter environmental regulations next fall.

TRUMPS AT CAMP DAVID: The first family spent a little more than 24 hours in Frederick County over the weekend and President Donald Trump said he found Camp David to be “incredible,” “beautiful” and “very nice.” It was the first family’s first visit to the presidential retreat on Catoctin Mountain, and it came one weekend after Melania Trump and the first couple’s 11-year-old son, Barron, officially moved into the White House, Danielle Gaines reports for the Frederick News Post.