State Roundup, June 21, 2017

Print More

BAKER TO RUN FOR GOVERNOR: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker is running for governor, bringing the most political experience so far to a crowded, wide-open field seeking the Democratic nomination in 2018, Erin Cox reports in the Sun.

  • Baker, who plans to announce today, is midway through his seventh year as leader of the state’s second-largest jurisdiction. A former state lawmaker with a law degree from Howard University, Baker would become Maryland’s first African American governor and the first county executive to serve in the role since Parris Glendening (D), also of Prince George’s, did from 1995 to 2003, Arelis Hernandez of the Post reports.

CAREFIRST HIKE PROTESTED: More than three dozen organizations are calling on Maryland’s insurance regulator to reject big rate increases proposed by the state’s dominant carrier, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, for plans sold to individuals on the exchange created by the Affordable Care Act, writes Meredith Cohn for the Sun. CareFirst asked the Maryland Insurance Administration for average premium increases of 52% in 2018, far more than three other insurers on the exchange.

FENTANYL & OD DEATHS: Fentanyl and its derivatives are driving the vast majority of fatal opioid overdoses in Anne Arundel County, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has determined. Phil Davis of the Annapolis Capital reports that statistics released by Arundel County Police this week show that the synthetic opioid and variants of it, such as carfentanil, are largely responsible for 47 of 56 confirmed opioid-related deaths in the county this year through June 14. Fifteen deaths were attributed to a “heroin/fentanyl mix.” Pure heroin and “other” drugs make up the remaining nine fatal overdoses. Three additional deaths are still awaiting review.

SAFE STATIONS:  Heroin addiction is a growing problem across the state. The number of deaths are staggering and with the influx of new and more potent opioids, like fentanyl and carefentanil, a solution to the epidemic doesn’t seem to be in site. But Don Harrison of WMAR-TV is reporting that a program in Anne Arundel County is making an impact on the deadly problem. The Safe Stations program started two months ago.

OBAMACARE & OPIOID CRISIS: Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the AP is reporting that the Republican campaign to roll back former President Barack Obama’s health-care law is colliding with the opioid epidemic. Medicaid cutbacks would hit hard in Maryland and other states deeply affected by the addiction crisis and struggling to turn the corner, according to state data and concerned lawmakers in both parties.

BICYCLISTS’ SAFETY: While this Sun editorial focuses on the benefits and drawbacks of bike lanes in Baltimore City — this in the wake of another bicyclist’s death after being hit by a car — the issue of sharing the road with bicyclists has been a statewide one.

WA CO FUNDING CUTS: Tamela Baker of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports that Washington County agencies dependent on federal funding got a reprieve last month when Congress passed a spending bill despite proposed budget cuts from the Trump administration. But U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., warned Tuesday that more attempts to cut funding could be coming. Delaney conducted a roundtable discussion Tuesday in Hagerstown with representatives from 10 of those agencies to hear how they would be affected by the budget recommendations offered by the Trump administration.

HOTEL BOON OR BOONDOGGLE? The Sun’s Michael Dresser writes about a state-funded hotel project planned for Frederick that will either be an important catalyst in continuing the upward trend that that city has been experiencing over its recent years of revitalization or just a corporate boondoggle for wealthy developers and a waste of money that some compare to Rocky Gap resort.

Del. Chris West during House debate.

POLITICAL FEATHERS RUFFLED: The three Democratic incumbents in legislative District 39 who are seeking re-election next year – state Sen. Nancy King and Dels. Kirill Reznik and Shane Robinson – will announce this week that they are endorsing Lesley Lopez, a communications professional, for the district’s third House seat, Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes.But their decision to create a slate as well as to endorse has ruffled some feathers. And, with Baltimore County Del. Susan Aumann’s (R) surprise decision to retire, Del. Chris West (R) is poised to announce on Monday morning that he will seek the state Senate seat currently held by Democrat Jim Brochin.

Del. Kathy Afzali

AFZALI WON’T SEEK REELECTION: In an email and on Facebook Tuesday, Del. Kathy Afzali, the two-term Frederick County Republican, announced she will not be seeking reelection for delegate. She says she “will make an announcement after Labor Day about her future political plans.” Afzali ran for Congress in the 6th Congressional District in 2012, but the Donate button at the bottom of her announcement is still connected to her state continuing committee. Any contributions there cannot be used for a federal race, leading to speculation she will run for a county office. MarylandReporter.com

WOMEN RUN FOR MO CO COUNCIL: Only one of the two women currently serving on Montgomery’s nine-member County Council — Nancy Navarro — is up for re-election next year when four incumbents must vacate their seats because of new term limits. This leaves plenty of opportunity for new female candidates to fill those seats on what has historically been a council dominated by men, reports Glynis Kazanjian for MarylandReporter. So far, three women are running for council seats, and at least two others are considering it.  The list is likely to grow longer.

B’MORE SEEKS FED PILOT PROGRAMS: Baltimore City Council President Jack Young met Tuesday with a senior adviser to President Donald J. Trump, pitching the city as a place where the administration could pilot programs designed to help struggling cities. Young said he brought up infrastructure spending, crime fighting and education funding over lunch at the White House with Reed Cordish, the son of Baltimore developer David Cordish, Ian Duncan of the Sun reports.

AND DOESN’T GET THIS ONE: And John Fritze of the Sun reports that during his presidential campaign last year, Donald J. Trump frequently made reference to Baltimore’s struggle with violence, describing the city as “out of control” as he vowed to “get rid of the crime” across the nation. But in one of his administration’s first policy announcements on criminal justice — a Justice Department initiative to help local law enforcement — Baltimore failed to make the first cut of cities to take part.

SOME ADVICE FOR CANDIDATES: Here’s some unsolcited advice for candidates, managers, supporters of campaigns. The first $500 you spend should be for professional photography. Not taken by your friend on her iPhone. Professional photography with professional equipment. Mug shots and candids (the pro will know what this means if you don’t). It is the only thing most people will see. Not all the words on your website or in print. We’ve grown used to crummy photographs on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. That’s fine for events, but for many uses, professional photography makes you look your best.