State Roundup, July 28, 2017

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DELANEY TO ANNOUNCE FOR PRESIDENT? John Fritze reports in the Sun that multiple Democratic sources say that Rep. John Delaney, the Potomac businessman who challenged his party’s establishment to unexpectedly capture a seat in Congress five years ago, is considering a run for the Democratic nomination for president.

VAN HOLLEN SEEKS TO REVIVE NEW FBI HQ: The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday was to consider language requiring the FBI to develop a new plan to consolidate its workforce in the capital region within 30 days of the bill’s passage. The move comes weeks after the administration abruptly canceled plans a decade in the making to relocate the FBI headquarters and consolidate workers scattered among about a dozen other offices. Committee member Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he pushed for the language to encourage the FBI to find a way to replace the crumbling headquarters. Two of the three possible new sites were in Maryland. Jenna Portnoy is reporting the story for the Post.

PURPLE LINE BUCKS: Katherine Shaver of the Post reports that Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) said a transportation spending plan working its way through Congress includes $100 million to build a light-rail Purple Line in the Washington suburbs, despite a White House proposal to cut federal funding for new transit construction.

STATE PENSION INVESTMENTS UP: The investment portfolio of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System returned 10.02% for the fiscal year that ended June 30, raising the assets of the system to $49 billion, an increase of $3.6 billion over last year, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. That still leaves an unfunded liability of at least $20 billion. The exact amount of the shortfall if all promised benefits had to be paid out immediately has yet to be calculated this year.

RX POT DELAY SOUGHT: An attorney representing the state’s medical cannabis commission told Maryland’s highest court Thursday that members of an association of marijuana growers and processors should be allowed to intervene in a lawsuit over the issuing of licenses, writes Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The Court of Appeals, following a rare July hearing, will decide whether the association of preapproved medical cannabis growers can intervene in a request for an injunction that could further stop the state’s long-delayed medical marijuana program.

VEHICLE EXHAUST PROGRAM CHANGES: Gov. Larry Hogan announced what he called “common sense” changes to Maryland’s vehicle exhaust inspection program, giving new car buyers an additional year before they have to bring their cars and trucks in for testing. The Governor’s Office said the change would save Maryland taxpayers $2 million, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun.

FRANCHOT OPENS NEW HAGERSTOWN OFFICE: Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot officially opened his newly relocated area office Thursday, but that wasn’t all. Franchot announced that the comptroller’s office also will open a new remote customer-call center in downtown Hagerstown in time for the 2018 tax season, Tamela Baker reports in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. He said it will be the agency’s second regional call center. The first was opened in Salisbury earlier this year and currently employs about 20 people.

TWO INSURERS REMAIN: Maryland’s individual health exchange will only have two insurers next year after a deal to buy Evergreen Health fell apart this week, leading the state’s insurance regulator to freeze its assets, reports Tim Curtis for the Daily Record. Anne Arundel Health System, LifeBridge Health and JARS Health Investors received approval from the Maryland Insurance Administration last month to purchase Evergreen as it converted from an Affordable Care Act co-op into a for-profit insurance company. But the investors said they had “serious concerns” about the insurer’s financial situation and decided to step away from the deal.

GREEN JOBS: Rona Kobell of the Bay Journal writes stormwater management training programs seek to unite a willing yet underemployed workforce with a growing and insatiable need to maintain runoff control structures so Maryland can meet its Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals. The story appears in MarylandReporter.

REACTION FROM TRANSGENDER MARYLANDERS: Talia Richman of the Sun writes that Maryland’s transgender citizens have been swift to react to President Trump’s tweets saying that he is banning all transgender people from serving in any capacity in the military. She begins with Paula Neira, who says that joining the military felt like a calling. She graduated from the Naval Academy with distinction in 1985, and served in Operation Desert Storm.

HOUGH IN THE HOUSE: Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News-Post dissects a request from a reader wanting to know of state Sen. Michael Hough is in violation of state and national ethics laws for working as chief of staff for his former boss and now West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney.

HO CO CORRECTIONS TO OFFER DRUG TREATMENT: Howard County’s Department of Corrections will now offer substance abuse intervention and treatment services to low-level offenders, County Executive Allan Kittleman announced Tuesday. Kate Magill of the Howard County Times writes that the Department of Corrections will offer the services, including drug screenings, advice to at-risk individuals and treatment referrals, to inmates with sentences less than six months or those awaiting trial.

PUGH ROLLS OUT VIOLENCE-REDUCTION PLANS: While downplaying a mandatory gun sentencing bill that met with strong public opposition on Tuesday, Mayor Catherine Pugh has released a laundry list of other initiatives she plans to pursue to quell Baltimore’s spike in violent crime and homicides, writes Mark Reutter for Baltimore Brew. She described the measures as part of a “holistic and comprehensive” Violence Reduction Program that she will formally announce to the public in about a month.