State Roundup, September 26, 2017

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NO FRONT RUNNER IN DEM GOV RACE: The crowded Democratic primary race for governor has no clear front runner and most candidates have very low name recognition statewide, Erin Cox of the Sun reports on a new Goucher Poll. Forty-four percent of Democratic primary voters surveyed in the poll released today said they were undecided about the June 26 primary. The candidate with the most potential support — former Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler — announced last week that he would not join the race.

HOGAN HEADS TO CANADA: Erin Cox of the Sun writes that Gov. Larry Hogan is joining Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on a trade mission to Canada today. The trio will be in Toronto to pitch the capital region tourism to Ontario, and they will meet with the province’s leader, Premier Kathleen Wynne. Hogan and his commerce secretary, Mike Gill, will stay on an extra few days to pitch Maryland to businesses in the area and in Montreal, state officials said. He will be meeting with more than a dozen Canadian firms.

MD SAT SCORES TOP NATIONAL AVERAGE: Maryland public school students SAT scores eked past the national average last year, according to data released by the College Board today. Talia Richman of the Sun reports that the SAT scores set a new baseline for the state, after the national college readiness test underwent sweeping changes that altered the format of the exam. The high school graduating class of 2017 marked the first time a majority of students tested under the new format, which made the essay section optional and did not penalize students for wrong answers, among other tweaks.

TOLL ROAD DISASTER: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, Purple Line activist Ben Ross writes that Gov. Hogan’s plan to build 110 miles of toll lanes on Maryland highways is a disaster for the great majority of Marylanders, and most of all for the state’s middle-class drivers. The plan’s enormous cost will require sky-high tolls. Only the wealthiest drivers will be willing to pay, revenue will fall far short of what is needed to pay back investors and lenders, and taxpayers in all income brackets will get stuck with the bills.

VANDALISM ALONG PURPLE LINE: A vandal caused minor damage to a bulldozer set to be used for Purple Line construction over the weekend, police said. The windshield wipers and antenna on a Caterpillar bulldozer and mini-excavator near the Georgetown Branch Trail were broken, Joe Zimmerman of the Bethesda Beat reports.

REDISTRICTING PANEL MEETS: The Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission held its first public meeting since October 2015 in Baltimore Monday, updating a small audience on the status of a Supreme Court case centered on partisan gerrymandering and taking comments, writes Samuel Manas in Maryland Matters. But it’s unclear whether the commission, which was assembled two years ago by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to eradicate partisan gerrymandering in the state, will make further recommendations.

BLACK CAUCUS TO MEET: The Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland will host its second annual public hearing Saturday in Annapolis, work session for caucus members and constituents to discuss priority issues for the upcoming legislative session, according to the Daily Record.

REDMER SEES NO CONFLICT: Al Redmer plans to continue his work as Maryland Insurance commissioner as he makes his run for Baltimore County executive, and does not expect it will present a conflict, Morgan Eichensehr of the BBJ reports. Redmer officially announced his candidacy for Baltimore County Executive Saturday, as did Del. Pat McDonough.

ON SCHOOL CHOICE, FUNDING: Del. Trent Kittleman challenges political pundit Barry Rascovar over his Sept. 17 column on education funding and the Hogan administration, writing that “No one is arguing that charter schools, school vouchers and programs such as the BOOST scholarship program can cure all ills, and no one is suggesting that private alternatives should replace public education.  But it’s simply wrong to refuse to consider such programs as an alternative to a public school that has failed its students year after year.”

***KEEPING FARMING ALIVE: From the time colonists settled in St. Mary’s County, tobacco was the primary crop in Southern Maryland. When the Maryland tobacco buyout happened in the early 2000s, the industry disappeared, almost overnight. Farms across Southern Maryland were paved over to make way for shopping centers and housing developments. But, there was a movement of people who wanted to hold on to the agricultural heritage of the region. One of those people was Benson Tiralla. Here is his story. SPONSORED CONTENT***

REPUBLICAN WOMAN ENTERS RACE FOR CONGRESS: Lisa Lloyd, 53, of Potomac, is the first Republican woman of the cycle to file to run to represent Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, blogs Ryan Miner of his A Miner Detail blog. The seat is being vacated by Rep. John Delaney (D), who announced in July that he will run for president in 2020. Her website, www.lloyd4congress.com, takes you to someone else’s page.

MO CO EXEC HOPEFULS DRILLED ON 8.7% TAX HIKE: The three Democratic Montgomery County Council members running for county executive got their first formal shot Saturday at a version of a question they’ll face again over the next nine months: Why did you vote to raise the property tax and do you think the current rate is appropriate? Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat writes that, at the Montgomery County Muslim Council’s political forum in Potomac, term-limited Council members Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal did their best to parry the question. All three were part of the unanimous 2016 council vote that raised property taxes 8.7%.

BUSINESSES SPLIT ON MO CO WAGE HIKE: The last time the Montgomery County Council voted to increase the minimum wage, Richard Gorinson slashed his employees’ payroll hours by 26%. Now the council is weighing a bill to increase the hourly minimum even further. “It would put me out of business,” said Gorinson, owner of J&S Shoes Stride Rite. Yet for Dana Lande, who owns a Rockville-based online jewelry design and manufacturing business, the bill would probably mean reduced turnover in the long term. Rachel Siegel reports the story for the Post.

DANCE PROBE CONCERNS BA CO PARENTS: Liz Bowie of the Sun reports that some parents expressed concern Monday that a former Baltimore County school superintendent is being investigated in connection with his relationship with a company that did business with the school system. “Children learn to lead from their leaders and this is a huge disappointment,” said Yara Cheikh, a parent activist. “Families need to know that our school system is working for the best possible outcomes for children and not profit.”

ALLEGANY MULLS WORKFORCE REDUCTIONS: In an effort to cut costs and stabilize the county workforce, Allegany County commissioners are considering offering retirement ready employees cash incentives to call it quits beginning Jan. 1, Heather Wolford writes in the Cumberland Times News. “Now is probably the time to start looking to at least stabilizing our workforce, or reducing it ever so slightly by offering an incentive,” said Jason Bennett, county finance director. “This helps us out a little bit.”

EX-MAYOR TO REPAY CAMPAIGN FUND: Baltimore’s former mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, has agreed to pay her campaign committee $5,418 after state election officials faulted her for using political donations for “non-electoral purposes,” Mark Reutter of Baltimore Brew reports.