State Roundup, September 28, 2017

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STATE SUES EPA OVER AIR POLLUTION: Maryland is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in an attempt to force federal regulators to crack down on upwind air pollution from five other states, reports Josh Hicks of the Post. Gov. Larry Hogan requested the legal action on Wednesday, and state Attorney General Brian E. Frosh filed a lawsuit with the U.S. District Court in Baltimore hours later.

BAY FUTURE LOOKS BLEAK: After years of steady progress for Chesapeake Bay clean-up efforts, the conservation outlook is increasingly bleak for the country’s largest estuary and the state that depends on it most – Maryland, bay advocates say. JF Meils of the Capital News Service writes that from the Trump White House to a provision pushed by the Republican-controlled Congress, programs aimed at improving the bay’s health are facing cuts and policy shifts that environmental groups warn would reverse hard-won battles to curb pollution.

RENEWABLES AS CORPORATE WELFARE: Last February, Maryland legislators voted to require that 25% of the state’s electricity be generated by so-called “renewable” sources beginning in 2020. Now, they are considering an additional requirement that 50% of electricity come from renewables by 2030. One lawmaker wants 100% renewables by 2050. According to proponents, these mandates will help protect the environment, create “green” jobs and improve human health. But in truth, renewables are little more than corporate welfare dressed up in ill-fitting “green” clothing, Cato Institute fellow Tom Firey writes for the Sun’s opinion section.

COMPLIANCE LEVELS ‘UNSATISFACTORY:’ State auditors found “unsatisfactory” accountability and compliance levels within the highest management echelons of the Department of Health, the state’s largest agency, Charlie Hayward writes in MarylandReporter.com. The auditors’ “unsatisfactory” designation is reserved under state law to a few large state agencies who demonstrate chronic inability to maintain a reasonable level of internal control, and cannot fix problems identified in past audits. Major problems have persisted over multiple years and several governors.

LAWS TAKE EFFECT OCT. 1: A first-in-the-nation law enabling Maryland’s attorney general to take action against pharmaceutical price gouging is scheduled to go into effect next week, along with a number of other laws approved in the state’s last legislative session. The AP and WTOP-AM are reporting on laws set to take effect on Sunday, Oct. 1 including those covering sex-abuse lawsuits, justice reinvestment and drug price-gouging.

EX-O’MALLEY SECTY INDICTED: Federal authorities indicted a former Cabinet secretary in Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration Wednesday on bribery charges involving millions of dollars’ worth of state contracts, Ian Duncan of the Sun reports. Isabel FitzGerald, secretary of the Department of Information Technology in 2013 and 2014, is accused of pressuring a company that had contracts worth almost $360 million with a state agency, to subcontract with an Indiana IT firm. The indictment says the alleged conspiracy began in 2011. In turn, FitzGerald and a man with whom she is described in the indictment as having a “close personal relationship” are accused of taking one-third of the profits the subcontractor made in the deals.

SAVING FT. DETRICK LAB: Maryland lawmakers are fighting to preserve a long-standing research laboratory in Frederick after President Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 eliminated the facility’s funding. The National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, located at Fort Detrick, is one of seven facilities of its kind in the country, Angela Jacob reports for Capital News Service. The $143 million center, which opened in 2010, operates under the Department of Homeland Security, employs more than 180 people and often assists the FBI and law enforcement agencies in investigating bioterrorism and biocrime.

KUSHNER CO. SUED: Baltimore-area tenants of the apartment company owned by Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to President Donald J. Trump, filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging the firm has been charging improper fees and threatening eviction to force payment, reports Doug Donovan for the Sun.

PEROUTKA ON STAGE WITH ALABAMA’s MOORE: Anne Arundel County Councilman Michael Peroutka was onstage with Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore Tuesday night as he celebrated victory in a special election against Luther Strange, a candidate backed by President Trump, Chase Cook reports for the Annapolis Capital. Peroutka has supported Moore for years and contributed money to Moore’s Senate race.

BA CO MUST PAY $520,000: A federal judge is ordering Baltimore County government to pay more than $520,000 in attorney fees and court costs to a former employee who successfully sued the county under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Pamela Wood of the Sun reports. The ruling this week from a U.S. district judge brings the total that the county must pay out in the case to more than $1.3 million.

DEMS TO TURN OUT FOR OLSZEWSKI: In an impressive display of unity, just about every Democratic leader of the House of Delegates is scheduled to come together tonight at a fundraiser for a former colleague, John Olszewski Jr., who is running for Baltimore County executive, Josh Kurtz writes for Maryland Matters.

SUPPORT FOR $15 WAGE: A large majority of the speakers Tuesday night at a public hearing in Rockville on a bill to raise the $15 minimum wage in Montgomery County supported Council member Marc Elrich’s new version of the legislation. Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat reports that now Elrich and the bill’s other four sponsors will have to see if they can reach a compromise with one of the four council members who voted against a similar bill in January. Otherwise, they must get County Executive Ike Leggett, who vetoed the previous bill, to support the legislation.

MONTGOMERY CHANGING: Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes about the changes that Montgomery County is experiencing, both demographically and politically, through the eyes of candidate Will Jawando. Once a wealthy, mostly white bedroom community with large swaths of rural territory, the county is now part suburban but plenty urban, with some rural areas preserved by county land use policies. The population is majority-minority. The public school system is now more than 70% non-white. The old political order is also changing.

KRASNOW MULLS MO CO EXEC RUN: Former Rockville Mayor Rose Krasnow, the second highest ranking official in the Montgomery County Planning Department, said Tuesday that she is considering running for county executive in the 2018 Democratic primary. She said she will decide within the next month, Louis Peck reports for Bethesda Beat.