State Roundup, October 4, 2017

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STATE SETTLES FAIR HOUSING CASE: Settling a fair-housing complaint brought against the state in 2011 by a coalition of civil rights and fair-housing advocacy organizations, Maryland has agreed to finance the development of 1,500 affordable housing units in prosperous neighborhoods throughout the Baltimore region and rewrite policies that civil rights groups say perpetuated segregation for decades, Sarah Gantz of the Sun reports.

DEFINING COST OF PURPLE LINE: For more than a year, Maryland officials have pegged the cost of building the 16-mile light-rail Purple Line through the Washington suburbs at $2 billion. So why does the Federal Transit Administration conclude in an Aug. 22 agreement to help fund construction of the project that the true cost is $2.4 billion — $400 million more? Apparently, reports Katherine Shaver in the Post, the definition of “construction cost” is open to interpretation, and Maryland officials leave out some major expenses.

NEW LAW MAY NOT WORK: Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that a new state law that took effect this week makes major changes to criminal justice policies. The law is intended to save the state money by reducing prison populations, then invest the savings in crime prevention efforts. But one provision that is designed to send offenders to treatment for drug and alcohol addiction may not work as planned.

1st RX POT CROP MATURE: The first crop in Maryland’s long-delayed medical cannabis program is mature and waiting for testing, but it is still unclear when patients might be able to buy it. And industry officials caution that when it is ready for sale, there will not be nearly enough to meet market demand, Erin Cox reports in the Sun.

VIGILS IN ANNAPOLIS: Annapolis will host two vigils this week to remember the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas and push for political action, reports Phil Davis in the Sun. The first will take place at 7 p.m. today when a coalition of groups will host a candlelight vigil at Lawyers Mall in front of the State House, in remembrance of the “victims of Las Vegas and victims of gun violence.” The second vigil will be at 6 p.m. Saturday on Lawyers Mall when advocacy groups led by Progressive Maryland will host a combination candlelight vigil and health care rally.

NEW POLL FINDS HOGAN CHALLENGED: A majority of Maryland voters like Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and the job he’s doing, but “despite these typically reliable indicators of an incumbent’s political strength, Hogan’s party affiliation makes his re-election far from certain,” says a new a Mason-Dixon poll. Len Lazarick writes the story for MarylandReporter.

BUSCH BACKS DEL. MILLER FOR CONGRESS: Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch endorsed Del. Aruna Miller on Wednesday in her campaign for the state’s 6th Congressional District, weighing into a nascent race that will become one of the most closely watched in the state next year, John Fritze of the Sun is reporting.

DEL. MALONE SIGNS ONTO GERRYMANDER CASE: Arguments began Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court case against political gerrymandering and an amicus brief in the case includes local Del. Michael Malone, who signed onto the brief in September and joins 64 other current and former state legislators from both political parties who have attached their names to the brief. The case, Gill v. Whitford, is a Wisconsin redistricting case that challenges gerrymandering and could change how some districts draw its political lines. Malone is the only Marylander, reports Chase Cook for the Annapolis Capital.

DISCRIMINATORY DISTRICTING: At the heart of the gerrymandering case before the Supreme Court is whether the common techniques of “cracking and packing” — diluting an opposing party’s clout by either spreading its supporters out to prevent a majority on the district level (cracking) or concentrating them in fewer districts (packing) — has a discriminatory effect, opines the editorial board for the Sun.

THE WORST DISTRICTS: As the Supreme Court hears arguments on the Wisconsin gerrymandering case, Chris Cillizza of CNN Politics writes about the three worst gerrymandered districts in the country. And of course Maryland’s 3rd District is highlighted.

TOUGH ROAD FOR HARFORD DEMS: Meghan Thompson writes in Maryland Matters that, as the 2018 election approaches, Harford County Democrats, who have already seen their fortunes tumble over the past few election cycles, are scrambling to find candidates for key offices. Twenty years ago, Democrats in Harford County had an aggressive county executive who was gearing up to run for governor, powerful lawmakers in Annapolis and a solid roster of political up-and-comers.

TEACHER TO RUN FOR DELEGATE: Samir Paul, who teaches in the countywide math magnet program based at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, on Tuesday declared his candidacy for the state House of Delegates in Bethesda-based District 16, Louis Peck writes for Bethesda Beat.

BACKING MO CO FOR AMAZON HQ2: Ashwani Jain, who held multiple roles in the Obama administration and is a Democratic candidate for the Montgomery County Council, writes in a guest commentary for Maryland Matters, that Montgomery County is best suited to take on the new Amazon HQ2.

WA CO EMPLOYEE TRAINING: An independent investigator who looked into a sexual-harassment claim made by a Washington County employee against an elected official issued five recommendations to county government, including training for commissioners and employees, Julie Greene reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. After a closed meeting of the county Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, county government released the list of recommendations and the commissioners’ responses.