State Roundup, October 27, 2017

Print More

TOUGHER WATER POLLUTION REGS SOUGHT: Environmentalists and nearly 50 state Democrats have urged the Hogan administration to immediately impose tougher water pollution standards on coal-fired power plants, rather than wait for rules delayed by the Trump administration, Erin Cox of the Sun reports.

BIG BIZ STEPS IN ON METRO DEBATE: Why can’t the Washington region agree on how to fix Metro? Anyone who pays attention knows a primary reason is the four-way division of responsibility among the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government. But there’s another explanation that’s less well known: the political weakness of the region’s business community. Now, reports Robert McCartney in the Post, a recently formed, high-powered business group wants to enter the Metro debate, and its members may have enough resources, prestige and influence to succeed where others failed — and not just with Metro.

OPIOID STATE OF EMERGENCY: President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency on Thursday, a move that could expand access to treatment in some parts of Maryland but that falls short of the significant increase in federal funding that public health advocates had sought, reports John Fritze for the Sun.

DEMS BERATE HOGAN SICK LEAVE PANEL: Maryland Democrats sparred with Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Thursday over paid sick leave, an issue that was a focal point of this year’s legislative session in Annapolis and will likely resurface in next year’s gubernatorial election campaign. Democratic Party Chair Kathleen Matthews accused Hogan, who this spring vetoed a sick-leave bill passed by the legislature, of creating an “anti-workers” committee in an attempt to continue to block the bill, which requires employers who have at least 15 workers to provide them with five paid sick days a year, reports Ovetta Wiggins in the Post.

DELAY KIRWAN REPORT: Some education advocates are lamenting the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education’s decision to delay its recommendations until after this year’s General Assembly session. But, opines the editorial board for the Sun, given the political realities of enacting as monumental (and potentially costly) a piece of legislation as one to implement the recommendations of what is known as the Kirwan Commission, we’re much more likely to get a good product by waiting than by rushing.

STATE TEAR DOWN PROJECT: In January 2016, Gov. Larry Hogan stood on a blighted street in West Baltimore, a demolition crew ready to get to work. He had heard residents’ calls for action on the vacant rowhouses that pockmark the city, he said. Now he was pledging $75 million to tear thousands of them down. “I’m a guy on a mission who wants to get things done and wants to get them done now,” Hogan had said. Eighteen months later, the stadium authority had spent just $5 million on the effort, the state says. Only 131 houses had been demolished. Baltimore has more than 16,000 vacant houses, the city says. Ian Duncan investigates the project for the Sun.

LIFE TERMS FOR JUVIES QUESTIONED: Maryland’s highest court will hear arguments over whether the state’s parole system is unconstitutional for prisoners serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports. The Court of Appeals agreed this month to consider four cases in which men are serving life terms or lengthy sentences, and is scheduled to hear arguments in February. An opinion is expected next summer.

DANCE TRAVEL BUDGET: Former Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance spent more than a third of the school days in 2016 traveling to out-of-state education conferences at a cost of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, public records show. Liz Bowie and Doug Donovan report that, according to records obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Maryland Public Information Act request, during his five-year tenure, Dance hopscotched from city to city and coast to coast, traveling far more often than other superintendents in the region. Dance made the trips with the approval of a series of county school board chairs.

***Len Lazarick, editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com, will be on Friday night’s State Circle program on Maryland Public TV discussing his recently released book, “Columbia at 50: A Memoir of a City.” The show airs at 7:30 p.m. with host Jeff Salkin.***

NEW CHAPTER IN PUGH & THE REBEL STATUES: WMAR-TV is reporting that state officials are saying that Mayor Catherine Pugh didn’t have the authority to take those statues down. Even though the city didn’t have the right to remove the statues, the Maryland Historical Trust won’t order them to put the monuments back up. Trust Director Elizabeth Hughes wrote a letter this week reiterating that city officials legally couldn’t take them down. She says the best way forward is to work cooperatively toward a mutual resolution that likely includes relocating the monuments.

EMERALD ASH BORER: Timothy Wheeler of the Bay Journal writes, in MarylandReporter, about the devastation that the emerald ash borer is expected to bring upon the ash tree population – and in turn on other trees – in Maryland and in the 31 other states that it has been spotted.

ROAD MAP = SWASTIKA? The Maryland Department of Transportation removed a brochure from its website Thursday after several people pointed out that it contained a graphic that resembled a swastika, writes Christina Tkacik in the Sun. “It was an unintentional mistake that has been corrected,” Transportation Secretary Pete K. Rahn said in a statement.

HARM OF TAX OVERHAUL: Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker joined Sen. Chris Van Hollen and other Democratic elected officials from across the country on a conference call Wednesday to describe the potential effects of a Republican tax-cut proposal to eliminate the State and Local Tax Deduction. Andrew Metcalf of Bethesda Beat writes that congressional Republicans are currently drafting a tax-cut package that could include eliminating the deduction that Hucker said is used by about 266,000 households in Montgomery County.

LINTHICUM RX POT DISPENSARY OK’d: A Linthicum medical marijuana dispensary has been approved by the county and the site has been granted a building permit for renovations, Chase Cook of the Annapolis Capital reports. In September, GPD LLC received approval of its special exception to run the dispensary, and it received the building permits in October for renovations of a former convenience store. The business has preliminary approval from the state to run a dispensary but no official licenses have been granted in the county or state.

DELANEY ON CARTER MODEL: Rep. John Delaney’s uniquely early announcement that he was running for president in 2020 was a bold and audacious move – even if it was met in some quarters with snickers or shrugs, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters. But Delaney has a very potent model: Former President Jimmy Carter. Whatever you may think of Carter and his presidency – and history, all these years later, still isn’t terribly kind – he ran one of the most brilliant, if improbable, campaigns for president in modern times. Kurtz and Delaney sat down at a D.C. taco restaurant to discuss the campaign.