State Roundup, November 3, 2017

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STATE TO CONSIDER TUNNEL EXPANSION SANS CSX: Maryland’s state and federal lawmakers pledged Thursday to explore how to move forward with a planned expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel under downtown Baltimore, after CSX Transportation, the railroad that owns it, said it could not justify paying for its share of the $425 million project, Colin Campbell of the Sun reports. “We’re going to go back to the drawing board,” Gov. Larry Hogan said. “It’s a worthwhile project and we’ll be pursuing it from every direction.”

HOGAN PLAN REBUKED OVER METRO PUSH: A last-minute maneuver to push the Metro board to support Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s funding proposal for the transit agency drew sharp rebukes Thursday, as representatives from the District and Virginia condemned the gesture as “political theater.” Martine Powers and Robert McCartney of the Post report that just days after Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld released his proposed budget for the coming fiscal year — including a request for an additional $136 million to pay for capital projects — the flare-up highlighted the lack of consensus about how the District, Maryland and Virginia should come up with the money.

HOGAN TOUTS COMPUTER TRAINING: Gov. Larry Hogan plans to ask state lawmakers to set standards for computer science training in public schools, one of several steps he says will help create a more tech-savvy workforce in Maryland, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun.

  • Bryan Sears of the Daily Record quotes Hogan as saying: “In this rapidly evolving job landscape, states that have access to a highly trained workforce will have a major advantage. Maryland simply must continue to lead the way, and closing this skills gap begins with a focus on education. We must spark the interest of students — particularly girls — beginning at an even younger age, and we must inspire high school and college students to pursue careers in computer science.”

POLLUTION REG COMPLIANCE: How Maryland Department of the Environment inspectors have handled pollution violations at a Baltimore scrapyard speaks volumes about the Hogan administration’s approach to compliance issues, writes the Bay Journal’s Tim Wheeler in MarylandReporter. In 2016, nearly six times as many water pollution violations were handled through compliance assistance as were subject to formal enforcement action, an increase of 21% over the previous year, according to MDE data sent to the Maryland General Assembly.

TALKING POLITICS: In this episode of the Sun’s Dan Rodrick’s Roughly Speaking podcast, reporter Erin Cox talks about the Democratic candidates lining up for the 2018 primary in the hopes of challenging incumbent Republican Larry Hogan and a new project by Heather Mizeur, the liberal Democrat who unsuccessfully ran for the gubernatorial nomination in 2014, is discussed.

TRUMP SIGNS DOUGLASS BILL: President Donald Trump signed a bipartisan bill Thursday to create a commission that will plan the bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Maryland abolitionist Frederick Douglass, John Fritze of the Sun reports. The 16-member commission will plan and carry out programs to honor Douglass, who was born on the Eastern Shore in 1818. After escaping slavery, Douglass became a renowned orator, author, diplomat and adviser to President Abraham Lincoln. The bipartisan support also included Republican U.S. Rep. Andy Harris and Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.

MD FACES TAX DEDUCTION ELIMINATION: Tim Curtis of the Daily Record reports that Marylanders could find it more difficult to save money through popular tax deductions and credits under the tax cut bill unveiled Thursday by the Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. The elimination of the deduction for state taxes and property taxes over $10,000, as well as the reduction of eligibility for the mortgage interest deduction from the current level of homes under $1 million to homes under $500,000 have caused concern in Maryland.

ICYMI NEWS MATCH FOR MD REPORTER: This week, as it celebrates its 8th birthday, MarylandReporter.com launches its participation in News Match 2017, a $3 million collaboration between Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to support nonprofit news organizations. MarylandReporter.com is one of more than 100 U.S. nonprofit news organizations eligible to receive up to $28,000 each in matching funding for all individual donations up to $1,000 received by Dec. 31. Donate today.

CHEVY CHASE MAN TAPPED AS FED HEAD: A Chevy Chase man has been tapped by President Donald Trump to serve as the next chair of the Federal Reserve, Andrew Metcalf reports in Bethesda Beat. Trump on Thursday nominated Jerome H. Powell to oversee the country’s central banking system. The Senate must confirm his nomination.

MO CO PUBLIC FINANCING OUTLAY: Montgomery County’s public campaign financing law, adopted three years ago, has allocated more than $851,000 to 2018 candidates for county executive and County Council, according to monthly reports from the county’s Department of Finance., Louis Peck of Bethesda Beat is reporting.

KAMENETZ BLASTS KUSHNER: Baltimore County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kamenetz has joined the line of Maryland Democrats scrutinizing the local apartment holdings of Jared Kushner, Doug Donovan reports for the Sun. Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to President Trump, owns more than 7,000 units in the county. Kamenetz, said Thursday that the Kushner Cos. has failed to pay $3,500 in fines for outstanding code violations cited by inspectors, contradicting a Kushner spokeswoman’s statement that the firm has been in “compliance with all state and local laws.”

VAN HOLLEN TO BACK BAKER FOR GOV: Sen. Chris Van Hollen is expected to endorse Rushern Baker for governor today in Landover, returning a favor the Prince George’s County executive extended to him in 2016. Baker is one of eight candidates for the Democratic nomination in the June 26 primary, which will choose an opponent to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Van Hollen, from Montgomery County, is one of the state’s best-known Democrats and his is a coveted endorsement, writes Michael Dresser in the Sun.

COUNTY EXEC HELPS MAYORS RACE GO NEGATIVE: A flier comparing Gavin Buckley’s campaign for mayor of Annapolis to a “pig’s arse” and lampooning his status as an immigrant prompted widespread condemnation Thursday. Mayor Mike Pantelides condemned the latest wave of negative campaign mailers aimed at his Democratic opponent, one of which featured an Australian dialect and a photo of Crocodile Dundee. Buckley immigrated to the United States from Australia almost 40 years ago, Chase Cook and Danielle Ohl report for the Annapolis Capital. The PAC behind the fliers was formed by former Republican candidate Doug Burkhardt and supported financially by County Executive Steve Schuh. House Minority Leader Nic Kipke confirmed he contributed “thousands” of dollars to the PAC at the request of Schuh.

CHARTER CHANGE IN BA CO: Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, in an op-ed in the Sun, writes that, the county charter gives the Baltimore County Department of Public Works an almost-exclusive focus on highway transportation when communities need to also look at pedestrian connections, bicycling and transit where appropriate. When the Baltimore County Council considers charter changes in the spring, the charter should be amended to replace the agency with a Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, with a specific charge to focus on safety and multimodalism — not just highway engineering.

HOGAN STUMPS FOR VA. CANDIDATE: Maryland’s popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan will headline a rally for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie on Saturday in Northern Virginia, lending his support to a close and heated contest just days before the election, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.