State Roundup, December 8, 2017

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BLACK LIQUOR & CLEAN ENERGY: Scott Dance of the Sun reports that even as other factories in this stretch of Western Maryland have closed down, the Luke Paper Mill has managed to survive. That’s in part because the 10-story-high boiler deep inside the mill burns a sludge known as black liquor. Now, Maryland calls it green energy. But burning black liquor releases carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that causes climate change. And since it’s a waste product that’s being used to generate power, state legislators declared it a renewable energy source. So the mill gets millions of ratepayer dollars from a state program created to promote the greening of Maryland.

COMPTROLLER’s ROLE IN LIQUOR OVERSIGHT: The top Democrat in the state House of Delegates is raising questions that could affect the role of the state comptroller when it comes to the oversight, regulation and taxation of alcoholic beverages. The comments made by House Speaker Michael E. Busch could be a prelude to what is expected to be a heated debate over Comptroller Peter Franchot’s enthusiastic advocacy of the state’s burgeoning craft brewing industry, Bryan Sears reports in the Daily Record.

ADULT DENTAL CARE: Ask Del. Mike McKay why he’s pushed so hard to restore adult dental care to Maryland’s Medicaid program and he’ll rattle off a list of reasons. During the 2017 legislation, McKay, R-Washington/Allegany, filed a House bill to authorize the state’s Medicaid program to include restored coverage for dental care for impoverished adults, which was cut from the state’s program as a money-saving measure in 1984. But he’s more convinced than ever that now is the time to restore it, writes Tamela Baker for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

SICK LEAVE DEBATE: Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News-Post reports that Frederick County lawmakers offered a preview on Thursday of the paid sick leave debate that’s likely to dominate the early days of the 2018 General Assembly session. Last session, Democrats in the General Assembly passed a bill last session that would give employees at businesses with 15 or more workers five days of paid sick leave, earned at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours of work, once they’ve worked at the business for 106 days. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed the bill in May and announced his own measure last month.

LOCKUP RESTRICTIONS: Legislation to reduce use of restrictive housing in Maryland prisons is expected to be reintroduced in the 2018 General Assembly session because circumstances have not improved over the years the issue has been tracked, advocates said Thursday. Heather Cobun of the Daily Record reports that, according to a report, Maryland places individuals in segregation — 22 or more hours in a cell with or without a cellmate —at twice the national average, and the rate is even higher for individuals with physical or mental disabilities.

LARGE ANIMAL FARMS: Carol Vaughn of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that state Sen. Richard Madaleno is set to announce plans to introduce air quality legislation aimed at large animal farms during the upcoming legislative session. “Maryland’s Eastern Shore community members are on the front lines of experiencing the health, economic and environmental impacts of industrial poultry houses,” a media advisory about Madaleno’s announcement said.

PUGH-HOGAN FEUD: During his Roughly Speaking podcast for the Sun, Dan Rodricks talks with Sun reporter Luke Broadwater about the rift between Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and Gov. Larry Hogan over plans for fighting crime in the city.

COST OF WATER ACCESS: The Bay Journal’s Rona Kobel, in an article in MarylandReporter, reports that a one-time mobile home park in such poor condition that many of its dwellings violated livability codes is slated to be transformed into one of Maryland’s newest waterfront parks as well as offices for the Department of Natural Resources. But some are questioning whether the state paid too much for a tract.

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CORDERMAN TAPPED FOR DELEGATE SEAT: Tamela Baker is reporting that the Hagerstown City Councilman Paul D. Corderman was chosen Thursday night as the Republican Central Committee’s nominee to fill the Maryland House of Delegates seat in legislative District 2B. His name will now be forwarded to Gov. Larry Hogan, who will make an official appointment. The seat was vacated last month by Judge Brett Wilson, who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Circuit Court bench after the retirement of Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr.

FBI DOCS ON OAKS PROBE: The FBI began investigating Democratic state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks in 2014, according to court documents unsealed in the federal corruption case against him. The Sun’s Justin Fenton writes about the newly unsealed documents. Oaks, 71, was added as a subject of an ongoing public corruption investigation that August, an FBI agent wrote in a January affidavit unsealed this week.

MADALENO GOES FOR PUBLIC FINANCING: State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. has become the first of the eight contenders for the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nomination to choose public financing for his primary campaign, Michael Dresser of the Sun reports. The Montgomery County lawmaker said his decision to accept public funding gives him the opportunity to raise as much as $2.8 million, with an estimated $1.4 million of it in public funds, for the June 26 primary — not far from the amount he had budgeted for his bid to become the Democratic challenger to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan next November.

6th CONGRESSIONAL RACE SHAKEUP? Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters writes that the race for the Republican nomination in Maryland’s 6th congressional district may be in for another shake-up. Former Del. Mathew Mossburg may be in line for a job as a drug policy adviser with the Hogan administration or on Hogan’s re-election bid. Mossburg is a recovering opioid addict who has made fighting drug addiction the cornerstone of his political comeback. Even if Mossburg does not wind up working for Hogan, he is expected to announce plans to spend the General Assembly session in Annapolis, pushing an agenda to confront the opioid epidemic in the state, and taking away significant time from the campaign trail.

HOLIDAY AT GOVERNMENT HOUSE: The staff at Maryland’s Government House, at 110 State Circle, have been extra busy this week. On Wednesday, they were anticipating the arrival of several hundred state employees for a holiday open house and the opportunity to meet their boss, Gov. Larry Hogan and First Lady Yumi Hogan. On Saturday, the doors to the mansion will open from 1 to 4 p.m., Wendi Winters writes in the Annapolis Capital.

RASKIN BACKS IMPEACHMENT ACTION: Breaking from the House Democratic leadership and the other six Democrats in the Maryland House delegation, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Takoma Park on Wednesday voted in favor of moving ahead with action to impeach President Donald Trump, reports Louis Peck in Bethesda Beat.